How to survive unemployment
Losing your job can be a huge blow to your self-confidence. It can kill your spirit, send you spiralling into depression, and drain your bank account. Unemployment can be a devastating experience, but the key to surviving the weeks and potentially months between jobs is to remain calm, stay positive, and create a plan.
It’s no secret that I’ve been fired not once, but twice before. The first time, I was let go the day my 3-month probationary period was supposed to end. My position was being eliminated, and since the company was restructuring, my skillset didn’t fit what they needed. Plus, they hated my writing style. It took me 11 weeks to find a new job. The second time I was fired, I was completely caught off guard. You all know the story by now, so I won’t say anything else. I spent 6 weeks unemployed before I found a new job.
Both times, I went through a whirlwind of emotion: shock, anger, frustration, and finally – acceptance. Once I had accepted the reality of what had happened, I worked hard every day to prove to myself, my former employer, and my future employer that I was a skilled and valuable asset to any team.
Here are 8 things I learned that have helped me get through unemployment and onto my next job:
Understand why you lost your job
If you were fired, make sure all of your questions are answered by your boss. This can be a really hard time, but try to keep your emotions in check while you are still at the office. Understanding the reasoning behind what happened will help you move forward and become a better employee. At first, I was so embarrassed that I had lost a job because of my writing skills. But after I stepped away from the situation and spoke to a former co-worker, she made me realize that I had come from a background of technical writing and government work, and that’s just not what they were looking for.
If you feel your termination was unjust, document the reasons why, and contact a wrongful dismissal lawyer for a consultation. I’ve had to do this before, and while a consultation might be expensive (I got quotes anywhere from $200-350), it’s important if you don’t think you were treated fairly.
Apply for unemployment benefits
If you qualify for Employment Insurance (EI), for gosh sakes take advantage of it! Don’t let a sense of pride get in the way of receiving financial assistance when you need it the most. Even if you think you have the financial resources to get you through until your next job (savings in the bank, a spouse with a steady job, or parents who are willing to help you out), you never know when your next job might be. Applying for unemployment benefits assures you will have at least some income assistance while you search for a new job. Plus, you will likely contribute to EI for your entire career – it’s there for you when you need it because you’ve paid for it.
Keep your spirits up
The worst part about losing your job – besides the lack of income – is the constant questioning from friends and family about what happened and how the job search is going. It’s the absolute worst, and was a major frustration point for me. Your loved ones don’t mean anything by it, they just want to be there for you and try to help you. Even though it might be hard, try to think positively. Think about all the great opportunities just waiting for you out there, and make sure to focus on the future, not the past.
Create a schedule
It will help you get through each day by creating schedule blocks fo time for job searching, otherwise you might feel overwhelmed. For example, you could decide to spend from 9am to 10am each day searching the internet for jobs, from 1pm to 2pm brain storming new ideas and contacting potential leads, and then from 2pm until 4pm writing resumes and applying for those jobs. Having a set schedule keeps you moving forward and looking towards the next thing you need to do.
Keeping to a schedule will also give you the feeling of purpose you lose when you don’t have a job to go to. So feel free to take the first few days to sleep in, get angry, eat ice cream, and maybe drink a beer (or two, or three), but after that? Get back to normal. You will feel more professional, confident, and willing to apply for jobs you deserve if you’re in the mindset to work.
Be selective with your resume
It may seem counterintuitive, but don’t spend your valuable time randomly applying for every job posting you see. I made that mistake once after finishing up a job contract. I was freaking out about not having a job, and I was so focused on finding employment as quickly as possible that I basically applied for every single job posting I found that was remotely related to my skill set. I ended up interviewing for positions well below my qualification level, in cities I would never dream of moving to, and for companies and industries I wasn’t even interested in.
Think of it as a way to reinvent yourself. Now’s your chance to try to break into a new industry, utilize those skills you weren’t able to use at your old job, or find an employer who has the work culture you’ve been craving.
Conserve your money
This is a no-brainer, but now is the time to be as frugal as possible and watch every penny. Making extra payments towards your debt is usually a good idea, but when you’re unemployed, you should only be paying the minimum on your debts in order to free up cash for other essentials. Do your research to see if you qualify for deferments on any loans, and contact your credit card companies to negotiate a lower interest rate if possible.
Contact old colleagues by e-mail or through professional networking sites like LinkedIn. Try to get recommendation letters as soon as possible before you lose touch. Make a list of all your personal contacts, let friends and family know that you’re looking for a new career opportunity, and start making your rounds. Even if no potential job leads come from it, strengthening your connections with people in your industry is always a good thing, and might come in handy later in life.
Looking back, I can see now that being let go from my job was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. I know it’s easy to say that now, but make sure to keep that in mind when you’re looking for work. There’s a great job out there just waiting for you. Sure, you’ll lose some income and a bit of self-confidence, but what you will gain is the ability to refocus your career. You now have the time to decide what is most important to you in a job, what you liked and disliked in an employer, and the knowledge that eventually you will find a job that is more in tune with your lifestyle and your goals.
What tips do you have for getting through unemployment?
Author: Krystal Yee
I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.