How to Find a Job While in Debt

It’s no secret the economy has been struggling for a few years, and this has hurt people’s ability to keep a job, find a job, and pay their bills. With this difficulty comes an even bigger one – growth in credit card debt.

So, what do you do if you have credit card debt and need to find work? Since you can’t magically make money appear in your bank account to pay your bills, you’ll need to do the next best thing – optimize your job search to find something as quickly as possible.

This may require more creativity than it has in decades past. Recently I moved from New York to San Francisco with my boyfriend, who got a job with a startup company. (He had companies clawing at his door because he’s a software engineer… not so for English Lit majors like me) So I’ve been consumed by the job search for the last couple months — since the day I gave notice to my previous employer that I was planning to leave.

Although it wasn’t necessarily the best time in my life to make a cross-country move, the opportunity presented itself and I had to go for it. But it meant facing the challenge of finding a new job in a new city while still having bills to pay.

Here are a few tips I’ve come across in my search for work that might help you as well:

1. Use Networking and Relationships to Find a Job

When there are so many other people applying for the same jobs, how can you get your resume on top of the pile? Answer: networking. Imagine you are the person sifting through resumes of hundreds of applicants for a job opening.

Sure, you would love to take the time to appreciate the effort each and every job seeker put into their cover letter and resume. But you can’t. So, you will inevitably start skimming each cover letter and looking for keywords because you need to find someone fast.

Does that mean you shouldn’t bother to put time and effort into your cover letter? Absolutely not!

But realize that the cover letter and resume usually won’t get you across the finish line by themselves. Again, imagine you are the person reading resumes and you get a phone call or e-mail from someone you know and trust. They tell you that one of the applicants is someone they think very highly of and urge you to give them strong consideration for the job. Do you think you’ll give that application a little extra attention? You better believe it!

Now, you might say, “networking is great, but I don’t know anyone who could help me.” But the reality is, you probably do have some kind of network even if you don’t realize it. Ask your friends and family if they know anyone who’s hiring and go a step further and ask them to ask their friends and colleagues. The wider net you cast, the more likely you’ll find something. And remember, getting a personal recommendation is the quickest way to get your resume on top of the pile.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Try Temporary Jobs

Finding a salaried position with reliable hours, insurance, and an obvious career track is ideal. However, in this market companies are more selective than ever and may not want to hire someone full-time without seeing the quality of their work. For that reason, it’s a good idea to be open to becoming a temporary worker (with the long-term goal of getting a permanent job, of course).

A temporary job can accomplish several important things: (A) it can help you pay the bills – which, as I mentioned above, is not a small thing, (B) it can give you important training and insight into the type of job you’re looking for, and (C) it can sometimes turn into a full-time job.

In my case, I just finished a temporary job with a startup company here in the Bay Area, and it was a very valuable experience even though it didn’t immediately lead to a permanent job. It allowed me to take a risk like I’ve never done before, to have an impact on a great startup, and to get established in my new city. Now that I have another great work experience under my belt and another stellar recommendation, I feel I am closer to landing that ideal full-time job.

3. Allow a Recruiter to Help You Find a Job

If networking isn’t working and you’re having trouble finding temporary work, talk to a recruiter. No matter where you live, there is probably at least one (or many) employment agency nearby. So do your research and try to find one that specializes in the type of work you’re most interested in.

When you’re speaking with recruiters, treat it as a job interview. You have to sell yourself to them if you want them to sell you to companies. Explain what you’re looking for, how you can contribute to the growth of a company and show your dedication. A job search is nothing to be passive about, and going to a recruiter doesn’t mean putting your future in their hands – it’s just another way to widen your net and get your resume to the top of that pile.

4. Develop Your Own Brand

Whether you’re staying put or searching for work in a big city, you need to do anything you can to stand out from the crowd. Do your resume and cover letter give a clear picture of who you are and what you have to offer?

It’s so difficult to get your application in front of a hiring manager or human resources director in the first place that you must make sure when it does finally get in front of them it actually stands out! The best way to get asked in for an interview is to clearly demonstrate to the person looking at your resume what they can expect from you.

They’re not looking for surprises or mysteries! Use your resume to show specific examples of tasks and projects you completed for previous employers, and how that helped those organizations.

It’s always wise to ask for help on this, because someone else can tell you what message they get from your resume – and in some cases it may not be the one you intended. Even if you feel your range of experience is too broad to have any consistent message, you should look for aspects of each job that highlight your main skills.

I’ve worked as a banker, an admissions counselor, and as a researcher, but I still have the same three to five skills that I’ve brought to each job. So, find those selling points and make them the bullet points for each job on your resume.

One more thing about developing your brand – don’t be shy! I’m from the Midwest, so moving to NYC gave me a crash course in selling myself. Where I come from, it’s not admired to speak highly of yourself but rather to be humble and let your abilities show on their own. But with job applications, especially in a big city, you must advocate for yourself!

People don’t have time to wait until they get to know you to see your worth – you have to tell them. You do have things to offer that no one else does, so figure out what they are and let the world know!

5. Don’t Forget About Your Finances

With all these tips, the reality is finding a job can take time – even in a big city where opportunities are more abundant (remember, people are also more abundant). Sometimes you get lucky and find something great right away and sometimes, well, it could take months. So, if possible, don’t leave a job or move away until you have some cushion money set aside to pay the bills for those first few months.

You’ll need even more saved up if you are moving to a big city – in order to cover the cost of getting there, finding an apartment (even month-to-month apartments require a security deposit), and paying higher costs for just about everything.

Before you go, do your research. What does rent cost? How much are living expenses? How much are taxes? How long does it typically take someone like you to find work there? This information will help you be prepared as possible. If you don’t have the option of cushion money, then you may have to take something part-time at a local restaurant, coffee shop, or retail store to bring in income while you search.

And no matter what, keep paying those credit card bills if you can – even if it’s just a minimum payment! The last thing you need is to get charged penalties or have your interest rate go up because of a few tough months looking for work.

Paying off debt is hard. Finding a job is hard. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. By preparing yourself and using the tips in this article, hopefully you’ll soon find yourself with a new job and an even better financial situation!

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