A month into a new position I found myself unexpectedly unemployed. It was a Thursday morning, and I was called into my new boss’s office. I was expecting to speak about my current performance, and out of nowhere, I was told to pack my things and leave the building. The only explanation I was given was “you aren’t fulfilling the needs of the role.” There was no warning, no meetings or writeup beforehand regarding my performance in the position.
So, on a Thursday afternoon, I found myself jobless. My head was spinning with everything this meant. “My bills, my new car lease, moving in July, student loans, savings…..what do I do?”
I quickly realized that finding a job that fits you is a lot like dating. You have kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince (or princess) charming. So back to the pond I am going. Trust me: I am no stranger to the stressors of being without an income. I have had a few periods in my work history of unemployment. During those times, I was able to develop 9 tips that have helped me make the most of my time of unemployment.
1. Have an emergency account
It wasn’t until last year when I discovered TFD that I knew about the importance of having an emergency fund. Sure, I had savings, kinda. But nothing dedicated to the “what ifs” in life. My partner and I now have an emergency fund that we have dedicated to building over the last year. We started by transferring $1,000 from our checking account into a new savings account, and from there, we set up an automatic transfer of $100 a month ($50 from each paycheck) into our emergency account. Then we don’t touch it, no matter what. A little short for vacation money? Too bad — no funds are coming out of the emergency fund.
Having the emergency fund is like having a safety net under the tight rope you’re walking. You hope you won’t need it, but when you do, you are so happy it’s there. Many people suggest having at least three months of expenses in your emergency account, but for my own life, I keep five months of expenses saved. Unemployment is unpredictable, and last time I was unemployed, it lasted five months. The more you have saved, the greater peace of mind you will have.
2. Get to know your state’s unemployment benefits
Now, this one was a big pill for my ego to swallow. I was very reluctant to apply for unemployment. I thought, “People like me don’t do that” — but guess what? We do. Unemployment benefits are there to help you during this transitional time. It’s not forever, and it doesn’t mean you failed. Applying for unemployment benefits is your right as a tax-paying citizen. It just means you are taking care of yourself during this awkward time.
3. Look at your budget, or make a budget
Your income has changed, and therefore your money output has to change. Look at your budget — maybe you can’t go out to eat three times a week anymore. Look at what you spend on consistently, and make adjustments. This doesn’t mean depriving yourself; it just means adjusting your spending to your needs.
4. Create a 9-5 schedule
Just because you’re not going to work 9-5 doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working. Keeping yourself on an “office hours” schedule will help you feel productive. I never realized how deeply my self-esteem was tied to having a job. I used to be the gal at work who would joke about wishing to go home as soon as possible, but now that I am unemployed, all I want is to go to work. By keeping a 9-5 schedule and filling it with tasks that keep me productive and learning, I am able to keep my self-esteem high and myself from spiraling into negativity.
5. Avoid the binge-watching trap
Binge-watching feels good after a full workweek, but it often makes you feel lazy and unaccomplished if it’s what you do every day. Avoid turning on the TV until after your 9-5 schedule. Make binge-watching your favorite TV show a reward for a hard day’s work — not a hobby.
6. Set time for meditations, job searches, and learning
During that 9-5 schedule, these are my three important tasks to do every day:
- Meditate: being unemployed can really wreak havoc on your self-esteem. You could easily fall down the negativity rabbit hole. Meditation can put a stop to that; take a moment to be present. It helps — I promise!
- Apply for jobs: Schedule 2-3 hours a day to hit the pavement (or internet) to apply for jobs, post your resume, make calls, network. Of course, job searching is a large part of unemployment, but don’t let it consume you all day every day (that’s a one-way ticket to negativity land). Block out time for it in your daily schedule.
- Learning something new: Remember all the times you said, “If I had more time, I would learn X”? Guess what? You’ve got the time now. Use it.
7. YouTube is your friend
Don’t know how to meditate? There is a YouTube channel for that. Want to learn a new skill? There is a YouTube channel for practically anything you want to learn. Take time to search the internet to find resources to help you develop/learn new skills.
8. Stay social
It is so important to stay connected to your friends and family during your time of unemployment. As mentioned before, unemployment can be a time of negativity, and low self-esteem can sneak up on you. Work is a place where most of us get our social interactions during the week. That is why unemployment can feel so isolating. Talk to your friends and family, and make plans. Be honest with them about your finical situation, and offer low-cost or free alternatives to what you usually do together. Go to the park, go on a hike, have a movie night, game night, find meetups in your community. Your friends and family want you around, and I am positive that if you are honest about your needs, they will adjust their plans.
9. Stay active/go outside
The fresh air and new scenery will do you good. Staying physically active has endless benefits, physically, mentally and emotionally. Put it in your 9-5 schedule.
Ultimately, unemployment doesn’t last forever. Take this time to focus on yourself. Take the time to learn, grow, kiss a few frogs, and find the job that best fits you.
Deena is newly unemployed, trying to figure out this thing called life.
Image via Unsplash