Home » Money » On the Margin: Work

On the Margin: Work

If you’ve lost your job recently, you may already have a sense of panic or dread about finding work. In this third part outlining what I’ve learned about marginal employment, I hope that you find something interesting and leave some good information for everyone else.

Just as the overall goal is to keep your eyes open for opportunity and the habits you need start with knowing your priorities, the search for money begins with an overall sense of what it is you have to get out of the situation and what you can put in. There’s an income range you have to target, but more than that you have to know what you need in health care, commute, and hours worked. This will be matched against the skills you have to try to extract what you need out of a job.

A lot of people will say that you should follow your dreams and take this as an opportunity to do what you’ve always wanted to do. I understand this feeling, but we all have different needs. If there’s an obligation to someone else, young or old or in-between, start from that and work back to yourself. If there’s no reason to not follow your dream of backpacking across Brasil, hey, go for it.

For the rest of us, there’s work. Your search for work likely starts in the strangest place of all, which is where you last had work. They are required by law to tell you how to file for unemployment benefits and for the extension of your existing health care, called COBRA. This part of your HR is probably rather busy, but the people who are in these offices are often very nice. This is a good time to practice dropping your dignity when its convenient and giving them the sad puppy faces you’ll need to extract all the information you can. Remember, you’re about to navigate a lot of systems you don’t know about, and information is the most important thing you need!

Your trail will start with the State and wherever you register for unemployment benefits. Do this right away to make sure you don’t lose eligibility. You may also be assigned someone who will help you find a job, depending your state. As always, keep your eyes open and make sure you know what’s going on around you. Ask questions and be a big pain in the ass if you don’t know. Dignity is a luxury right now!

Once these basics are cleared up, you have some thinking to do. There are three basic ways of getting money in this world: getting a job, starting a business, or working odd jobs where you can. The last two often happen together, so while you’re thinking about what kind of small business you can start you might as well get your resume together. I’m not an expert on resume formats, so hopefully people in the know will comment below. What I did was a search for examples and then I copied the one I liked best. The main thing is to have all of your contact information, an objective (ie, what you want) and the experience that shows you can do it. Sit down and think about everything you enjoy doing and can prove you can do and make a big list.

You will probably have to make several resumes. If you’re like me, you can do several different things and have the experience to show it. You also should “dumb down” a resume on whatever you’re best at so that you can land an entry level job in that field just for the income. You do not want to appear over-qualified– it’s assumed that such people will leave at the first opportunity. If you need money, think about the kind of jobs you’re willing to take and be ready to apply for them with a resume that fits. Once again, dignity is a luxury. Do your best to “Show, don’t tell” that you are a great employee with a winning attitude with examples, not declarations.

Once you know what you want to do and what you can do, and you have the papers to show it, hit up every temp agency you can find that handles these areas. Many will allow you to keep multiple resumes on file and will appreciate that you are prepared for opportunities. This is where you land short-term and part-time gigs that will help make ends meet. Many services will offer health care plans, too. This is somewhere between a regular job and going out on your own. I recommend giving it a try – if you hate it, you can stop later.

Perhaps you want to follow a dream and start your own business. I’ve started two, one that keeps me going and one that failed. The difference is that my successful consulting business has zero overhead but the directory of Saint Paul was expensive to set up and start. To make it work, you’ll have to be disciplined, organized, and conscientious. If this route takes off, you will have to pay your own taxes and your own health care, but for some of us it works well. Before you start your own business, talk with people you know who did it. There is likely a small business center in town where you can find a mentor, an older person who can answer all your stupid questions and get you going. I can’t say much more here without knowing what you want to do.

Lastly, no matter what you’ll have to network. Meet with all your friends and tell them that “I am looking to find work as a ____. Can you tell me anyone I should see?” This can start off a long chain that ideally will lead to what Malcolm Gladwell calls in “The Tipping Point” a Connector. These are people who know a lot of people in a field or know a lot of people in diverse places. Each time you talk to someone and ask for help, your goal is not a job – you want another list of new names to hit up and say, “Anna thought you could help me find work as a ____”. Keep at this, and you’ll find the right person eventually no matter what kind of gig you want.

Online networking is a new thing, and I have to say that I’m not sure that it works very well at all. I asked around, and I don’t know anyone who has found good work from LinkedIn or facebook. If you want to work these sites, go ahead, but keep in mind that generally you have to choose only one resume; there is no advantage in being flexible and no chance to “dumb down”. But the principle remains the same as offline networking.

Lastly, if you have time on your hands, volunteer. If you want to network in the community and show people that you are a good worker, why not do some work for them? Get involved in charities and churches and synagogues that give you a chance to meet people when you’re at your best. It’s good for heart and arm and brain, too.

There’s a lot to do in order to find work, but what matters is knowing what you can do and getting the word out. Hopefully, it’s enough to pay the bills if you keep hustling, which is what I’ll cover on Friday.

5 thoughts on “On the Margin: Work

  1. for a long time
    I’ve been digging to survive
    nothing is new for me about the American recession,
    but is awful to think this cloud of incertitude
    will be hunting the world for long period of time

    Please tell me:
    Barataria is something to do with Portuguese or Spanish?

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