Seven Tips for the Newly Unemployed

By Xin Lu on 30 July 2008 (Updated 12 December 2008) 35 comments

[Editor's note:  If you recently lost your job, take a look at Wise Bread's collection of tips and resources for the recently laid off.]

The unemployment rate in California surged to 6.9% , and that is equivalent to the rate in early 2003. Most news reports say that unemployment will probably go up a bit more in the short term as our economy deals with the credit crisis. Personally, I am seeing some friends and family deal with unemployment right now, and here are some tips that could be helpful for those in this situation.

1. Tell everyone you know you are now unemployed - There is no shame in telling people that you are looking for a job. In fact, the more people you tell the better your chances are in getting a referral. Tell people in your network what kind of job you are seeking and what your skills are, and someone may be able to help you get a new job.

2. Apply for unemployment benefits - As long as you were terminated through no fault of your own, you should be eligible to collect some unemployment benefits. It is not a lot of money, but it is something to help you with gas and food bills while you look for a job. In California it is fairly easy to submit a claim through an online form here . If you find employment before your benefits begin you can always cancel the claim.

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3. Tighten your belt - When you suddenly become unemployed you may need to adjust your budget a bit and stretch whatever severance you received as much as you can. It could mean that you have to cancel the cable and not go out so much for dinner, but without your former income those small luxuries may prevent you from paying the bigger bills like the rent or the mortgage. If you do not have an adequate emergency fund to tide you through the job search then frugality becomes a necessity.

4. Be open to opportunities
- Several people I know that were laid off due to company closure found that they could noteasily find a job that paid as well as their old jobs. So they are faced with the choice of continuing to look for that high paying job or take a lower paying job. I do not think that people should necessarily take the first offer they see, but if it is a decent job with reasonable benefits then it does not hurt to take the job and continue looking. Having a lower income than before is still better than having nothing at all. Besides full time employment, there are contract positions or business opportunities you can seek out.

5. Stay healthy - When you lose your job your health insurance usually goes with it. That is why staying healthy is extremely important during this period of unemployment. Sometimes health issues can be beyond our control, but we can all try to sleep and eat well and exercise regularly.

6. Organize the job hunt - You should make finding a new source of income your priority if you need the income to survive. When I was looking for a job I found that keeping a log was very helpful. I would write down the date of my resume submission to certain companies and also dates of interviews and contact information. Organization is very important when you suddenly need to keep appointments in many different places.

7. Do not mope around
- Losing your job is horrible, but there is no point in wasting your time feeling bad about it. When you are looking for a new opportunity you need to be confident about your skills and show people that you are awesome. The sooner you can get over the initial disappointment, anger, and bitterness the sooner you will be able to move on to something better.

There are very few companies that hire people for life these days, and involuntary unemployment is something most of us will have to deal with in our lives. Do you have any stories or tips on how you dealt with unemployment? Feel free to share here.

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Guest's picture

I totally agree with you on the moping around. It helps to hang around with optimistic, positive thinking people.

Guest's picture
K

Just in case the unexpected happens, it's a good idea to get short-term health insurance coverage while you're unemployed. Cobra can be very expensive, but you can usually find a plan for much less money on your own. It may not have all the bells and whistles, but will cover you if you're struck by a major illness. We've had good luck using ehealthinsurance.com.

In 2002 my husband was unemployed and my son was hospitalized with appendicitis. We had basic coverage and the hospital was willing to subsidize the difference between our basic insurance coverage and the cost of the operation. It would have been a financial disaster without medical insurance on top of the unemployment.

Guest's picture

Staying positive is key and a big way to do that is to put your best foot forward when you get that all-important first job interview. Know what to do and say ("How to Ace Job Interviews" at http://shanelyang.com/2008/01/07/how-to-ace-job-interviews/ ) and what to wear ("Bullet-Proof Interview Suit" at http://shanelyang.com/2008/07/09/bullet-proof-interview-suit/ ) to knock them dead! : )

Guest's picture
Guest

Wondering if there are any tips for those who have been out of work long term? Even with a positive attitude and supportive family/friends it's daunting...

