(I had to create a How To post for a night school assignment, thought I’d share it.)
Have you been downsized, restructured, laid off or let go?
Let’s face it, unless you hated your job and had another option lined up or a stockpile of savings – it sucks. But you can survive it. There’s light at the end of the tunnel and you can find ways to light the path until you get there!
I’m not a human resources specialist, nor am I an employment coach, but I have experienced restructuring three times in the last 15 years. This post is intended to give you the benefit of my experience by providing a view of how to survive unemployment from someone who has been there, done that!
- Step One: It’s Okay to be Angry
Even WikiHow acknowledges that being unemployed isn’t fun. They call it a “difficult state of being.” Unless this is something you’ve been hoping for, and I must acknowledge there always seems to be colleagues who hope they will be chosen to receive a severance package, it is difficult to accept any time your work relationship is ended without it being your choice. In fact, the experts say it is natural to grieve the loss of your job and one of the stages of grief is anger. Once you’ve had a few days to shed some tears or punch some pillows, it’s good to remember that being without employment is not the end of the world. If you had some crystal ball that would reveal when your next job would start, you could possibly even enjoy the time in between. However, since bills still need to get paid and the pressures of life don’t go away, it’s normal to feel stressed.
Forgiveness can be a gift you give yourself. Once I forgave my manager for all my perceived wrongs, I freed myself of the resentment I’d been carrying. It was like I’d been carrying a big ball of anger and I was able to toss it away. The forgiveness didn’t excuse his behavior but it freed me from being tied to it.
File for Unemployment
If you haven’t been lucky enough to receive a severance package, file for unemployment online. You don’t have to wait for your Record of Employment. Your company will file that online and the information will be matched up. If you do have a severance package or salary continuation, you will likely have to wait for that to end before Employment Insurance (EI) will kick in.
Next, no matter how frugal you are, there are probably expenses you can trim. For me, I’m continuing to dye my grey hairs but I’ve also gone into “play-off mode” by growing my hair until I get a job! This is saving me money. No eating out, purchasing cheaper product brands, and focusing on necessities only. Guess what? When you aren’t driving to work you are saving on gas! (I know that’s really not a comfort is it?)
If you received an offer of employment counseling or coaching, take advantage of it. There’s usually at least a nugget or two of helpful information they can provide even if you do consider yourself and expert. If you have not received this offer through your former employer, check with EI or online for resources. Even Service Canada offers information on their website.
- Step Three: Prepare Yourself
All your well-meaning friends and relatives will start sending you job postings. Ones you have already seen as you will, no doubt, spend much of your time scouring the Internet for opportunities. When this becomes irritating, and it likely will, smile, thank them and examine them because they might just contain something you’ve missed!
Note: my favourite job search sites are Eluta.ca and Indeed.ca.
Almost everyone you meet will have some helpful advice – whether you want it or not. One person I know even suggested I go to every employer I could think of and demand to see their Human Resources department to ask for work, even if I made a nuisance of myself. Like anything, some advice you keep, some you discard.
Try to smile and not be insulted when someone asks if you’ve applied at the local dollar store or bakery or some other place that would pay a third of what you are making. After all, they mean well! Prepare yourself too for the phone calls and greetings of, “So, you have a job yet?”
The days can be long and sometimes lonely and you might feel like you are drowning. Be prepared to not only miss your paycheck, but to miss your colleagues and the social interactions of work. Guilt can come to visit you along with self-doubt and plenty of other emotions. Accept that this is part of the process but remember your skills, education, experience and the unique qualities that are the foundation of what you have to offer.
Remember to invite joy into your life and take time for activities that feed your soul and help you to feel like you are contributing.
And if you have a day where you are in a funk, take a lesson from the youtube video Jessica’s “Daily Affirmation”!
- Step Four: If At First You Don’t Succeed…Persevere
There is a deluge of tips on the Internet provided by employment experts including the perfect resume and cover letter, performing informational interviews, self-assessments and inventories, interview preparation, self-care and career planning. Seek this out and take that which feels like it fits your personality and try some things that are beyond your comfort zone too, as they might just work.
I don’t think anyone has that crystal ball or magic answer as to how long it will take to get a new job. There are too many factors that can’t be predicted. They key, I think, is to persevere. Keep moving forward. The light at the end of the tunnel exists. It might take longer, maybe even a lot longer, than you’d hope. But it can happen suddenly as if things just seem to magically align and you are back among the employed (enter the da-da-ta-da sound.)
I know someone who was out of work for almost two years and finally accepted a one-year contract but she’s happy. The last time I was out of work for exactly one year. Currently, I’ve endured my “difficult state of being” for six months. And there are still days when the tears threaten to spill out and my outlook is less than sunny. Overall, though, I try to remember that it won’t last forever. And although it’s cliché, I also remind myself there are worse things than unemployment. I remain hopeful.
If I can express one thing to those who are currently without employment, it’s that it can’t last forever! Remember you are on the right side of the ground! You’ve got skills, if you need to update them, find a way to do that. If you need help with any aspects of the job search, seek them out. But know that you have value and when the timing is right you will land that job.
I’m hoping to remember gratitude when I am working again. Every job has those less-than-favourable aspects whether they be colleagues or tasks and I’m hoping when faced with them, that tolerance and perspective will come from my gratitude.
I also think it’s fair to celebrate. When you have that new job, tell all those who have been supporting you. Express your gratitude for their support and share your good news. Your story of unemployment survival might just inspire someone else in their journey!
I invite you to:
- try and shake it off – unemployment sucks but we can’t stay stuck there
- wake up tomorrow and the next day – and remember the sun will come out
- don’t be too hard on yourself, your unemployment most-likely was the result of a business decision and not a reflection of your performance
- remember – nothing lasts forever – employment or unemployment
- keep doing everything you can to gain employment and eventually it will pay off
- I have discovered guided meditations on YouTube and have made meditating part of my daily routine.
- Know that you are not alone, perhaps connect with a networking or support group.
- Journaling an help you express how you are feeling.
- If your former colleagues don’t connect with you, try not to take it personally and seek the fellowship of your family and friends.
- Fill your time. Try a new hobby, take a course, and exercise – it all helps keep you healthy.