About four years ago, my husband and I found ourselves unemployed at the same time. I’d known for months that the company I was with was closing, but my husband’s job loss was a total surprise for both of us.
It was just after Christmas, our daughter was a year old, I was pregnant with our second one, and if I’d known in advance what the next year would be like, I would have done a lot of things differently, and done a lot more to prepare.
It’s been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe because it was right around this time four years ago that we were selling almost everything we owned, and getting ready to move across the country for a new job… that also wouldn’t work out.
And I love constantly gushing about how you can use your job to achieve your goals, and why you can be happy at your current job for however-long you decide to stay, but there are lots of us out there who would love to be working anywhere right now.
So let’s talk about unemployment today, and how to get through it.
I know, I know. This probably seems like the worst thing I could put here (especially first!), because if nothing is coming in, what are you supposed to save?
But I’ve got to include it, because IF you already have a little bit of savings, or IF you get the odd work now and then, it might be tempting to use up everything trying to survive. My husband and I blew through our savings in a panic, and then when things still didn’t get better, we were completely out of money.
You might have to make calculated sacrifices. You might have to let your internet get shut off, or eat the same five foods for months, or temporarily take the kind of job you had during high school, but if at all possible, have some money set aside, and be in the habit of replacing it ASAP when you do have to use it.
And if you’re reading this with a steady income, just trying to get prepared, I cannot stress enough how much you want to save up for this possibility. While you still have money coming in, put some of it aside every time you get paid.
Before bills, before other expenses, before groceries, even. Put a percentage of it away, and leave it there. It’ll grow little-by-little with every paycheck you get, and you’ll be so thankful for it if the day comes that those paychecks stop.
I’ve always heard at least ten percent of your income should be put aside for savings, but anything is betting than nothing. If all you’ve gotten today is a dollar for selling two paper flowers you made, and you can’t set a dime aside, stick a nickel into a jar.
If you’re getting any income - no matter how small – pay yourself first.
HAVE SOME OTHER STUFF STOCKED UP
Again – if you’re reading this and still have at least some income coming in.
Non-perishable food, razors, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, laundry detergent. Start yourself a little back-up of storable stuff, so if you land back at home full-time for a while, you’ll have things you need there and will be able to make your grocery trips cheaper.
I hadn’t been amazing at this, so when it was time to start grocery shopping with our savings account, we had to still buy most of the normal stuff – or do without whatever we could. But I did have a couple big jars filled with sample-size soaps, shampoos and conditioners. I felt like I was showering at a hotel every night, but I was so happy to have those things.
You don’t have to turn yourself into a squirrel, or put yourself in a tight spot by loading up all at once. Each time you go grocery shopping, just buy one or two inexpensive extra things. An extra bag of dried rice and a bag of dried beans one trip. An extra tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush the next. A couple cans of soup after that. Etc.
Get stuff you like, stuff you already use, and if you don’t need it for a while, use it before it expires and replace it with a new one. Just have some extras of things saved up.
Okay, so these first two are really best done ahead of time, but now let’s get to where you’re in the thick of things.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
An actual break. Don’t take too long, because it’s super easy during this time to stagnate. But being let go from a job is incredibly stressful, and you need to give yourself some rest.
Take a day or two to really relax and recharge. And spend some of that time relaxing outside, if you can. Take a day or two for it. A weekend, basically. Anything beyond that would not be a good strategy.
After your weekend, you’re going to get busy, but make sure to give yourself regular periods of relaxation for a day or two at a time – just like if you were in a job and you had a couple days off each week.
And as much as you can, go to bed early and get a full night’s rest, in all the nights ahead. Don’t stay out late trying to drown your sorrows or distract yourself. You could end up getting yourself stuck. You’ve got to stay sharp, and you’ve got to stay strong.
STAY IN A ROUTINE
Structure your day as if you have to go to work. Have a set wake-up time, bed time, and scheduled activities for each part of your day.
You’ll feel sharper mentally, purposeful, more organized, and more in control. It’ll help you avoid the paralysis that can hit us sometimes when we have conflicting priorities and too many decisions to make.
If you roll out of your bed at noon, wander out to the kitchen for breakfast, and then try to decide whether to get the place straightened up, start job hunting, or exercise, you might just throw a blanket over your brain and decide to watch TV for a while instead.
