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A friend called recently to give me his new cell phone number. “Why did you change the old one?” I asked.

“Well, I had a company-issued cell phone and they laid me off on Friday so I had to get a new one,” he said.

I was stunned. I knew he’d been in the job for a long time (24 years it turns out) and I figured he was pretty well going to finish his work life in that job. Apparently, so did he.

Instead, he is 58 years old and facing unemployment for the first time he can remember.

“I’m not sure what to do,” he said. “I went to the bookstore Saturday morning and looked at books, but how do you know which ones work and which ones don’t? I’m not sure where to start. What would you do?“

Even though most people have looked for work in recent years, it makes sense that some have no idea where to begin the job search. Here are five things to do to get yourself ready for the search.

Relax. That’s easy for me to say, but there is always tension when you are surprised that your long-term job is gone. You need to come to terms with it and move on. The sooner you can do that, the better.

Figure out what you want to do. If you want to replace your last job, fine. If you want to work for yourself, fine. If you want to change fields or the type of work you do, fine. It really doesn’t matter, but you have to focus in on what you want to do. Figure out what makes you happy and what will pay your bills. You’ll likely have to find a balance there, but this gives you a chance you might not have taken if you still were employed in your old job.

Draw up a new résumé. There are hundreds of books that tell you how to do this. Find one that makes you feel comfortable and follow its guidance. And, make sure you start from scratch. In other words, don’t try to dust off a résumé that has been sitting in your files for 20 years. Times change, work changes, and our résumés change, too.

Tell everyone you know you are looking for work. This doesn’t mean you tell a sob story about your former employer dumping you after 24 years of faithful service. It means telling people that you are looking for specific work or in a certain industry. The more people you tell, the more likely someone is going to have a connection to that industry. Don’t be shy. Friends, relatives, former co-workers, and anyone else you tell can surprise you with their thoughts or connections.

Set up a game plan for finding a job. This is the point where you really have to buckle down and make a job out of looking for a job. Plan your week in advance, as best you can. Set aside time for researching companies, sending out résumés, interviews, and seeking out leads. This is now your job. Don’t put in two hours a day and go to a movie. Put in eight hours a day and you’ll know that you are making an investment that ultimately will lead to a job.

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jnojr Aug. 31, 2012 @ 9:54 a.m.

Dead on.

The biggest takeaway here is to make looking for a job your job. Get up every morning and spend eight hours networking, canvassing, etc. There is work out there, but it isn't going to fall into your lap. And there are opportunities in every downturn.


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