[This article first appeared on Job-Hunt.org, for my Personal Branding Expert gig.]
Few of us make it through our entire working lives without some period of forced unemployment. Consider yourself lucky if it’s never happened to you. But don’t think it never will.
The best defense against the probable inevitability of unemployment?
Assume that it may happen to you, and be prepared. Things can change in an instant.
Wise people understand that we’re all always in perpetual job search, whether or not we’ve been steadily employed throughout our careers. They know that they should always keep their networks alive, and be accessible and open to new opportunities.
This means continuously communicating your personal brand and unique value to the kinds of employers you would want to work for next, mainly through your LinkedIn profile.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and contains lots of content saturated with your relevant key words and phrases. This way, your profile will be optimized to help you get found, on an ongoing basis, by recruiters and hiring decision makers at the companies that interest you.
And stay active with LinkedIn Groups and other networking activities there, and on other social media.
Also, keep your resume and other personal marketing materials up to date and at the ready.
That’s all well and good, but most of us don’t do these things. So let’s say you haven’t, and suddenly you’ve been laid off or fired. What can you do to catch up with branding your value to companies you’ll now have to actively pursue?
Here are 4 ways to get your career back on track:
1. Work on Targeting and Your Personal Brand Messaging
Haven’t done anything yet to define your brand and create brand-supporting personal marketing materials (LinkedIn profile, resume, bio, etc.)? It’s time you started at square one with my 10-step Personal Branding Worksheet.
If you’ve already defined your brand, this is the time to revisit and refresh it, to align your personal marketing materials with the needs of your target employers.
2. Rebuild and Expand Your Network
Reconnect with everyone you can think of, in any walk of life, and let them know your career goals. Search the LinkedIn company profiles of those you want to target, look for employees you may know, and invite them to connect. Ask everyone you know if they know anyone at your target companies, and ask for an introduction. Also, look for senior level executives at these companies who may be hiring decision makers, and reach out to them.
Explore the goldmine of “hidden” jobs, which you’ll network your way into.
3. Find Ways to Fill Potential Employment Gaps, Before They Happen
It can take many months to find a new good fit job. You need to do some kind of work – whether or not you receive compensation – to avoid major gaps in your LinkedIn profile and resume. Typically, things get sticky with gaps of one year or more. So do what you can to keep that from happening.
Here are some suggestions. Do your best to find work that is consistent with your personal brand and unique value proposition to your target employers. Then this fill-in work experience will be of greater value to them:
- Volunteer – charities, schools, hospitals, civic groups, etc.
- Find consulting gigs or short-term interim work
- Secure temp work
- Upgrade and polish your relevant skills – go back to school, either online or in-person
4. Get Comfortable with Social Media
Now you’ll probably have the time to noodle around with LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and other social media, and learn how to build your brand on them. And hopefully, you’ll have time to work on building your online presence, to be more visible and “finadable”.
Unemployment happens to most of us, and to the best of us. It’s often no reflection on you and your performance. Your best defense is to be prepared BEFORE it ever happens. But if it sneaks up on you, follow my guidelines to keep your personal brand alive, as you navigate your job search.