Sadly, our summer days are dwindling down. Those precious vacation days have been put to good use, and school supplies are slowly replacing swimsuits. But for anyone that’s unemployed in Austin, your calendar isn’t changing. You have weeks — sometime months — to fill with activities that will hopefully land you a new gig. Filling that time isn’t so simple.
Austin isn’t immune to the country’s current unemployment woes. 5.8% of Austin residents were out of work in May 2012. That’s well below the U.S. average, but not exactly comforting. Luckily, there are great, diverse and creative companies that put Austinites to work, but getting them to notice you is the challenge. At the same time, you need to feel good about yourself.
The voices of self-doubt have a habit of screaming at you when you’re out of work (maybe that’s just me). At the end of the day, confidence and skills are what’s going to land a new gig.
If you’re currently navigating Austin's unemployed waters, here are five things you can do to keep yourself engaged as you look for that next great opportunity.
Know the players
Limiting your search to job postings limits your chances of landing a paycheck. Start by finding out who’s out there. Companies big and small are always looking for top talent, even if they’re not actively posting for it.
The Austin Business Journal’s Book Of Lists is a listing of Austin companies by industry, largest employers and so forth. It’s a top-line way of finding the companies that are in your industry. Your local Austin Public Library should have a copy of it. Also, dig through trade publications and news publications — Statesman, Chronicle — to see who’s making news. The APL even has its own online job search page.
Research the companies that interest you and dig around online for a bigger perspective. If you find a cool place, reach out to someone there that may have the power to hire you. Your cover letter may just land on the right desk at the right time.
Temporary office space
If you’ve targeted a company, it’s worth a shot asking about freelance opportunities. Another way to get on inside — or simply help make ends meet — is by temping. While “temp work” conjures up images of "P.C. Load Letter," don’t let that deter you. Austin is full of temp agencies that specialize in industry-specific jobs.
Marketing/advertising and web creatives have Vitamin T, while Robert Half handles everything from administrative to accountants. Even the University of Texas, one of the city’s biggest employers, uses temps. UTemps places people in positions in all areas of the university, but it’s unlikely you’ll be suiting up for the Longhorns using this tactic.
Before you groan about networking, realize that meet-ups have a distinctively Austin feel. Instead of being stuck in a Hampton Inn conference room handing out business cards, you’ll be hanging out at Red’s Porch drinking beer and talking shop.
Professional industry organizations have happy hours every other month (for us marketing types, we have AGIA and AAF). Dig into the Internet and see where your industry hangs out. For tech pros, Capitol Factory hosts all kinds of meet ups.
Don’t think of it just as a job connection. Getting out and talking about your passions is necessary if you spend all day at home. You may learn about a new program or get a tip on that HTML5 problem you’re struggling with, while re-igniting your own fire.
Force yourself to get out of the house on a regular basis. After hours of emails and job searching, being back around people is healthy and it keeps things in perspective. Austin is full of free or low cost activities: walk around Lady Bird Lake one morning a week, visit the Blanton Museum or the Alamo Drafthouse, sit at Mozart's and remind yourself how lucky you are to live here.
If there’s money to spare, take an informal class at UT or join a gym. Your job isn’t your life, so do what you can to live it.
Getting involved in a project fills you with purpose and gives you something to look forward to each day. Now’s the time to do that creative project or writing that you’ve been putting off. If the project is something that you can put online and share, even better.
And while you’re out on your own, maybe now’s the time to look into starting your own business? Take a BizAid class and learn about the small business resources provided by the city. You may be back on your feet sooner than expected.
It’s never easy, but using the resources available around town will eventually get you back in the game. Make the best of the opportunity you’ve been given, and you’ll be reminded why you stuck with Austin, even through the 100-degree summers.