Don’t be a “wage slave”– be in business for yourself.
One of the first questions that new acquaintances ask one another is “What do you do?” or “What field are you in?” You need to be able to answer that question with no more than about 20 seconds of description. What is more, you need to answer that question in a way that sounds absolutely fascinating and that almost compels your interlocutor to ask further questions. Now if your answer is nothing more than “Oh, I work at Acme ball bearing company,” you have squandered a potential wealth-producing opportunity. You have told me nothing really interesting about yourself. What do you do for Acme? Are you the chairman? Are you in sales, production, or accounting? Now had you smiled broadly and said, “Oh, I show manufacturers, chiefly the Acme company, how to produce the smoothest, shiniest, hardest little spheres in the whole universe,” you might well have fascinated me. Apart from anything else, people with expressive faces who are really passionate about something are just more fun to interact with. If all you can tell me is that you work for someone else and are at his beck and call, frankly, I’d rather speak with him. He sounds more interesting than you. So, no matter how you serve your fellow humans, think of yourself as doing something fascinating; see yourself in business, rather than merely being something.
Between vacations, travel, and weekend afternoons by the pool my guess is you’re planning to pick up a book or two this summer. The perfect nonfiction book will inspire you to grow your business, teach you something new, give you new ideas, and be enjoyable to read. I have compiled a list of some of the nonfiction books I recommend most often. (Books have Amazon Affiliate links; authors’ names are linked to blogs.)
Yes, contacting your existing network. Yes, searching job boards. Yes, searching on social networks. But you can’t (shouldn’t!) sit at the computer all day, and even in person you won’t be the first great candidate letting your connections know you’re looking for work.
I’ve heard far too many people tell job seekers that employers will understand if there’s a gap in your resume in 2009 or 2010– the economy is tough. Maybe, but what does a complete gap in your resume say? That you’ve sat on your butt collecting unemployment as it was extended and extended. Is that what you want this time to say about you?
What did you do before? Can you do that in some capacity, even if you might be working for free? Nonprofits can always use extra help, but they may not always be able to pay for it.
Does a local Relay for Life need your help to build a website where each team can take contributions via PayPal, or to teach teams about using Square to take on-the-fly donations via credit card?
Can you organize a huge city-wide event for Share Our Strength’s National Bake Sale? Put together a supply drive for Haiti, Chile, Nashville, or the local crisis pregnancy center? Find a candidate you believe in and host a fundraiser, make phone calls or walk precincts. Right now while you may not have money, you have what you probably haven’t in the past: time. Put it to good use.
On a smaller level, use WordPress to build your church a website. Set your friend the CEO up on Twitter. Teach your small business owning brother how to video blog. If you’re an accountant, become a campaign treasurer. Retile your elderly neighbor’s kitchen. Start making family dinners for your best friend the single mom.
You can volunteer consulting services, too. Whether your expertise is boards of directors, open-source technology, accounting, event planning, paperless office environments, building projects, energy savings, or graphic design, chances are there’s a local nonprofit who could really use you.
There is also no reason you have to work for free. You can probably walk down your nearest major street and offer to build a web presence for each of the local businesses. Ask around for companies who’ve recently had to reduce their workforce and are missing a crucial person just as a project needs to get done. Do some consulting for a friend’s small business. Create a profile on a freelance work site or a compete-to-win graphic design site. Babysit. Walk some dogs. Start your own company.
In addition to having something to put on your resume and helping a worthy cause, you’ll often meet local business owners who serve on the boards of nonprofits (and when you’re doing freelance projects for companies, you’ll temporarily fit into their regular workflow). This is network building– the thing most likely to get you a new job.
In short, do something. As companies begin hiring again, and even if “they’re not”, you’ll put yourself in the best possible position to move forward. And who knows? You may even find that the freelancing you’re doing or the company you start is what you want to do for the rest of your life!