What is Your Job Search Budget?

Being laid off is never fun.  All of a sudden, you are left with some intense life decisions to make.  You are going to have to make them in a very short period of time.

One of the very first decisions you should make is “what is your job search budget?”  Here are the things that your “budget” entail.

1).  Your “runway.” How long can you float before you are underwater?  There should be several answers to this.  One answer should be “X months without touching retirement, kids’ college accounts, etc.”  Another answer should be “Y months by liquidating our IRAs, the kids’ college accounts, and so on.”  The final answer should be “Z months by liquidating everything and putting our home in hock (if you can find a mortgage lender to do that now), and borrowing everything we can from friends, family, and running up the credit cards.”

These answers will give you a much more realistic picture than the usual picture painted by newly laid off people.  Most of them either are too optimistic, or go into “I’m going to be homeless” mode.  A serious look at your finances within a week of being laid off, no matter how painful, is essential to understanding how long of a “runway” you have to land again.

2).  Professional help. Frankly, in this economy, you are just plain stupid if you try to find a job on your own.  Get professional help with networking, interviewing, and on-boarding if you want to get a good position.  This will cost more or less one month of salary.  Budget it, and look immediately for a good Transition Coach.  If in the Denver Metro or Colorado Front Range areas, call us, and we’ll be happy to either help you or refer you.  If you are outside of Colorado, begin asking your friends who have been laid off and landed who they know who is reputable.  Be careful and be sure you choose a great coach.  Here is an article of mine on how to do just that.

3).  Professional attire. If you’ve put on 40 or so pounds since you last wore that great suit, it is just going to make you look like an idiot.  Get clothes that fit, look new, and look prosperous.  If you’re like many people, you haven’t had to wear a suit for many years.  Now you do.  Make sure that it looks good.

Employ the services of a men’s or women’s clothier for this.  The services of a good advisor are usually free at the better shops.  If you have an unusual body shape, go custom (I do).  The cost differential is pretty small (about 30% higher), but the clothes…well, look like they were made for you….’cause they were!  You will not believe what a difference a custom suit makes.  It moves with you, and flatters all of you best areas, while downplaying your less than wonderful areas.  A good tailor or custom clothier can put a “rush” on custom made clothing for a very small extra charge, assuring that you’ll look your best in the interview.

4).  Intelligence on the company. You may have to buy a subscription to Hoovers.  But, before you do that, look into LinkedIn, an online business networking site.  Almost everyone you’ll want to speak with belongs, and it is currently free, although they’re trying to make people pay for any decent service.  Even so, at about $100 a month for their premium personal service, it can be worth it.  If you are serious about building a network, LinkedIn is the best place to be.

By linking with people at the companies with whom you are interviewing, you can get the inside story on what they really want and truly need.  To learn more about LinkedIn, check out Integrated Alliances as well as reading my article here.

5).  Travel expense. One of my clients travelled to a trade show in Atlanta, and was able to get several interviews in one fell swoop.  A couple of these made him an offer, one of which he accepted.   Another client, being put off because the CEO was in New York for a couple of weeks, offered, at his own expense, to fly to the Big Apple to meet the CEO.  The CEO said “why not?” and the client got the job.  Don’t discount spending your own money to travel somewhere to get a job.

6).  Job Boards. I don’t recommend job boards, as most are useless.  But you should join Execunet and The American Business Journals job boards.  This will cost a few hundred dollars.  Forget “the Ladders,” and “6 Figure Jobs.”  And certainly forget low level sites like Monster and Jobbing.com.  These places are unlikely to help you.  But budget a small amount for these things.

7). Your own laptop. If you’ve been sharing a laptop, now is the time to break down and get a laptop.  Apple’s products are a bit more expensive, but have the reputation for reliability.  PC products are to be had for as little as $300 – $400 for a decent laptop.  If you go “PC,” make sure that Windows 7, as opposed to the piece of garbage called “Vista,” is loaded on there.  Try to find Office 2003 online, as the MS Office versions above that are unreliable and difficult to use in real life.  You’ll have to bite the bullet sooner or later and upgrade, but you might get a couple of years out of Office 2003 before the evil Microsoft does something to make it unusable so you’ll have to buy their newer, and less reliable, product – an old Microsoft trick.

You need your own laptop for interviews and job hunting.  You are going to go “stir crazy” if you sit around the house searching all the time, not to mention that you’ll probably murder one of your offspring.  You need your own laptop for many reasons.  Make sure it is robust enough for what you want to use it for.

8).  Coffee and lunch money. You’re going to be drinking lots of coffee, tea or whatever as you meet people for networking meetings.  You’ll also need to have enough money on you to take some people out to lunch from time to time.  This is vital!  Don’t be a cheapskate!  Buy the coffee and buy the lunch.

9).  Networking event fees and association memberships.  You’ll need to join some associations if you want exposure.  You’ll also need to pay for some networking events.  Make sure that you’ve put aside between $1K – $4K for these necessary expenditures.  This budget item will also include some classes you might need to take.

Of course, check out the free stuff (we have several things), but don’t balk at paying for some memberships and events.  If you come across as cheap, your chances of getting hired just got smaller.

10).  Miscellaneous. Of course, you’ll have parking, gas money, fast food, and all of the other little miscellaneous things that come up.  A budget of about $100 a month should take care of most of these things.

These things can add up very quickly and shorten your runway.  That is why the one expense you cannot even think about skipping is a good Transition Coach.  The sooner you hire a coach, the better.  If you hire a coach the week you’re laid off, and before you do anything self-destructive in the job market, your chances of getting employed rapidly just got much better.  But even if you’ve been unemployed a year or longer – hire a coach.

Unemployment is a frightening time.  The temptation is to hoard all the cash you can.  Like most temptations, however, this is counter-productive.  Spend the cash you need to get back on your feet rapidly, rather than sitting on an ever-dwindling pile of cash until it is almost gone.  Best of luck in your search.

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