After spending a few weeks on the road connecting with individuals and families for "Good Morning America's" Great American Job Fairs, I've witnessed pockets of great hope and optimism among the millions of people struggling to find work. If they can find success, I believe that you can too.
1) Don't let unemployment define your self-worth.
If you've been out of work three months, six months, nine months or more, you're probably not feeling too hot about yourself. You are not alone. You must resolve to put the negativity aside and make a cognitive shift to the self-assured, confident you that's buried inside. You must believe in yourself and the value you bring to a prospective employer. Promise yourself that you'll stand a bit taller and prouder starting today.
2) Work on your job search every single day -- no exceptions.
It's impossible to spend 24/7 job searching, but you must do at least one thing (ideally more) every day. Buy yourself a tiny notebook or pad of paper and mark down at least one thing you do daily for your job search. Did you send out a resume? Mark it down and mark down when you'll follow up. Chat up the lady at the grocery store about your job search? That counts too. This is your job search journal, but it doesn't just include hopes and dreams; it includes actions you've taken.
3) Shake up your network beyond family and friends.
In Jerry Gillespie's case, he realized he couldn't do it alone. So he turned to his church for help. Church members not only prayed for him, but they spread the word to help him find job leads. The people you speak to may not have the power to hire you, but they can use their voice to make your needs heard. Reach out beyond your small inner circle. Connect with former co-workers, talk to the clerk in the store where you shop, speak to the parents of your kids' friends. Nobody is off limits.
4) Expand your search.
Jerry pounded the pavement day after day for months, and there were no jobs on construction sites. He never thought to apply his skills in another direction, such as a home improvement retailer. Don't limit yourself to one type of position that you're eyeing. Think today about five different positions that you can be pursuing simultaneously.
Just a week after we profiled Becky Breining who's been out of work for nearly a year after losing her job in the automotive industry, she sounds like a new person. Becky had only been looking for traditional positions, but she took our advice to create a profile on Elance.com and has since begun making money on various projects. Three of the assignments focus on administrative project management and another involves software training.
Becky has never met her new clients, which include Atlanta-based Money Mouth Marketing, San Francisco-based real estate consultancy Jonathan Fleming & Associate and Pipeline Media Relations, a Chicago-based firm. She'll perform all of her work virtually using the Elance platform.
Cheryl Ludwig of Bishop, Ga., who was out of work when her former employer, a landscape nursery, laid off several staffers, has found her niche working 40-plus hours per week on Odesk.com and WorkingSolutions.com. This home-based work allows her the freedom to focus on her art as well, which she's selling online through Etsy.com. This too was an "out-of-the-box" solution for her.
5) Call your mayor's office and/or local Chamber of Commerce.
Ask specifically about retraining programs and job placement assistance. In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley has an Office of Workforce Development that focuses specifically on placement assistance and retraining. Find out in your city what type of services may be available to you.
Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. Visit her Web site at www.womenforhire.com.