At some point we have all been there: you find yourself without a job and now you need to look for your next opportunity.

You take a day or two to breathe – being out of work is one of the most stressful times we go through. However, life does continue on … you may even splurge on watching daytime TV and enjoy the feeling of being without appointments and responsibilities on a weekday.

But the realities of bills and career goals are real concerns, and you know you need to find a new income. It is a daunting task. Is opening up the classifieds section at your kitchen table really the most effective way to find a job or is there a better way to go about your job search?

Secret #1: Search Smart!

As a business incubator who helps laid off professionals find their next career step, we have some tips on how to search smart based on the experience of our Jumpstart Program participants:

  1. Stay out of your home: If you are accustomed to the “office routine” and are planning on returning to a company that works out of an office, keep that routine. There are too many disruptions and temptations, not to mention the “depressing” factor.
  2. Go back to a professional/stimulating work environment immediately. Surround yourself with other professionals to feel empowered and focus on your career goals. While you might not have a job, you are still a professional. Being in a professional environment can reduce the feeling that you are on the sidelines as opposed to just in between teams.
  3. Network for jobs! The majority of openings are actually never advertised, but are filled through networks. Word of mouth is KING! Your goal is to maximize opportunities to bump into other professionals in a normal workplace situation, not just to discuss your employment needs.
  4. Consider starting a consulting business. Offer to work as a part-time consultant for a small or medium size business, or offer to work for free for a period of time. “Working for free” doesn’t sound very appealing, but remember, this is just part of your strategy. Even if it’s just temporary, starting a consulting business can allow you part-time or contract work. Worst case scenario, you gain some experience and connections to help you land that job – best case scenario, you actually meet your employment needs by starting your own business.

You are now working in a professional environment without the distractions and temptations at home, and you are networking with other professionals. What do you do next?

Secret #2: The “Informational Interview”

An informational interview allows you to meet professionals in the firms that you want to work for and pick their brain for insights that will help your job search. Here is how you do it:

  1. Make a list of companies that employ people in your field, and then list them in order of which ones you want to work for.
  2. Next call the companies and ask to speak with the head of the department that you would work in. Tell them that you are exploring your job options and would like to set up a time to talk with them and pick their brain and benefit from their expertise. Most likely they will feel honored, and be happy to spare 15 min of their time to speak with you.

When you meet with them, position yourself as the interviewer:

  • Ask them what qualifications they look for in a candidate.
  • Show them your resume and get their advice on it.
  • Ask them about their knowledge of opportunities out there. (Make sure they know that you are also open to consulting as well.)
  • Do exchange contact info but don’t pitch them to hire you.
  • Follow up afterwards thanking them for their time and ask them to let you know if they hear of any opportunities.

Didn’t walk out of the door with a job? Don’t worry, that isn’t the goal. You now have another person in your network who hopefully has a good impression of you and knows your qualifications. Many professionals ask for recommendations from their colleagues when they have a job come up. Most importantly, you’ve made yourself known which only increases your chances when a position becomes available.