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The 5 Greatest Lessons to Learn from a Job Search

Admittedly, you probably won't tell your grandchildren that being unemployed was one of the greatest times of your life. Job hunting is tough, mentally and physically; it's fraught with worry, exhaustion, and the pangs of rejection. But it can teach you tremendous life lessons. If the current down economy has an upside, it's that you may be forced to reexamine your skills and interests, and try things--and consider careers--you may not have otherwise.

The Greatest Lessons Hunting for Careers Can Teach You

1. The phone is your friend. Many job hunters hide behind their computers, expecting that once they've filled in those resume templates online, the offers will start rolling in. But 94 percent of companies never respond to applicants, so don't wait. Get on the phone. Start making inquiries and using your connections. And once you hit the workforce, your comfort level with the phone will enable you to pick it up and make that much-needed sale, which will serve you well throughout your career.

2. It pays to donate your time. When you're gainfully employed or in school, it's hard to find time to volunteer or try an internship. These days, many unemployed people are finding value in doing both, for several reasons:

  • It keeps your mind and body engaged
  • It's rewarding
  • It teaches you new skills
  • It introduces you to new people
  • It might just open the door to careers you wouldn't have previously considered

Plus, once the economy starts to rebound, many companies and nonprofit organizations hire volunteers and interns for entry-level jobs that just opened up. Research shows that those who work in their fields, even at low-paying or unpaid jobs, tend to rebound more quickly when things pick up.

3. Balance is important. Forced time off may be hard to enjoy, but if you can, try to find pleasure in it--reconnect with friends, explore a hobby, get some exercise. You may not have this kind of time again to try new things and spend time with your family. Maintaining a balance is important for staying positive, which, in turn, is vital when job hunting. Ironically, this positive attitude often makes you more attractive to employers.

4. You can do more than you thought. Just because you've studied and prepared yourself for certain kinds of careers doesn't mean that's all you can do. Once you open up your mind to new possibilities and capitalize on your untapped talents, you might be pleasantly surprised with where you land. Look for entry-level jobs that you're qualified for, and if you aren't qualified, look into which online degrees you could complete to meet the requirements--a little knowledge can go a long way. You could even try temp work, particularly in positions that expose you to different fields and work environments. Why not use this chance to broaden your horizons?

5. You can always be better at what you do. Graduate applications at colleges around the country were up by 8 percent in 2007-2008, and they continue increasing as job hunters look to enhance or add to their skills and make themselves more desirable to employers. Consider online degrees, which can often be completed more quickly and less expensively than traditional programs, and offer the flexibility that allows you to still job hunt or volunteer on weekdays. Learn more at http://www.collegegrad.com/education

No one ever said job hunting was easy. But it can certainly be a time to learn more about yourself and have new experiences, and that's definitely a good thing.


Sara Murray • The Curse of the Class of 2009 • May 09, 2009 • http://online.wsj.com • http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124181970915002009.html • The Wall Street Journal, Education section

Rich Heintz • Lessons Learned from Being Laid Off • Dec 21, 2003 • http://www.jobjournal.com • http://www.jobjournal.com/article_full_text.asp?artid=284 • California Job Journal

Julie Bosman • From Ranks of Jobless, a Flood of Volunteers • Mar 16, 2009 • http://www.nytimes.com • http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/16/nyregion/16volunteers.html • The New York Times

Katharine Hansen, Ph.D. • Job-Search Lessons Learned in the Year of Economic Meltdown • 0000-00-00 • http://www.quintcareers.com • http://www.quintcareers.com/job-search_guidance.html • Quintessential Careers

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