It’s a good idea to ask what to do between jobs, or in between jobs. What you do in between jobs can help your career, or it can hurt you. So it’s important to take it seriously.
Don’t leave a job until you have a new one — if that’s an option
A good friend and colleague once told me nothing motivates you to find a job like not having one. But more than one manager has told me it’s easier to find a job while you still have one. I know I interview better when I have a job. It’s just human nature to perform better when you have less pressure.
Take my last transition for an example. I had a job. The pay was decent. I was unhappy, but not unhappy enough to take just anything. I came across as a buy-high candidate, not a reclamation project.
If you show promise, people will take a flyer on you as a reclamation project, but it’s better to be able to negotiate from a position of strength. You’re less likely to have to settle for a lowball salary.
But if you don’t have a choice, there are several things to do.
Yes, I went there. Unemployment isn’t a system you pay into, but it’s there to help you and you shouldn’t let any stigma keep you from being willing to use it. Your state doesn’t want you unemployed either, so they’ll help you in your search, and provide some coaching if you need it.
Contrary to what some politicians say, it’s not a handout. You have to prove you’re actively looking for work to collect it, and that tracking process actually helps you find the job anyway. If the option is available to you, use it.
Look for work
Finding a job is your full time job when you don’t have one. Search online. Search Linkedin, Craigslist, and anywhere else there may be a job posting. Talk to recruiters if possible.
Run your resume by some people, if possible, before you start applying. Make sure it paints a picture of someone your previous employers would all want back, if they could afford you.
Make sure you have no fewer than 10 job applications going at any given time. Track them all with a spreadsheet. Apply, then follow up. Track phone calls and relevant names. Write down the dates of all phone calls and interviews. If they don’t call you, call them.
In 2012, when I was in between jobs, I took some short security classes and studied for the PMP certification. Although I didn’t end up sitting for the test, studying PMP helped me in subsequent roles. I’m constantly working with project managers, and it helps that I understand what they do and what they need. Early in my career, working with project managers drove me nuts, but now that I understand what they need, I enjoy it.
Do some side work
Ask if this will affect your unemployment eligibility, but if it won’t, do some side work to keep some money flowing. Or if you can make more doing side work than you would from unemployment, do side work instead. A little money is better than none.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.