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When people face unemployment, they typically have to pick one of two choices — take their time to find the next job or take a temporary job immediately to pay the bills and stay in the workforce while looking for a better opportunity. Many factors, especially financial, play a role in their decision.
But each choice has its pros and cons. The biggest concern about a wait-and-see approach is having a long stretch of unemployment on your resume. From the time you begin to send applications through to unsuccessful and successful interviews and, eventually, landing an offer, the process can take months. If not holding a job during this period, that will appear as a time of unemployment on the resume and can trigger a future employer concern, or at least will need some explaining.
Some people may get lucky and land one in a few weeks after a job loss, but that is not always the case. Unless you have some solid leads or recommendations that can help find the next job, you should think of at six months to go through the process. If that is financially and professionally feasible in your individual situation, go for it.
Taking an immediate position that is not necessarily related to your career is the other option. Many people have to do so simply because they can't afford being unemployed. Although that is often not frowned upon by future employers, it can have a negative impact on the job hunting if that temporary job becomes what you do and the future job is based on it professionally and financially.
Having a full-time job may mean that you have much less time to look for another. Remember this job is just temporary in your perspective, but it is still one that carries expectations, work hours, goals, etc. And you won't be able to keep it unless you invest in doing it successfully.
So take this into consideration when selecting the temporary job and ask yourself how much time and energy you will still have to seek another opportunity. Another factor that must be taken into consideration is how close that job is to your sought-after job.
If working in financial services and you take a job in retail, that temporary position is obviously not a logical step in your career, and employers should easily recognise that. Taking a job well in line with your career, but carrying less responsibility and status than your next logical step can be seen as a step backward and influence any advancement.
Explain your perspective
Include an explanation of your choice in remaining unemployed while looking for a position or taking an odd job. The employer is likely to take your word for it as long as the explanation seems reasonable. For example, if your choice was to take some time off and dedicate your time to job hunting, mention this in your initial communication.
Couple this with a list of efforts or activities that you have been doing during the period of unemployment, assuming you have one. For example, include volunteering activities, continuing education, training, professional networking, blogging, sports, travel, child or parent care, etc. Make the employer know you have been using your time productively.
Don't settle for less
If you are making some money and keeping busy, it is likely you don't feel the urge to get a new job immediately. The longer you stick with a job that is initially taken as temporary, the more difficult it will be to go back to get one that is right for where you are in your career. That is not only because of how employers will begin to perceive your career choices, but because you also will likely lose touch with your industry.
With that in mind, remain focused on pursuing an opportunity that is fits your career goals as soon as possible. Make conscious effort and time for job hunting. In addition, be willing to go the extra mile in balancing the job requirements with pursuing interviews, follow-ups, etc. This can be demanding at times, but it is totally worthwhile to get you back where you should be in your career.
What to do when unemployed
- Get a job that is temporary.
- Focus on finding the next opportunity.
- Ensure employers know of your choice.
- Don't prolong the unemployed choice.
Source: Rania Oteify, Special to gulfnews.com
The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor