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How to Handle Unexpected Unemployment

How to Handle Unexpected Unemployment

Stay positive during this temporary setback

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Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, 59% of Americans were living paycheck-to-paycheck, according to a 2019 Charles Schwab survey. In March, the number of people reporting a temporary layoff more than doubled, bringing the number to 1.8 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the same survey, it was noted that the number of people who are unemployed rose by 1.4 million. This marked a March increase in the unemployment rate of 0.9 percent — the largest monthly increase since January 1975.

If your job was one affected by the coronavirus, coping with the effects of that loss can be emotionally taxing. Here are some ways to handle the sudden change and to stay positive.

Take time to assess your emotions

Take time to assess your emotions

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An unforeseen change of events that disrupts your personal, financial and family life is daunting. Rather than springing right into action and looking for a new job, take the time — however long seems right — to assess how you feel. Having a starting point can help you feel more in control of the situation.

Talk about it with your support system

Talk about it with your support system

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Rather than feeling embarrassed by the situation, reach out to those closest to you. Part of cultivating healthy relationships is keeping the lines of communication open. They could help calm your nerves, offer their own tips or simply be there to listen.

Think about this as a temporary setback

Think about this as a temporary setback

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It may be difficult to see past the initial shock of losing your job, but try thinking about this period as a temporary setback. The economy will improve again, just as it did after the Great Depression and the Great Recession. Job growth will increase and companies will hire again.

Set guidelines for yourself

Set guidelines for yourself

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Setting guidelines and sticking to them can help you feel less overwhelmed. You may wonder who is hiring at this time and you may start to feel disheartened when you don’t hear back from potential employers. To limit your stress, make small rules for yourself such as not checking your email past 8 p.m. or not dwelling on your loss for longer than a few minutes each day.

Focus on your mental health

Focus on your mental health

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Finding ways to boost your happiness and clear your mind is important during a layoff. Keep your anxiety at bay and focus on your well-being. It will increase your productivity and will keep your relationships strong.

Create a new daily routine

Create a new daily routine

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Your work routine won’t work at home, but creating a new routine to follow will keep you motivated. Set a new daily schedule that includes things like waking up at the same time each day, cooking a healthy meal, completing a few things on your to-do list and setting aside time to enjoy your time off with family.

Review your current finances

Review your current finances

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Whether you’ve been saving money each paycheck, living paycheck to paycheck or you are now dependent on just one income, it’s time to review what your saving and spending currently looks like. This will show you where you have to be more careful and what habits you might need to change while your income is temporarily paused.

Put savings on hold

Put savings on hold

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Previous to getting laid off, having a focus on saving money would have been a good thing. During this time, though, you shouldn’t focus on putting away money that isn’t coming in. Instead, concentrate on how you can save money you already have. This could mean cutting off your Netflix subscription or only buying necessities at the grocery store.

Discontinue any non-essential recurring fees

Discontinue any non-essential recurring fees

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Getting laid off means you should refocus on payments you might not realize you’re making. This could be the magazine subscription that costs a few bucks a month or the four streaming services you pay for each month.

Create a new budget

Create a new budget

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Making a new budget for the time being will hold you accountable to maintaining your savings. This could mean spending less money on getting your nails done every month, putting a hold on buying books every time you pass your favorite book store or even taking measures to make your groceries last longer so you don’t spend as much money on food each week.

Don’t be afraid to use your emergency savings

Don’t be afraid to use your emergency savings

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If you’ve been saving money in an emergency fund, this is a time when you can dip into that savings. It’s there to cushion your pockets while you’re not receiving an income. Just know that when you’re reemployed, you can begin to replace what you spent.

Determine how long your emergency resources will last

Determine how long your emergency resources will last

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If you typically spend more than you earn, you may not have much of an emergency fund to use during your layoff. Look into your savings and determine how many weeks or months you can last comfortably without an income. Keep this in mind as a motivator to keep up on the job search.

Look into government unemployment benefits

Look into government unemployment benefits

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If you are eligible, look through your options for government unemployment assistance. Your state may have changed its unemployment regulations in the wake of the coronavirus. Checking your state’s department of labor will give you more information on the specifics of unemployment benefits in your state. Some general paperwork and information you might need include your social security card, driver’s license or state ID, the social security numbers of anyone you claim as a dependent, employer information, wage records, records of pension payments, alien registration information if you’re not a U.S. citizen, and whether or not you are a recently separated veteran or employee of the federal government.

Understand your benefits as well

Understand your benefits as well

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What are your options for health insurance and other benefits while you are unemployed? Make sure you are clear on when your insurance ends and if you are eligible for other supplemental insurance. The HR professionals at your workplace might not be able to answer all your questions since benefits can change so quickly during the pandemic, but they may be able to give you a list of resources you can use, and they should be able to tell you what type of coverage your employer will provide. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) may be a way for you and your family to continue to receive health insurance coverage after your employment has ended. The Marketplace, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) also have free or low-cost options for the unemployed.

Check up on transitional benefits

Check up on transitional benefits

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Ask if your former employer offers transitional benefits that could help soften the blow of losing your job. Besides severance pay or unemployment compensation, does your former employer offer resume help, financial planning or other resources that could help you get on your feet sooner?

Talk to a financial planner

Talk to a financial planner

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If this is the first time you’ve been laid off, you may not know where to start when it comes to your finances. Reach out to a financial planner to find out the best ways to handle this time without a steady income.

Continue networking

Continue networking

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Ask your former boss for a letter of recommendation or whether you can use him or her as a reference for your next job. In addition, think about crafting an explanation you can use for future employers. This could be something as simple as one or two sentences that define your situation and what your objective is as you look with optimism for your next career move. Keep in mind that while some companies are laying off employees and going on hiring freezes, not all are. In fact, some companies are continuing to hire due to coronavirus-related demands. Continue networking by asking friends and family if they know of anyone hiring at the moment.

Update resume and cover letter

Update resume and cover letter

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Take this time to revamp your resume, cover letter, personal website or LinkedIn page. Update anything you haven’t changed since you started your last job, and make sure it still looks clean and professional. Write with strong keywords that highlight your skills and remember to remove any outdated skills or terminology.

Set aside some time for fun

Set aside some time for fun

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Go on a bike ride with your kids, have a game night or watch a movie with your spouse — it could take your mind off the stress of not having a job and give you something to be thankful for during a tough time.

Volunteer

Volunteer

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Volunteering during this temporary time without an income gives you a way to give back to your community during a time when it’s needed the most. It will also show future employers that you continued to stay involved with some form of work during your time off.

Use your tax return wisely

Use your tax return wisely

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If you haven’t spent (or received) your tax return yet, now might be the time to rethink how you were going to spend it. Put it into your savings account to use during your time without an income. You could also use it to pay off any lingering debt.

Do something to boost positivity

Do something to boost positivity

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Whether it’s getting outdoors or filling the kitchen with the scent of fresh-baked cookies, doing something that makes you happy will alleviate stress and keep you thinking positively.

Pick up a new hobby

Pick up a new hobby

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Investing time in a new hobby could be an efficient use of your time while laid off. Taking time to get into something you’ve been interested in could also help boost your spirits. Who knows? You might be able to turn it into a small business.

Reevaluate your career choice

Reevaluate your career choice

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Although getting a job may be more tricky during this time, it could be a good idea to consider whether you want to change careers when you start reapplying. If it was in the back of your mind before getting laid off, consider it now. You could also see if you can earn some money doing these side jobs in the meantime.

Be productive

Be productive

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If you were productive at work, try boosting productivity at home too. This could mean setting a goal to apply to three new jobs a day, or it could mean simply doing chores around the house, cooking meals and getting the kids to bed on time, which can be a job in itself.

Ask for help when you need it

Ask for help when you need it

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Asking for help does not make you weak, and it does not diminish your reputation. Being able to showcase your expertise is nice at times, but when you’re in an unknown situation, it’s OK to seek guidance from someone else.

Take this time to focus on your physical health

Take this time to focus on your physical health

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Your physical health can play a direct role in alleviating stress due to job loss. Staying active will provide a better night’s sleep and decrease your chances of developing depression. During these times, there are free classes you can take online, or you can try these 22 low-impact workouts to break a sweat.

 

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