You know the usual advice for people who have just lost their job:
“Start your job search as soon as possible. Don’t delay. Update your resume, start networking, and get on with the search.”
This is conventional wisdom and most people follow it. On the face, there is nothing wrong with it. It is what everybody does. It usually works. You will find a job. You had one before, right? There is another big advantage of immediately looking for the next job; it offers you a mental safety net. You are following convention; you don’t have to explain yourself. Nevertheless, there are a few issues with just blindly following the common rules and expectations. Both personal as well as surrounding economic circumstances might indicate that there might be a “better way” that fits your overall situation better.
In fact, there are 7 questions you might want to ask yourself whether you might be better off delaying your job search and using your time differently for a while:
1. What is the economic state of the industry and city you are in?
Looking at an industry going downhill in your city, how much good would it do to you to start looking for a job there? At which company if they all stopped hiring? Aren’t you better off spending your time checking out a different location to work and live?
2. What is your personal economic situation?
Does it make a difference if you are 50 years old vs. 30; whether you have severance vs. no severance; have no money in the bank vs. a great savings account? Doesn’t money give you more freedom and time to enjoy life for a bit? Or does it make you lazy and too relaxed to look for a new job later?
3. What is your personal family situation?
Does it make a difference whether you are single or have a spouse? Can you take more risks as a single person? Or does a family provide more emotional stability and potentially the safety of a second salary such that you have an easier time delaying your job search than any single peer?
4. What are your individual personal and professional needs?
What if you are unsure what to do next professionally? What is your level of “brain damage” from an intense career? Is it time to do the “once-in-a-lifetime’ vacation? Should you take a bit of time to think about career change? How much time would you need before diving back in?
5. Could you have a better career with additional education?
What about investing in some education and raising the odds of finding a better job later? How much would education help you find a job? How much time would it “buy” you in the job market?
6. Is there a risk of taking on the next available job?
In good times, it is easy to find a new job at the same or higher salary. What happens in recessions with falling wages? If you take a 20% cut at the first job offered, will you ever get back to your former salary level? Couldn’t there be a better strategy…just wait and re-enter the labor market once conditions have improved?
7. What is time worth to you?
Given that total working years might add up to between 30 and 40 – why the rush? Thirty to forty years of work equals 360-480 months. Can it really be that bad to take three months off and enjoy life, think and adjust your priorities? Shouldn’t working 99% of your working lifetime be plenty? Shouldn’t that be enough to pay for ongoing living expenses and savings for retirement? All these questions might lead you to the conclusion that maybe applying for the next job right away might not be the best course of action for you. Using your time on other activities for a few months before starting your job search might be the right strategy.