Guest's picture
Lisa

I wholeheartedly agree with all of the tips thus far. I'll add a couple more:
-Seriously consider temporary/ temp-to-perm work. I've been out of an official full time job since January of this year (yay Michigan and their highest unemployment rate in the US. we're #1!). However, I've strung along a bunch of temporary gigs. I've been continuously working since early March.
-Stop eating out. Learn to cook. It's not that hard, and it's healthier for you. I have not eaten in a sit down restaurant in all of 2008. The only thing I miss is not having to do dishes. :)
-The hardest thing of all is to stay positive and upbeat. That's my biggest challenge by far. I just remember that I can only do the best I can at interviews, and the rest is outta my hands.

Guest's picture
Randy

(which, I guess goes along with 'Stay Healthy' :)

Another suggestion is to consider opportunities that may be related to, but are not necessarily the same as what you used to do. I know many technical people who had problems finding development work around the time of the dot-com bust, but successfully transitioned into consulting or technical sales work.

Randy@FiscalZen

Guest's picture
Guest

Well, my husband was out of work for 18 months during the 2003 downturn. We were lucky that we had emergency funds and I had a job with health benefits. But having him just miss getting jobs over and over and over during a really tight period eventually got us to an emotionally not-healthy point.

So we realized, just as one needs a vacation from a job, one needs a vacation from being "unemployed". So we decided that we would take the summer OFF and return to searching in 3 months.

So, he took a long vacation to his family while I stayed behind and worked, that buoyed his spirits and his understanding family and friends made that cheap by letting him stay with them and doing things around the house or area. When he came home he worked on the house, picked up some temp jobs and used the time to work out and ride his bike around. And honestly, I think he FINALLY dealt with the grief and shame that had accompanied his layoff, and this was probably the most important thing.

At the end of the time off, he came back to the job search with a renewed sense of purpose and had a job within three weeks, in his field, at his previous salary.

I realize many people would not have this option, especially for 3 months. But taking some sort of break, and spending the time exploring what might be holding you back internally could be a good thing. And I KNOW that his doing this and my supporting it saved our marriage.

hang in there, everyone dealing with this. Be good to yourselves.

Guest's picture
Chris Yi

Very nice article.

I suppose this might fall under the umbrella of things we've said before, but I'd add "Be excited by the possibilities, cast your net far and wide, and maybe you can come up with something new."

I'm trying to help my brother find a job right now and I keep trying to tell him that we always limit ourselves to certain tiny little things we know. I'm trying to tell him that there are LOTS of options available out there; sometimes you never know what people are willing to pay for! Ten years ago, who would have thought dogwalking would be so big now?

Guest's picture
Chris Yi

Ok, maybe fifty years ago. Whatev.

Guest's picture
Anonymous Coward

I was laid off in 2004, and I set a schedule of job hunting every day from 8:00 to 4:00, 5 days a week. It is a little easier when it becomes a routine, and you have a job of job hunting.

I know what a tough experience it is - it took me 4 months of working every day to get a new job. It was hard work, but worth it.

I also took on temp jobs, but limited myself to 2nd or 3rd shift jobs because I wanted to be available during normal business hours to talk to prospective employers and go on interviews. this may not be possible for everyone, but it really helped since my wife is a stay at home mom.

Finally, don't settle for a job you know you won't like - it's VERY tempting, especially as you go longer and longer without a job, but it just adds to the misery if you take a temporary job that you hate.

Guest's picture
Guest

If you are now unemployed, and you have some funds saved up to help you survive, maybe its time to start your own company. You could also work part time somewhere while doing this, to ensure that you have a least a bit of an income stream. It will not be a comfortable transition initially. You have to forget about the thought failure. You won't fail.... www.readtheanswer.com/index.php?RTA=web2

Guest's picture
Mio

I've been unemployed since April, and I completely agree with these comments. I was on unemployment, then some crazy stuff went down in my family switched unemployment benefits.... they took forever. Needless to say I didn't go back on it, but since money is non-existant, I just may.

And always look for free things! If you live in Canada and have Air Miles... see how much you have racked up and start turning in those points! I've already recieved a $20 gas coupon and a free movie ticket for two which comes with two free sodas and a popcorn. My next reward is going to be either another gas coupon or a $25 gift certificate to eat out.

