The Tipping List
Coping with Unemployment
8 easy tips for dealing with a bad hand
Unemployment claims have risen to a seven-year high in recent months – and I don’t know about you, but that makes me nervous! Aside from the immediate problem of people unable to find work, it seems to speak to the current state of our economy in ways that Washington’s slick-speak is unable to. You can’t gloss over unemployment rates like this with a quip, quote or sound bite.
If you are one of those caught in this current cycle of unemployment, you are probably feeling a range of emotions – from anger to guilt to helplessness (and even hopelessness). Though I am (thankfully!) gainfully employed right now, my own bout with unemployment a few years ago left me feeling guilty (for depending on family to get me through), incompetent (shouldn’t I have been able to keep my job if I was good at it?), and angry (wtf, universe?!). My coping mechanisms included a near-obsession with finding a new job – every paper, every day plus countless hours on the computer, searching for and applying to anything that seemed remotely applicable to my skill set. (That added up to a LOT of coffee and blurred vision.)
Fortunately, there are healthier ways to cope if you’ve lost your job.
1. Realize you are not on vacation. Yes, taking a few days to relax and refocus is good – let go of any resentment over the old job and get started with a clean slate. But then get to work finding a new gig.
2. Take care of the practical stuff. File for unemployment compensation, health insurance to cover you during any lapse, and find out about any other benefits you might be entitled to.
3. Look at the positives. Many times we get stuck in a rut at our job that really isn’t the best thing for us – being laid off can actually open up a window to a career change and forward movement.
4. Take care of the emotional side. So many of us (me included) tie our identities in to our work. When we aren’t working, we feel depressed and useless, as though we aren’t making our contribution. Find a way to change that point of view, even if it’s volunteering somewhere or finding ways to change how you identify yourself.
5. Negotiate severance. Although companies are not required to pay out a severance package, in many cases, if you’ve been a good employee, you may be able to negotiate a package. In any case – it never hurts to ask!
6. Don’t panic. You will find another job. This is not the time to tap into your 401k, or to start charging up your credit cards – those actions will only dig you into a hole that you might not get out of.
7. Go to work. Yep, you heard me. Just because you don’t have to go in to the office anymore doesn’t mean you don’t have work to do. Your new job is to find a job. Rework your resume, work with a recruiter, scour the papers and Internet. Work your network, contact people you know and knew, and get out there to places where you might meet new people who might have a lead for you.
8. Get out of the house. Nip that jobless depression in the bud – it’s so easy to slip into a funk if you spent all day in your jammies, even if there is really good coffee around. I spent countless days at the cozy neighborhood coffee shop when searching for a new job – it forced me to get dressed and leave the house, interact with people, and gave me a place with a task, just like the office used to.
If you are one of the lucky whom are still employed, take a lesson from the Boyscouts: Be Prepared. Make sure you have a six-month emergency fund socked away – it can take longer than you think to come across a new job, so having 6 months worth of living expenses put away will protect you. Start finding ways to make money on the side, such as picking up freelancing gigs, or consulting work. If you work in a job that isn’t conducive to freelance work, take a look at the other things in your life that could make you money, be it doing hair, baking or coaching your kids’ ball games. And network, network, network!
Remember: Everywhere you go, every person you see is now a potential new job staring you in the face.