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Unemployed? Keep your options open

Dr Robert Leahy talks about the importance of keeping your options open when looking for a job if you are unemployed.


Keep Your Options Open

Many people who lose their job think that they can’t do anything except what they have already been doing. If this applies to you, you’re probably looking for a job that is almost exactly what you had, with the same pay, the same ‘status’ and possibly even in the same place. You’re reluctant to take a step back or a step sideways because you are sure that you would not be happy if you do. But if you lock yourself into a single position you might be locking yourself out of a job.


Every choice has its pros and cons. There may be advantages to demanding that you get the job you used to have – you are familiar with it, you don’t have to learn anything new –  but there may be disadvantages to demanding that job again. For one thing, you may have been laid you off because the market for that job is declining. You may demand exactly the same income as you had before – and that’s great if you can get it – but you need to weigh the costs and benefits of waiting to get that lucrative offer. Some people think that they can only ‘match’ with a job that is a carbon copy of the job that they lost, with the same pay. However, every month you wait for that exact match is a month you are not working and earning.


One factor that people often consider is relocation. There are vast differences in the job prospects in different regions of the country. Some localities are expanding, others are declining. People who are willing to move for a job will have more options. It’s not easy for some people to move – it costs money; they have their roots where they are – but it is an option worth considering.


Another way to be more flexible is to acquire new skills. After all, if you are between jobs, you might have the time to learn something new. There are government and private programmes that can help but you have to consider whether you are willing to prepare yourself for something new, effectively taking a step back in order to move forward. You can think of this as a time to ‘reinvent yourself’ –  learn something new, consider all the options, ask yourself if taking less now might provide more later, and consider where the jobs are. It’s not easy. But it is possible.


And consider being flexible about time. The hardest thing is to experience that sense of urgency that you need to get a job – right now. If you can stretch time you might find that you have more options and more skills. The more options and skills that you have, the more hope you will feel.