So wake up at the same time each day. Have some set habits for every morning – maybe exercising, working on your personal goals, studying something you want to learn, or practicing some new skill.
Know what you’re going to do before, after, and even during breakfast (you could watch some instructional/inspirational videos while you eat!). Have a set time for starting and stopping your job hunting, set days and times for giving service, and set days for more extensive personal development (we’ll get into all that in a little bit).
Schedule times for cleaning the house (and have certain days for doing certain things), going through the mail, replying to emails. Have a set dinner time (as far as you’re able to), and have positive habits for before you go to bed (stretching, writing a letter to a friend or family member, reading a good book, etc.).
It’s really easy to let each day just come and go as it may. But don’t you fall into that. As much as you can, make things organized, and routine.
GET YOUR CONFIDENCE BACK
I’ve had a couple experiences with unemployment, and they gutted mine. At those times when I needed to be able to get up and get going, make a new plan, and present myself at my best, I was scared, indecisive, and ashamed. I felt like I couldn’t do anything.
Job loss happens to most of us at some point; it’s one of those things that’s just part of life. It’s a really tough challenge to get through – not a reflection of you. We all go through something, and this is just your thing right now. You can’t beat it if you’re beating yourself up and holding yourself down.
READ THIS for good habits to start, so you can increase your belief in yourself. This is an experience; not you. And you can take it on.
STAY PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
It is so easy to vegetate at a time like this. A soft cozy couch to hug you, a pile of treats to fill you, and TV shows or video games to distract you. You will constantly be invited to forget your troubles, admit defeat, and stop moving.
But this will help. You’ve got the time now, so get yourself into a regular routine of doing physical exercise. It can be any kind, and it can be for whatever amount of time you can do. It will give you energy, it will give you confidence, and it will help you keep humming along.
So many other people are in need, and helping them will do so much for you.
It’ll boost your confidence in yourself. It’ll give you energy, fulfillment, joy, compassion, and courage. It’ll put things into perspective for you, as you see what others struggle with. It’ll help you to feel grateful for what you have. It’ll give you nice fillers for that “Volunteer Work” section of your resume (why not?).
It might put you in contact with people who can help you. It might teach you new skills, help you learn of opportunities, and give you a whole new way to use your talents. And it might make all the difference for someone else who’s suffering.
You have every reason to do this one. And, you know – now there’s some time for it.
While you’re waiting to start a new job, try to figure out ways to get some money coming in.
Giving your things a facelift and selling them. Washing cars. Making and selling bracelets. Finding things other people are giving away for free and selling them. Offering to clear the brush from your neighbor’s yard. Making websites for new business owners. Think of every skill and service you have to offer and start selling.
And if you’ve been holding out on getting “just any” job, think about whether it’s time to give that some thought again. I know a lot of people have mixed thoughts and worries about it, but I don’t see anything wrong with taking something temporarily, until you get something better. As long as you do well there, and work hard, and give the most value you can to your employer while you’re there (READ THIS for what you’ll want to do in that job, to give the most to it, and get the most out of it), I think you’re good.
MAKE A NEW PLAN
Here we go. Things change, that’s a given, and it’s okay. You just need a new plan.
All the things you’ve been doing up to this point should help you feel ready to map out the specifics. Ask yourself tons of questions, look at all the angles, and write it all down.
Where do you want to be (living, working, in your personal development, in your relationships)? What do you want (to be doing for work, to be pursuing, to learn, to achieve)? What are your options? What are the pros and cons to each? What might you need to do temporarily (a part-time or lower-paying job, or work outside of your interest or experience) to hold you over or help you to get into a new job you’d actually want?
Write it all down, and think it through. You might decide on one direction right away, and in the next few days think of things that throw a wrench in it and change your mind. It’s okay. While you’re still moving on everything else, give yourself some time to think through this one.
Then pick a path – the best one for you and your family, as far as you’re able to tell - and get going on it. Stay aware of how it’s all playing out, and what challenges you might not have considered, and make a new plan if you have to.
But don’t let fear, or discouragement, or doubt in yourself paralyze you. You can do this. Make a plan, and keep moving.
