Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Home for Love Your Layoff

Please note that Love Your Layoff has a new home. Please visit: for all future posts. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wish List File

Two significant things happened to me this week. First, I got my files in order (thank you Kacy Paide of The Inspired Office !) I now have folders for: unemployment, writing, networking, office work samples, and creative work samples. Plus, one more: the Wish List. While most of my files are dedicated to past or current projects, only the Wish List is truly forward looking. In it, I'm placing reminders of the things I want to do when I'm employed again.

And that leads me to the second significant thing that happened this week. I did a Google search on Love Your Layoff, and discovered an endorsement from the poet Jessica Smith on her LookTouchBlog. What really moved me about Jessica's post was her own story of unemployment, having to go stretches of time without a paycheck, and how recently worries about money have slowed her writing.

Jessica's life inspires me in so many ways. Her dedication to writing and publishing poetry is something I never had the guts to try.

My first reaction to her post was anger at the world for not being more supportive of poets. But then I realized that it was not the "world" that needed to be more supportive, it was me. That poetry was something I loved, that I admired Jessica's work, and I hadn't done enough to support it when I was employed.

So, the first item I added to my Wish List file was a copy of Foursquare as a reminder to purchase a subscription when I'm employed again--ditto for 32Poems and Flim Forum press .

Now here's the challenge: if you're unemployed, take a moment to consider what you would like to support when you're employed again. What's really important to you? Who has inspired you? What programs, organizations, artists or writers have changed your life? Then start your file. Perhaps there are ways you can help already. Things that don't cost money, such as volunteering or even writing a nice thank-you note. I guarantee it will make you feel good.

And, if you are employed, maybe there are some organizations and people you can support today. Make a list and act on it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Routines

Yesterday marked the start of my new unemployment routine. Awhile back I had a post about Routines to Savor Time (RTST), the basic concept being if you're unemployed take advantage of the time by incorporating some routines to achieve creative, practical and/or physical goals, which is something I did last year. This time around, my routines have taken a bit longer to cultivate. Still, I thought I'd share them here to: a) solidify my commitment, and b) hopefully inspire you to consider some routines of your own.

Drum roll please for the 2009 routines...
  • Memoir: Write a 300 page memoir at the pace of 1,000+ words per day
  • Blog: Write 3 posts per week
  • Exercise: 5x per week, alternating running and weight lifting
  • Clean: 1x per week, entire house
  • Visit: Free parks, museums and entertainment, at least 2x per month
These routines, of course, are in addition to actively seeking work each day, submitting applications and networking. It's important to strike a balance between the two. Because, on the one hand, you should take advantage of your time off and schedule relaxing activities. On the other, you need a job.

What I've found helpful is splitting my day. I use the morning for RTST to achieve my writing, exercise and cleaning goals. The afternoon is completely dedicated to finding work. And, oddly enough, I find I am more successful at both tasks when there's a finite amount of time to achieve them per day.

Within that structure, setting mini goals, such as "write 1,000 words before 7:30am" or "apply for one position per day" or "attend a networking event 3x per week" helps you to feel a sense of control and accomplishment often lacking during a span of unemployment. Try it, and let me know how it works for you!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Unemployment Haircut

Eight weeks ago, I got my last hair cut. It's been bobbed since the fall (I know, I need to update my headshot). And I love it that way. However, as mentioned in a previous post, maintaining a bob is expensive. When I had long hair, I got it cut one every 3-4 months. The new haircut requires maintenance every 6-8 weeks.

So, when I went in today I had to tell my hairdresser that I was unemployed, and, as such needed a cut that would look okay growing out. She walked around me, picked through some strands of my hair, and looked pensively into the mirror.

"Okay," she said. "We'll just clean it up. And, lets do some sweeping bangs. I trim bangs for free, so we can still see each other while you're looking for work."