Guest's picture
Suz

I know that tightening your belt is important when you loose or can't find a job, but sometimes spending a little bit of money on a good therapist can help you get your mental stamina back to approach looking for work. They can also help you determine what you can/might be good at doing. Many thearapists have sliding scales or you can ask about a local clinic that has sliding scales so that you can find therapy you can afford. It helps a lot with longer unemployment especially.

-Suz

Guest's picture
Guest

This is what I've resorted to. I have lost all my confidence in myself and my skills. I was laid-off from a job I had twenty years!! I did get a severance package. I've been looking and can't find anything, I hope theraphy will work..

Guest's picture
AndyS

This could be the time to start a new business or pursue something you always wanted to. I know this was a driver for starting my blog (in-between jobs then) and is now an alternative revenue stream for me. The thing is to not a job loss too personally and think outside of tbe box when looking for new opps.

Guest's picture
Tropper

One of the most important aspects that people tend to neglect is preparation. Having an emergency fund while your working is critical to your success while unemployed. Your stress levels are much lower and you have a cushion to work with. All of the points in the post are definitely true but being prepared can mean the difference between settling and succeeding.

Tropper
www.dontdiepoor.com

Guest's picture
Guest

Regarding: "I do not think that people should necessarily take the first offer they see, but if it is a decent job with reasonable benefits then it does not hurt to take the job and continue looking." That's a horrible message to send to people. It takes a lot of time and money to train a person, just to see them leave for another job. It really screws over employers when people do that. Get a job temping if you have to, but don't take a job temporarily! If you know you aren't going to keep it for more than a few weeks, don't take it at all.

Guest's picture
Threeballs

Actually, that advice is correct and spot on. Employers have no problem shedding workers at their whim--why should workers be hesitant to do the same to the employer?

I'm always amazed that there are employers out there who are still beating the 'employee loyalty' drum, when they themselves rarely demonstrate any towards their workers.

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with the employee loyality crap. I worked for a soft drink company. Drove in the snow on a narrow street , uphill, risked life and limb just to get laid off. And yet they show a profit. yea and then these greedy companies want a bailout. Glad to see that they are taking soda machines out of school. Hell beer is better than soft drinks . what a joke. It wasn't Pepsi by the way...

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

Yeah, a lot of people are unemployed because they were laid off to boost profits or stock prices.  There is no employer-employee loyalty these days because most work arrangements are at-will. It never hurts to improve your own career by keeping an eye open.

Guest's picture
Paul

I've been unemployed since January 08. On January 15th, I walked off my job and never went back. I was in a managerial position and things were being made so unbearable for me that I just couldn't take it anymore. And this is not something I do as a hobby. I held this job for 1 1/2 years and my previous position lasted over five years.

I have been diligently chasing a full-time position since then. I've been to several interviews. Finally, I was 'hired' to a part-time university job with medical coverage (incredible) only to be told a week later that a hiring freeze had taken effect because of budgetary problems.

I'm 30. I am an honest, hardworking person, as I'm sure everyone on this board is. This working world is so unbelievably hostile and dog-eat-dog that it makes you want to slash your wrists. Luckily, I'm single and have no children, so I suffer alone. I can imagine what a family man or woman has to go through when out of work. I should feel fortunate, but someone else's wrong doesn't a right make.

We are all sitting here, willing to work, and there are no jobs for us. What kind of a society is this?! Only thieves and crooks are supposed to be punished, but they're the most successful people in life, it seems. How can you not look at yourself in the mirror and want to wash your hands of it, just say the hell with it?

The best advice is to stay positive, although positive thoughts left ME months ago. Sometimes I wish I'd fall asleep and never wake up again. Of course, I wake up, climb out of bed, and go on the Web in search of work.

It makes me laugh that people are calling this a recession. We're in the opening stages of a DEPRESSION, bigger than what we had in the 1930s. In no time, all of the banks in the U.S. will be broke, everyone's jobs and savings will be lost, and public parks will be filled to the rafters with homeless people, including families. Children will be freezing to death and mothers will be digging through trash cans looking for their next meal. Who knows if cannibalism is around the corner, either?

But stay positive we must. Smile, and show none of your pain. Mutter no words that we live in an insane asylum.

Guest's picture
VS

I am in the same exact boat as you: Around same age (28), hardworking very educated guy, laid off same time as you (January 08), same thoughts/frustrations (especially waking up in the morning, which in my opinion is the f***ing worst.

