How to Survive Unemployment

Getting downsized, laid off or outsourced can be a traumatic experience. At least it was for me the two times I went through it. It hurts your ego and self-esteem, adds a tremendous amount of stress to your life and just makes you feel miserable. To many, it has the same emotional effect as losing a loved one. The first time I went through it, it lasted nine months. I know people now that have been out of work much longer than that. So I thought it would help to share of the best advice I was given.

Cast Your Net:

The first thing I did each morning before doing anything else (other than preparing for an interview) was apply for ten jobs. Sometimes it took ten minutes, other times it took two hours. But I would search all of the job sites first and then look at companies within my commuting range and apply to them. I also kept a log of all my job search activities so I could see who I applied to and when. It at least made me feel like I was doing something.

The big mistake here that people make is being too picky about the jobs they apply for because they don’t want to be underemployed. But I have news for them, it‘s usually better to be underemployed than unemployed. At least you’re working, pulling in an income and not dependent on an unemployment paycheck. And, it’s easier to find a job when you’re working (even at a lower position) than when you have a huge gap in your resume timeline. So even if the job isn’t perfect, apply for it. At the very least, you’ll be able to practice your interviewing skills.

Get Active – Physically:

When you’re unemployed is the best time to dust off that gym membership. You can go during the least busy times and who knows, that guy on the elliptical machine next you might even have some job hunting tips for you. But the best thing about exercising is that it reduces stress and makes you feel better about yourself.

If you don’t have a gym membership and don’t want to buy one, then try walking, jogging or running outside. If the weather or climate isn’t conducive to it then get an exercise DVD and workout in front of your TV. They have programs for every level and you can borrow them for free at your local library, so there’s no need to spend any money.

Get Out:

The worst thing you can do is sit alone in your house and sulk all day, or watch TV, play games or surf the internet. Get out to where people are, especially if those people can help you. Rather than doing your job searching at home, check out your local library which probably has a section dedicated to job related resources. You can find resources to help you learn about open positions and the companies that are hiring.

The benefit of being out also gets you around people so you’ll feel like less of a recluse and get some opportunities to practice those people skills. I used to meet someone for lunch once a week (at a place where I could get a cheap meal) and visit the library practically every day. And I would also schedule some leisure time do something fun every other week or so, because looking for work is hard work so you need to reward yourself from time to time. So visit the library, a coffee shop, find a bench outside on a nice day or visit the campus of the college or university that you went to (which is another excellent job hunting resource). But get out.

Get Smart:

Now is your chance to feed your mind. Attend lectures or take classes. Read books you’ve never had the time to get to. Check your local newspaper and library for lectures and classes in your area. Many are inexpensive and some are even free. The public classes that I teach are all in continuing education programs so they’re priced under $100. Some of the bigger programs have gift certificates so you can add them to your birthday or holiday gift list. Your local unemployment office may also offer free career related classes so check out their web site (just type your city name and unemployment office in the search box on your right).

Museums are another excellent resource for lectures. In some cities they are free to get into while others charge a fee than can get pricey (transportation and admission for me at many of the museums in Boston would be about $30-50). One way around the price is to get free or discounted passes from your library.

Keep Cool:

Looking for a job is a full time job. In the nine months I was looking for work in 2002 & 2003, I averaged sixty hours per week on job search related activities. This included applying for jobs, preparing for interviews and doing job search related research and training. It can be stressful and the amount of rejections (many of which will confuse you, provided you’re fortunate enough to even hear back from the employer) can get to you.

I know it’s tough to not let a situation like this get you down, so it’s important to get out and keep learning. If you find yourself struggling with the job interviewing piece, then feel free to check out my 70-minute audio program on interviewing. But in any case, remember to stay focused. You will find work.

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