“Blast! I lost my job. Now what?”

My friend Hugh was recently let go from his job supporting IBM Java, WebSphere and DB2 technology. He’s looking at this as an opportunity to reorient his career, and turned to me to help him get familiar with the latest social media trends. It occurred to me that others may be interested in heading in that direction; so here’s what I told him.

(This post has been in draft mode for a long time. Since then, a bunch more friends have found themselves in similar situations. As have I. Some say this is the nature of the business we’re in; others say it’s the nature of all business today. Whatever the case: faced with this reality, I’ve found these techniques helpful and productive. I hope they help you too.)

Day 1: Laying the Social Media Foundation

Get on the social networking sites. LinkedIn first, because it’s business oriented; but Facebook as well, because you can connect with all kinds of people there. Develop those networks. Look up friends and family, as well as colleagues from past lives. Make sure your profiles are up to date. Put a picture up, don’t leave the default avatar. It doesn’t have to be super fancy. It just has to look like you. On LinkedIn ask people you’ve worked with to recommend you.

Get on Twitter, too, and start tweeting about your job search. Others are going through the same ordeal; let them know what’s working for you, and what isn’t. Follow others going through the same process as you. Follow people in your field. Read their feeds, follow their links; you’ll be amazed by all the valuable material you’ll find. Retweet the good stuff you come across. Before you know it people will be following you.

Put your various ID’s on your resume. This will show you are connected; you’re in touch with the latest technologies and trends.

Day 2: Resumes Are Still Relevant

Update your resume, and post it to job sites: Workopolis, Monster, Dice. Subscribe to their job alert email services. Search for jobs using keywords from your field of interest. See what’s happening out there. What are the salaries like? Are they hiring contractors or full time? Are there other technologies which interest you? Check those out too. It may be time to start retraining. (See Day 5)

Check out the job postings on craigslist. Specifically, Internet Engineering, Web / Info Design, and Computer Gigs. This will give you a good idea of what technologies are being sought out by the non-enterprise crowd.

Update 2012-12-02: My friend Wendy Scott Galloway added a comment below with some excellent suggestions. I encourage you to read her entire comment; but I’ll snag a couple of the links, as they’re relevant to this section.

indeed.ca and eluta.ca are terrific, Canada-specifc search engines for jobs. They aggregate job postings form many different sources. Highly recommended.

Day 3: Your Domain Is Your Online Hub of Everything

Get yourself a domain name. You can try Domains At Cost or GoDaddy, or any of a number of registrars.

Find a host for your domain. I use 1 and 1, and I’m very happy with them. Set up your email address with your own domain. Put it on your resume. Forward emails from your old email address to the new one. Start using it for everything. Send out a change of address notice. This is the first step in building a new brand.

Here’s the second step: install WordPress on your website and start blogging. Blog about the loss of your job and how you feel about it. Then blog about your specialty. As you read content from the Twitter feeds you’ve subscribed to, blog about that stuff. Be sure to link liberally to appropriate sites and blogs. It’ll help your Google juice. Blog about all the new technology you’re encountering with blogs and social networks and social media.

Day 4: Networking, It’s Not Just for Computers

Print up 200 business cards at Vistaprint. Make sure to put your new email address on there, as well as your blog URL and your Twitter account.

Now head over to MeetUp and find some groups relevant to your areas of interest or expertise. Go meet some people, and hand out those terrific business cards you had printed up. Get a few business cards in exchange as well. Send out resumes.

Don’t allow yourself to become isolated. While you’re working away in your basement, you can be productive, but your connection with the outside world is restricted to the phone line and your various online presences. When you step out the door, and attend events, you’re immersing yourself in contact. You’ll meet all kinds of interesting people, and engage in their social networks. This provides a powerful leverage to your job search.

Be sure to find room in your schedule for 2-3 outings a week; and insure you meet at least one new person at each one. Reach out to them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, as appropriate. Get out there and build that network.

Day 5: The Learning Continuum

OK, so you’ve got your social media accounts setup (Day 1), you’ve posted your resume and checked out the job postings (Day 2), so you know what’s in demand; and you’ve purchased your domain and installed your blog (Day 3), and gotten your business cards printed and started scoping out likely Meetups and user groups (Day 4).

Today, you look at training for your new career. And, in fact, it’s not just for your career: it’s for life. You should always have one or two topics you’re investigating. They may be work related, or not. Continuous education is a sign that you’re in constant evolution, and not stagnating. We’ll concentrate on webmastery type skills here; but you can season to taste.

There are boatloads of online courses out there for learning Interweb related technologies. I’ll list a few here, both gratis and paid; but feel free to add resources you feel are relevant in the comments.