Your notion of staying positive is extremely important. I also found a good stress reliever is working out. Go to the gym and kick the crap out of yourself like never before. It will ease the pain. Hang in there.

Vic

Guest's picture
Guest

I totally hear you!!! I have been so damn depressed and have lost all my confidence. It is hard to stay positive, actually its become a battle. With the economy the way it is-- geez! sure finding a job will be easy. Stay positive. Um....yeah right.

Guest's picture
Mark

Thanks to all for the interesting comments.

The workplace certainly continues to change and there is much economic uncertainty.

Best of success in finding the path right for you. And, if anyone here would like to share their journey with my readers, please contact me at financiallight@gmail.com.

Mark

http://financiallight.terapad.com/

Guest's picture
Guest

I have been on and off unemployment for most of this year. I decided after the last lay off in April, April 1st to be exact, that I would go back to school in the fall. I had a couple things to get out of the way to get my financial aid and I had to get a waiver for unemployment. But now I am all set to go back to school next month. Check with your local unemployment one-stop center. See if they have a program for dislocated workers that will grant you money to go back to school. MI has a $5000 grant per year (2yr cap) through its WIA program (No Worker Left Behind)

Sometimes when a job market stalls, like for me in a small town in MI, the best thing is to go back to school. Look for the up and coming careers. Health care is a big one. I am 50 and going back to school. Been out of school since the 70's. If I am not to old to go back and learn new things, no one is.

Explore your horizons.

Guest's picture
xjw

I was fired last spring. On my first day of freedom, I took a walk in a large open space near my house. I looked out over the ponds and streams and paths and realized that I could do anything I wanted to do at that moment. I figured out how to make my severance last a while and decided to explore careers that interested me. I had the luxury of doing some contracting, which has turned into my own little business. I don't answer to an evil boss anymore and I don't deal with toxic customers - they just aren't that important to me and my peace of mind.

People tell me I have their dream job now. I do because I didn't limit myself to only apply to jobs I thought I could get. I thought about what I wanted and made it an adventure. I made sure to check myself whenever I started to feel down or sorry for myself, and realize how lucky I really was for the opportunity.

Guest's picture
Guest

I too have been unemployed since January. Yup, I'm one of those finacial services people. However, it dawned on me that not everyone has access to all the tools that are needed in the search for employment. So I started a blog. Here's the link: http://uaortheunemployedanonymous.blogspot.com/. I created it as a place for people to go to in order to not only get tips on staying positive and finding places for job leads, but also to not feel quite so alone. During these times when we're all sitting in front of our computers, though we might need a little something to get through the day.

Guest's picture
Paul

This is a follow-up to #19, if you're still reading. On October 2nd, I was finally hired to the part-time position I talked about. I'm only working three days per week, but I'm making a fairly decent wage and I'm considering a second job two days per week.

This came as a blessing, but my confidence was almost nil and my depression was at an unbelievable high. Unemployment is something I've never wanted to deal with and would never wish on ANYONE.

All I can say is: even if you can barely stand up straight, keep applying to positions and keep pursuing employment. Don't ever stop, because it will only make things worse. An occasional interview will help boost your confidence, even if they decide not to hire you.

Also look at the big picture: what are my skills? What fields can I fit into? Is my resume up to date and in a proper format? The second point is a big one, IMO: I visited a staffing agency a couple of months ago and a director there was decent enough to tell me that my resume was in an outdated format and that recommendations shouldn't be included! They WERE included years ago, but I had been out of the job market since 2001!

BTW, I won't retract what I said about the economy, because in that regard I'm not optimistic. The people we have running the US are the politicians and businessmen who dragged us into this mess to begin with. Other than that, good luck with your job searches.

Guest's picture
Sarah

Unemployment is one of the hardest things to live through. I was suddenly dumped after fourteen years on a job. I was 51, so it was quite discouraging. No severance. Yes, you bet I got unemployment. First thing! I've read a lot of higher paid or "professional" people commenting that they don't want to be on unemployment until they really "need" it. Get real, people, you need it right away. Plus, you have paid funds in for this benefit.

This is not the time to be extra loyal to an employer, even if you have sympathy for his or her struggles. At a different time, that same employer may suddenly see the logic in letting you go. Save as you work, so you won't be so gut-wrenchingly dependent on your boss. Take advantage of the opportunities that come to you, even if you are employed.

