Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hi Mom, All Is Well at Laid Off Camp (Part 1)

Unemployment is like summer vacation. The first day of liberation feels like you've broken out of prison. But in a couple of weeks you find yourself in a trance from too much sleep, too much TV and feelings of guilt for not doing more with so much free time. That's why the idea of camp for the growing number of pink slipped professionals is such a brilliant idea. Pry people away from the TV and throw them in an urban playground to run around with adults in a similar situation.

On Tuesday, I attended Laid Off Camp, a hastily organized, ultra-casual, all-day event in San Francisco. Laid off Camp was started by Chris Hutchens, a former consultant and banker who was laid off in December, as a way to bring people together to share survival tips, network, and maybe find the right business partner to start a company. Modeled after Bar Camp, attendees sign up to present on any topic of choice, such as networking techniques, budgeting, health care, freelancing, creating your own start-up, time management, and personal branding. Most of the sessions were informal and centered on discussions. Some were given by sponsors and were blatant attempts to acquire new customers.

While I was staring at the schedule (a hand-drawn grid with session titles written on sticky notes), I bumped into my friend Jackie Gu, who was laid off the previous week. In the spirit of spontaneous collaboration, Jackie and I decided to join forces to divide and conquer the event. She wrote about her impressions and insights on her new blog, called Unemployment Muses. Here are the top 5 things Jackie learned from Laid Off Camp (I'm still working on my list, so stay tuned):

Jackie Gu's Laid Off Camp Musings:

1. Whatever you're struggling with, know that you are not alone.
There were hundreds of jobless people just like me at Laid Off Camp and as I mingled among them, I realized we all feel the same desperation, face the same struggles, and deal with the same interferences such as self criticism, doubt, and self-defeating behaviors that prevented us from doing our best in the job search process. And as long as we are aware of what these interferences are and are forgiving toward ourselves, we can conquer the mountain by moving forward with each small step.

2. Networking is not about "What can you do for me?" but "What can I do for you?"
The most useful workshop I went to was held by network guru Edith Yeung. She told us to be specific in who we'd like to meet when networking, asking ourselves the "what do I want" question first before someone else does and we're at a loss for words. Most importantly, it's necessary to ask your contact how you can help them instead of asking them for help right away. Always be willing to be able to provide a service or value to your network leads, and be real and genuine. That's the kind of impression you want to leave your contact and being helpful goes a long way!

3. Clean up your online reputation & delete the junk from your profiles.
This may be an obvious one, but how many of us still have public Facebook profiles with borderline indecent photos from last night posted and visible for all to see? Perhaps you're not even aware what your Google search results are, but it's time to look, and do a mass clean up. You betcha recruiters and hiring managers Google you to see who they are dealing with. An old friend of mine went to an interview and the hiring manager already knew his blog handle and content and even asked him about my own blog handle as I was a frequent commenter. Scary right? Whatever you put out there is public so let's make sure each of your profiles reflect the professional image you want to portray. A good tip is to make each profile content (Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Livejournal, etc.) consistent and update with the same photo of you.

4. Utilize the power of communication.
Each of us are individuals with unique needs, interests and hobbies. So why not communicate who we are during our job search too? Start a blog or Website about your passions, hobbies, and be a topic expert. Start commenting in forums and discussions. Twitter industry and career relevant news that turn heads. In the same token, if you have nothing of value to communicate, it's better to be silent than to status update everyone on what you had for breakfast. Okay, so I need to work on that last one too. Just remember, the Internet is very public and once you click submit, it's out there so what do you want 'em to read that's associated with your name?

5. Don't get discouraged.
Focus on the journey not the destination. Okay this really isn't a sarcastic remark, yes, we will all get discouraged along the way, but overall, we need to have faith that being unemployed is only temporary. It too will pass just like most things in life, so let's try to "enjoy" it as much as we can. Schedule naps, fun activities, and workouts during the day to break up the job search tasks. Go to network events and join a support group. Take a class you always wanted. Go out on a limb and dare to do something a little different because you can, now is the time to try something else and be adventurous. A job will eventually come and then you wish you made the best with your time off - so go make the best of it now.

1 comment:

  1. I read about camp after it was held and was very sorry I missed it; thank you for sharing the highlights of your experience. While I am an entrepreneur and so not technically unemployed, I thought that the camp was a spectacular response to the current economic situation and would love to have been there to support it.