This one is so important! For your confidence, for marketing yourself, for all the new skills you might need in your new job, for your energy, for your resume, for important connections with people, for opening doors, for achieving your personal goals, for improving on your talents and interests.
For your happiness. We have to be progressing – we have to. We can’t be happy without this one. You can do it for free right now; there are so many ways.
READ THIS to get ideas, and then jump in.
WORK ON YOUR PERSONAL GOALS
Okay – this heading might have felt like a sledgehammer if one of your goals was to move up in a company you just lost your position in, or if your job there was a critical part of your plan for achieving a goal.
But there’s usually more than one way to accomplish something, and so many times a challenge also presents an opportunity (at some point).
Don’t neglect this. It might be painful at first. It might be hard to see how to get back into it after this setback. Keep going. Figure out your new plan of action if you need one, but keep going.
Make working on your personal goals a priority. It’s your fuel. It’s just like when you’re in a job and you need to give yourself a reason to keep looking at your boss’s face every day.
Fuel up every day.
PURSUE YOUR INTERESTS
You’ve got to take time for the things you enjoy. The fun stuff; the good stuff; the stuff that makes you happy.
Maybe it’s playing an instrument, reading, rock climbing, drawing, decorating your house, cooking, spending time with friends, playing a sport, knitting, watching movies, or making cat videos.
This is not just for when you’re working; don’t ground yourself right now. Keep your spirits and energy up by making time for fun.
WORK ON YOUR ADVERTISING
Update your resume as often as you do anything add-able (so tack-on all that service and personal development!).
Clean up your image on social media if it could use that. Take the time to scroll back through time and all your posts, and trash any you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see. Even things that don’t seem blatantly inappropriate could make a less-than-favorable impression. Negative stuff, gossipy stuff, insults or lectures to all your friends about politics/parenting/religion/social issues/anything else – it could all hurt your chances and should disappear.
And then start your marketing. Write positive posts; things that spread inspiration, or encouragement, or cheer. Triple-check the grammar, word-use, and spelling before you put them up. And make sure any grandmother on Earth would feel confident about reading them aloud to her friends.
TELL EVERYONE YOU’RE LOOKING FOR WORK
This is not the time to try to save face. Don’t blow past the subject if someone asks what you’re up to, or brings up that they heard you’re between jobs.
Dive right into the conversation with the type of experience you have, your interests, some of your skills, and ask if they know anyone you should meet, or any companies you should look at (don’t even bother asking if those companies are hiring – you’re going to go to them anyway!).
Go to job fairs and give everyone your resume. Get on every social media site and blast out the news. Tell all your friends, and everyone you meet. Ask people about their jobs, and ask them if they’d be a reference for you if you apply to their company.
Let the whole world know you’re looking, because there are so many companies out there looking for someone like you, and you’ve got to make sure you can be found.
You’ll wake up some mornings and feel like you’re buried under a thousand pounds of sand. There will be days that go to absolute hell. So much time could go by, that your resources bleed out, along with your confidence. You might lay awake all night because you are so scared about what might happen tomorrow, and where you can possibly go from here.
I was served with a court date from a creditor on a day that my family had less than a dollar in our account. I was notified that all the money in our bank account would be garnished, until the creditor was paid in full.
I got so many scary letters from the bank about our mortgage that I felt sure someone was going to knock on the door any day and tell us to pack up. Our electricity was turned off twice; our water three times. I was so scared.
But you can’t stop moving, and you can’t stop trying, no matter what happens.
Have you read or heard me talk about staying in character at work, and how we need to make good choices no matter what our mood or emotions? You can read about it HERE if not, and I’m telling you now, you’ll need to use that strategy in this case.
Attitude follows behavior. Keep going, practice being brave, and you’ll eventually feel it, and be able to go even harder and get even more done.
It won’t last. Just know that, and don’t let it scare you. Our moods are always shifting. Something new will happen, or you’ll just wake up tired, or scared again, or overwhelmed. Keep getting up and getting going anyway, and you’ll end up feeling good again.
Most things worth doing take time, and patience, and never giving up. No matter how many “No’s” you get; no matter how crushing the defeats, or how sure you are that this time you’ve sunk so low, you should pop out on the other side of the planet any second – keep going.
And if you want to vent or brainstorm ideas for your plan, I’m here! Email me at email@example.com