It took me a few jobs to find the right job, and quite awhile to be back on my feet financially. However, there are some inestimable pluses to the changes I made through that difficult period.

It's my personal belief that no honest work is beneath someone out of work. I've waited tables and been a temp when I've had to. When I was in relationships with people who didn't have the same attitude, who were willing to coast on my income, it never worked out. So if you look to a partner to bail you out, bear in mind that it may negatively affect the relationship, and in some cases, cause it to end. People have to pull their own weight. Don't get so wrapped up in your own misery that you lose sight of the feelings of others.

My heart goes out to the unemployed, because I've been there, and I may be there again.

Let's be thankful for a few things. Bush wanted to privatize social security, and let people's future depend entirely on the vagaries of the stock market. Thank God that never came to pass!

A lot of money has been pumped into our economy. This isn't going to last forever.

Guest's picture
Darren

I lost my job about 5 months ago and as it was a specialist field, I found no other positions available within Europe.

What I decided to do was take on a training/coaching programme a couple of months ago and have never looked back since.

From being a Commercial Specialist Contractor I now have one business that is beginning to show steady growth even in it's juvenile stages, and another one that goes live today in a European Niche Market for ATV Vehicles.

Anything can be possible when you put your mind to is, and once you have realised that you can sustain a good Positive Mental Attitude then your over half way to getting things back on track.

Distraction is the EVIL
Knowledge is the POWER

A Positive Attitude can be the best guide you will ever meet.

All of my guidance came from using ......
//www.SimpleMethodology.com

Guest's picture
Guest

I was let go after 15 years with the same company. My boss retired, and the company laid off everyone who had reported to her. I guess it was time for new blood.

I had been bored with the job for a long time, but the salary and benefits made it seem ridiculous to consider leaving. I felt stifled, but I can only blame that on myself. When I started job-hunting, I quickly realized that my skills were solely out of date. I had become lazy and complacent.

Now I feel alive again. This may be the second best thing that ever happened to me (the first being my divorce).

Carry on, troops! We will prevail.

Guest's picture

I like the idea of blogging, but to blog for a job you really have to have something to say that is job appropriate. I know I don't. I have a blog, but it's got much more of a personal slant and I could probably never bring it up during an interview with a Fourtune 500. I usually love this site, but I'd like to respectfully disagree; everyone who wants a job shouldn't blog unless they have something unique to say and they have some degree of passion about the subject. Otherwise, the internet will be bogged down by mediocre blogs from people who are just hoping to get ahead...and there are already enough of those out there.

Guest's picture
Jaree`

I quit my job last Friday due to a severe hostile working environment. It was quite possibly the most terrible situation and mentally I am not doing so well. I cant eat, barely want to sleep. I have been searching and praying for a job religiously and yet through all that I feel hopeful. There is something inside of all of us that lets us know everything will be okay.

I remember something my mom told me was that we all have it inside of us to say Yes we can. What has happened to this world? Have we all forgotten how to help each other? It seems like all the managers, employers and higher ups are all a bunch of squash bottoms if you ask me. Never seeing what is right for what is truly right.

We can sit here and blame this economy all we want but look around. This life is a job. We are living the job of life. Searching, connecting, talking, researching, giving a damn. Its all work, energy, sweat, pain, suffrage. Unemployment is the most gut wrenching hormonal time in a persons life but in it you have to laugh, smile, be happy and accept what is available. Maybe help each other more, I don't know. I just want people to be working hard, having fun, being positive and making a positive influence in what seems to be a down trodden climax of karma. (And poor choices)

Guest's picture

I just wrote a book that deals with Job loss in this economy. How to survive, reinvent yourself, and attain new opportunities.

The book is free for one more day @ http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0085QZIJE

It's called: Surviving and Making Money in a Down Economy: A Guide to Coping with Unemployment and Finding New Opportunities [Kindle Edition]
Percy Kwong (Author)

Download it for free while you can! My goal is to help people with this book / guide. It's literally a step-by-step on how to make things happen for you.

Guest's picture
Guest

Well this is how I view it,If you are a unskilled worker and are getting up there in age and you have put in thousands and thousands of applications all over the united states and you never get one call ,how are you suppose to feel ,if you have no social network what advice can you give.