  • Sitepoint.com
    This one is near and dear to my heart because it was one of the first sites I used to learn my webmaster skills. They have terrific articles, extremely active forums, and a great bunch of books. Highly recommended.
  • Udacity
    This one is mind-blowingly great! FREE university level courses, presented by experts in their fields. They seem to run about 7 weeks; but they’re not always available. You have to sign up and go through them with a cohort. The teaching platform is really terrific: 2-3 minute videos, then a quick quiz. Then they tell you what the right answer was. You can go back and change your answer, and I got the impression you were encouraged to do it. There’s a homework assignment at the end of each week. Be prepared to work hard, and learn loads. Highly recommended.
  • Building Dynamic Websites
    This one’s pretty terrific as well. It’s a series of videos from Harvard’s Extension School, covering a lot of ground, from HTTP, through PHP, to security and scalability. Seriously, you’ll wonder how you can get all this quality content for free. In fact, this is part of an initiative called OpenCourseware involving hundreds of universities and schools around the world. Truly, this is the democratization of higher education. Don’t miss out on this.
  • Lynda.com
    This one isn’t free, but it’s good quality, and kept up to date. It costs $25/month for all the video you can consume. It used to be mostly oriented to graphics topics, but they’ve diversified considerably in the last few years.
  • W3Schools
    I didn’t much like the original W3Schools website because their layout was very narrow, and it made me feel claustrophobic. They’ve since expanded the width of their site, and I can breathe again as I browse their impressive list of free courses. Highly recommended.
  • TreeHouse
    Although a relative newcomer to the scene, TreeHouse offers a very slick teaching platform, utilizing the touchstone of gamification, badges, to great advantage. It’s not free: $25/month, but you get to download the videos, if you like. Their big hook: once you get all the badges for a course, they’ve partnered with companies who may be interested in hiring you.
  • Learnable
    This site is a Sitepoint spinoff, and similar to the Lynda.com and Treehouse model. For $17/month you get access to all the courses on the site. I’ve taken a number of these courses, and the quality ranges from stellar to passable. The Javascript course, for example, was outstanding. The teaching platform was impressive when I first encountered it: short videos, articles and assignments. Well produced and designed.
  • Nand 2 Tetris Course
    My former Tucows colleague Chad pointed me to this one. It looks awesome: You start by designing your own computer with a hardware emulator, then program your own operating system, and finally program some games. This gives you a solid, end-to-end understanding of computer systems. (Oh yeah, and it’s free.)

Now that you know where to find the content, let’s quickly discuss what topics you need to cover.

First off you’ll want to know how to put together an HTML page and style it; so HTML and CSS are good.

Next you’ll need to add behaviour to your web page. That’s Javascript.

After that you’ll want to store form data in a database and make dynamic websites. You’re looking at PHP and MySQL.

Beyond that you may want to design pages, or slice someone else’s designs; so you’ll need to understand the care and feeding of Photoshop.

Depending on what you want to end up doing, some of these things either may not be necessary for you, or you may want to switch the order around some.

Day 6: Fresh Air and Exercise

Two things.

  1. This isn’t just a Day 6 thing.
  2. My wife will tell you this is more of a “Do as I say; not as I do.” sort of thing. (Bless her heart.)

With that out of the way, let’s proceed.

Being a knowledge worker is a decidedly sedentary activity. Over time this will catch up with you, and you’ll start going pear-shaped. (…depending on your body-type.) It’s to your (our) advantage to start the day with a brisk walk. Or even a run. No need to push it right from the start. And being on forced vacation you don’t have that commute to deal with every day. So use that commute time to get some fresh air and exercise.

Here are a couple of links to resources I think you’ll find useful:

  • ParticipACTION
    The Canadian activity program that’s been going since the 70’s. The link I’ve provided takes you right to the page which explains how much weekly activity you need for your age group.
  • Running Room
    The Running Room offers training courses for every level of running experience, from beginners to marathoners. They have a well designed training system, with support from classmates and trainers. Highly recommended.

Day 7: Friends and Family

Finally, a little advice about friends and family. It’s all too easy to slip into a depression when your days are unstructured and you’re not getting any responses to your resume. This is the time to turn to your friends and family. They love you and want to see you succeed. They want to help. Lean on them. Talk to them. Seek their advice. They’re there for you.

And if they’re not, seek out positive support groups, and make new friends. Start with MeetUp from Day 4.

So, that’s all I have to offer for now. Please feel free to comment below if you have anything to add, or if these techniques have worked for you. Best of luck.

UPDATE, 2012-10-27: Added the Nand 2 Tetris course in Day 6.

4 thoughts on ““Blast! I lost my job. Now what?”

  1. Hey Alfred, this certainly sounds like a good starting point. I’ve done most of the things you suggested, but I may have over looked the opportunities on Craigslist, so that is something I’ll spend some time looking into.

    Thank for the advice.

    BWT, I meet you at the WordPress MeetUp today.

  2. Excellent, comprehensive, near-biblical job search advice. 6 days to create your new job foundation and on the seventh, rest with friends and family. Thanks for the great advice and links.

  3. Excellent comprehensive “how to” job search blog Alfred … I have been an employment counsellor for 20 years and I have learned some new tips – Thank you! Might I add a couple of job search sites to your search list … http://www.indeed.ca/ and http://www.eluta.ca/ The Brockville Employment and Education Centre maintains a list of industry specific sites (such as environmental, agricultural, government, etc ) at http://www.delicious.com/amrolfe/General-Job-Boards.. the IT site they list is http://www.datacommunicationsjobs.com/ You are right Alfred, networking, networking, networking – on all platforms – is imperative for a current and future productive job search …..and for ongoing career development. On job search business cards, I usually encourage job seekers to include their industry focus, skills and expertise. These can be demonstrated through a few bullets, or a position title and tag line. Remember you are marketing a product – “you” This information helps your network pass along your cards to the right people. The only other suggestion I might add to your advice is … the best time to prepare for your next job search is today … The best time to create your brand and the foundation for your future job search is before you are out of work. With this in place your network and reputation are ready for your approach when you are out of work or ready to make a move. Recruiters do search linked in for right fit candidates, so your linked in page could be working and “trolling” for your next position while you are at work and at play. Best of luck to job seekers. Keep up the helpful advice Alfred.

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