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A Strategy for the Unemployed

by Deborah Aguiar-Velez

November 9,2010

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined." – Thoreau

Consider a person who introduces herself as “My name is Xyz, and I have been unemployed for a number of months.” My first reaction is to cringe; my second reaction is to ask: Why? Not that I should be surprised that there are unemployed people in the Charlotte area. After all, the area’s unemployment rate is 11.0% (August 2010), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But what gets me is how a person could live with being unemployed for that long.

Why couldn’t she transform her unemployment to self-employment during that time? Instead of just looking and wishing for a job, why not work on a parallel track where she can define and create her own position?

After all, why would anybody want to work for someone else? Full time employment protects you from… exactly what? Unless you are a super high performer who expects to be the CEO of the company in a short period of time, why would you subject yourself to a boss-employee relationship when you can make it a client-vendor relationship relatively easily?

Regardless of the reason of your unemployment – recession, performance issues, or office politics, we must assume that you were previously hired because you brought value and a set of skills to the company. So, the first step in your pursuit of self-employment is to inventory all the skills you have that will impact a client’s bottom line. That bottom line can be defined as dollars and cents or – in a more pragmatic way – moving the client’s organization closer to their long-term vision.

Your next step is to do some research and put together your development plan. Research your competition, identify their strengths and weaknesses and compare them against your own. If your skills are behind in certain areas, set a development plan to reduce your limitations and to surpass your competitors.

After inventorying your skills, researching your competition and setting a path of self-development, I encourage you to test the waters and launch yourself as a global freelancer. Enroll as a vendor at Elance is a website where businesses from around the world hire freelancers to work on their projects. The site’s Elance University shows you how to find jobs and clients, do great work and get paid. Get as much training as you can on how to become an effective marketer and salesperson.

Now that you are a freelancer, you can call yourself a consultant. Email everyone you know and tell them that you have started your own consulting firm. Describe the kinds of problems you can solve, the pain you can eliminate from their organizations, and how much happier they will be if they hire you on a part-time basis to help them with the challenges they currently face. Advertise yourself on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And when people call you and ask what is happening, you can tell them that you are considering all your options and you need their help promoting you and your business.

As an entrepreneur, you will get used to the idea of contract renewals and referrals instead of performance appraisals and cost of living increases. In this progressive world, the outcome of your work is directly proportional to how successful you are in maintaining a superior set of skills, exceeding customer expectations, and delivering high performance at a competitive price.

The key point of this exercise is that you are sending the signal to all your friends, peers and acquaintances that you are not sitting idle, waiting for one of your resumes to get you an interview. You are taking control of your life: you are in charge of your future by creating a position for yourself, while still being open to meaningful opportunities.

Now consider this: the next time Xyz introduces herself, she can say, “My name is Xyz and I am in transition. I am in the process of starting my own business while keeping my options open for opportunities that will take me to the next level.” Wouldn’t you hire that person – or at least invite her for an interview?

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