That was music to my ears. Particularly because today has been one big headache. I woke up at 6am to write and was on a roll till 7:30 when the house wakes up and the morning routine begins: diapers, dressing, brushing, breakfast, driving, drop off. By the time I got back and settled, I opened my computer to continue, Internet.

Needless to say, the rest of my morning and afternoon were spent alternately trying to:
a) fix the problem
b) do things that didn't involve the Internet (run, shower, clean)
c) visit places that have Internet (two coffee shops, so far, and currently in one)

All the while trying my hardest to be patient, thinking: the universe must want me to take a break. But I wanted to trail blaze today, so we were at odds.

Anyway, I love my hairdresser. It took me years to find her. What's more, we both went through some crappy but life altering moments these past two years. She was in a car accident that nearly killed her and took her out of work for 9 months.

When we first met, we were both hard chargers. Cramming our days with activities. Taking lessons, fixing up houses, getting ahead in our careers. Today, our major topic of conversation was naps. She takes an afternoon nap every day and was highly recommending I incorporate one into my daily routine. Which does sound tempting.

An hour later, my hair looked fresh again. She showed me some drying tricks for home. And, very kindly, gave me a discount on the cut. Another example of friends going above and beyond. And while the rest of the day has had its ups and downs that one small hour was bliss. Almost as good as if I'd actually taken a nap.*

*Update: I caved and took a real nap. Feeling 100% again. Plus, the Internet came back on!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

One month down, ready to hustle?

Today marks the start of my fifth week of unemployment. At this point last year I had two job offers, plus strong leads for two additional positions. I was a hard charger, pushing forward, determined to get a significant pay raise, an impressive title, and the flexibility to pick my child up from daycare by 5:30pm. And after three months, miraculously, I had that.

This time around, every thing's different. While I've done a couple interviews, the results have been slower. Some companies are waiting for funds to arrive to hire for their vacancies. Others are so inundated with resumes that only the applicants in complete alignment with a niche are considered. Positions at organizations that have had layoffs are considering people who were laid off first. To make matters worse, I've heard from several people who were hired only to be laid off months, or even days, later.

Like my house it appears my worth has depreciated -- despite the fact that I have more skills and experience. There's simply less demand. As a result, I am expanding my job search to include freelance and temporary contract work. Or, as some of my friends like to call it: hustling.

Now, as any of you who have been on unemployment are well aware, you must report any money you make as a contractor to unemployment. Any amount earned that week is subtracted from your check. So, it's important to be selective about the types of work you take. Otherwise, you'll waste time better spent on networking and applying for full time positions--not to mention your routines to savor time.

Before accepting freelance work, ask yourself these questions:
  • Does the project excite me?
  • Is it in alignment with my professional (or personal) goals?
  • Will I meet people in a position to help me find additional work or a permanent position?
  • Do I have the proper equipment, software and resources available to complete the job?
  • How much time will this take me?
  • Is it worth the money? And how/when will I get paid?
  • Will this project be too stressful to manage while I'm looking for a full time job?
If you like your answers to the questions above, then sign the contract and start working. If you don't like your answers, then by all means, don't take the gig. You will have other opportunities. Trust your gut. Remember, you've only got six months to collect unemployment benefits. After that you're truly on your own and won't have the luxury of being selective. So use your months wisely.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Escaping the Doldrums

I'm not going to sugar coat it. Today was a really tough day. It was one of those days, inevitable in a job search, where hope seems futile. A day where no amount of previous effort seems enough. Where interviews were mercilessly rehashed in my mind. Where my email box was devoid of good news.

I spent several hours this morning writing and rewriting a blog post that went no where. I had lunch with a very nice woman, but neither one of us seemed to have the right connections for the other. I walked home from lunch in a DC heat wave, sweating and crying. No hope. No hope. No hope.

Upon returning to the house, I sat back down at my computer. Looked at all the job boards but found nothing of interest. Sent follow up emails to some friends. Ate a hand full of Oreo cookies.

