Updated: Apr 19, 2021
Author: Mike Scaletti
Unemployment is hard. We all know it, and unfortunately many of us have experienced it in the last year. However you bill it, whether you're "between jobs", "seeking new opportunities", or "looking for your next adventure", after the events of 2020, 2021 might be the year you're looking for a new gig.
So with, potentially, plenty of time on your hands, no work, and a ton on your mind, what do you do?
The first step to turning your unemployment into sustained success, is to stay meaningfully active, and stay motivated. There are a lot of ways to do this.
Step 1: Look at Your Career
A record number of people were laid off or watched the company they worked for (or worse, owned) go under in 2020. That can be immensely disheartening, and cause you to doubt your career choices to this point. For most people, there is an initial burst of distress due to losing their income choice, but once that is past they are left dazed and unsure as to what to do next.
One of the best things you can do is take a look back at your career. Why did you get into that field? What have you enjoyed about it? What have you not? Did you like the people you worked with, the work you were doing, the environment you were doing it in, all of the above? If you didn't like the actual work you wore doing, it might be time to reevaluate your career and see if there's a different track you can take.
Once you've looked at what you've liked to this point, ask yourself what kind of work you really want to do. This will allow you to set a goal for yourself, identifying the industry and type of work for you to target.
Step 2: Persue That Goal
You've spent some time identifying a target for yourself, whether that be an industry, a company, a set of clients, or even just a type of work. Now it's time to persue that goal.
Figure out what skills and experience you need to achieve your aims. Do you already possess it? Great! If not, try to identify what classes, volunteer work, or other resources you may have available to you to get them. Have a friend or acquintence who works in that industry? Ask them how they acquired the necessary skills and experience. It's always worth tapping into your network to see how they can help you achieve your goals.
Step 3: Check Your Financial Situation
Unemployment comes with many aspects that can be absolutely terrifying. While the loss of structure and security can certainly be overwhelming, for most people it is the loss of income that threatens to make them despair.
With some planning and discipline however, you can ensure that you know exactly where you stand and how to get through the overall process.
First, do a detailed analysis of your assets. How much do you have in the bank? Will you be receiving unemployment or some other form of financial assistance? How long will you be receiving it for? How much will it be?
Once your assets are identified you can sit down and look at your expenses. I recommend putting your expenses into tiers.
Tier 1 - Absolutely essential: This includes your food, housing, and utilities. This might include loan payments, insurance payments, gas, etc. It is absolutely worth reaching out to the company's that handle these expenses, as in many cases they are willing to provide you some hardship based relief to help you get through this lean time.
Tier 2 - Mentally essential: I am absolutely not here to judge your expenses. Remember that maintaining your mental health IS essential. Target what you absolutely NEED to maintain that. Do you need the escape Netflix provides? How about the small, relatively inexpensive pleasure of a latte? Figure out where you can cut costs here, and remember that your actual survival needs to be prioritized, but don't feel guilty about doing everything you can to maintain some joy in your life.
Tier 3 - Non-essential: We all have things that we spend money on that are nice to have, but that we can easily cut without overly impacting our lives. Identify those things and cut them as early as possible. Remember that the more money you cut from these non-essential items, the longer you will be able to maintain those that are essential.
Step 4 - Get Inspired!
Sometimes being unemployed can feel like it looms over your entire life, dominating your thoughts and activities at all times. You spend your days browsing job listings, tinkering with your LinkedIn profile, writing cover letters, and sending out resumes.
All of this is important and valuable, but remember that it shouldn't be your whole life! Set some non-work related goals for yourself. Always wanted to learn a new skill, like cooking, or woodworking, or painting? Now's the time to do it! There are low cost classes available at places like Udemy, or you can just browse YouTube and find tons of free tutorials in almost any topic!
Have a bunch of reading to catch up on? Make a book list and then dedicate a couple of hours every day where you can curl up in your favorite chair with a cup of tea and a book from your list.
Feel like you've lost touch with some of the people dear to you during the isolation of the pandemic? Try to set up a weekly or bi-weekly hangout. If you play video games, you can pick out a game that you are mutually interested in. If you play boardgames there are plenty of free or lost cost tools for playing online. Otherwise, just set up a time to catch up and maybe sip a favorite beverage over Zoom together!
Unemployment, in many ways, can be a blessing in disguise. Without the daily demands of a job, you can take the time to do some things just for fun, and that can be just as important. Eventually you will come out the other side of this, and when you do it's important to make sure you're not burned out before you even start.
Step 5 - Ask For Help
You're not in this alone. Let me repeat that. YOU'RE NOT IN THIS ALONE. The last year has been rough on everyone, and it is okay to ask for help. There is no shame in it. Reach out to friends and family, look for free or low cost resources like income adjusted online therapy.
If you're struggling looking for work, or even just want to get a little bit of an edge, try reaching out to a staffing agency, like The Job Shop! We're a free resource for candidates, and can provide career coaching, resume writing help, plus connections to all of the clients we have spent the last 23 years building relationships with!