I had entered a total, utter, state of self-pity.

It reminded me of this scene in one of my favorite childhood movies, The Phantom Tollbooth, where Milo gets stuck in the Doldrums -- a sticky, gooey, kind of drugged out place where nobody does anything. To get out of the Doldrums, he has to do useful things, such as spell words or recite multiplication tables.

And perhaps I was channeling that scene this afternoon. It started with the memory of a promise I made to a friend of a friend to help him find a summer internship in DC. I dug the email up and read his resume (which impressed the socks off me). I brainstormed a list of people who might be able to help him. I wrote a pitch email and sent it out.

Next, I saw one of my good friends had just created a LinkedIn account. I logged on and wrote an endorsement. While I was on, I remembered two other people I wanted to endorse and posted recommendations for them as well. Then, there was another friend of a friend looking for work, and I realized I had a great contact for her and emailed a request to connect.

By this point, it was 5:15, and I needed to dash out to daycare. While I was there, I was talking with the woman who watches my daughter and discovered that her daughter was searching for a summer internship at a hospital. And, again, a friend came to mind who might be able to help. Got home and sent another email out. Oh, and then there was another wonderful friend of a friend, who wrote asking for some fundraising help. Again, I thought of someone right away!!!

And just like Milo was able to pull himself up out of the Doldrums in The Phantom Tollbooth, I pulled myself out of a really crappy day by helping others. While it's true that my search went nowhere today, I like to think that I helped someone get a step closer to their goals. Plus, I got myself out of the Doldrums.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Get Recommended on LinkedIn

Yesterday, I dedicated my morning to a surprisingly fun activity: endorsing people on LinkedIn. Actually, I got started by asking people to endorse me.

For the longest time I ignored this function on LinkedIn, fearing it would be too time consuming for the recipient and uncertain as to whether anyone would accept the request. As it turns out, my fears were completely unfounded.

For starters, of the eight colleagues I sent requests to six agreed to endorse me right away. Of those, five have already submitted their endorsements, all in the course of 24 hours! Which means I now have a recommendation for every job I've had since graduating college. But here's what really struck me: the warmth, generosity and sincerity of the recommendations people wrote. Many of whom I have not seen in years.

These endorsements were an excellent reminder for me of what I do best. It's one thing to write a list of qualities you embody in your work. Quite another to see what you're remembered for by colleagues and business partners. And knowing your strengths is a path to greater self-awareness and success in life.

But the real joy for me was reciprocating the gesture. Endorsing my colleagues brought back memories and a true appreciation for the talented individuals I've had the pleasure to work with over the years. It's nice to see how people have grown and flourished in their careers. I am so proud of the work they are currently doing and the amazing work that is yet to come.

Whether you're employed or not, I highly suggest dedicating an hour or two to endorse former colleagues and classmates. And don't be afraid to ask people to endorse you! LinkedIn manages the process with ease -- if you've never endorsed, or requested an endorsement before, here's a quick overview:

Request Endorsements:
  • Click the "Request Recommendations" button under your job title
  • Select a LinkedIn member from your contact database
  • Next, there's a form letter -- delete that and write a personal message to the recipient (Note: do not enter a name, LinkedIn automatically inserts "Dear [contact's first name]"for you although it doesn't show it to you in the form letter)
  • Once your contact has entered an endorsement, you will be alerted via email and instructed to review and "accept" the endorsement -- nothing is posted publicly until you approve it
  • After you accept the endorsement, you are immediately prompted to reciprocate the gesture and endorse your contact
Submit Endorsements:
  • Visit recipient's LinkedIn profile and click "Recommend" beneath the company where you worked together
  • Next, there's a form where you can submit the recommendation
  • Write a brief (2-3 sentences is fine) entry with a focus on positive attributes and qualities of the person you're recommending--also remember to state how you worked together, particularly if this is not apparent from your job titles at the time