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Unemployment can be a stressful, scary situation for anyone. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many more people have found themselves out of work as a result of economic uncertainty. A Pew Research study found that a quarter of adults under the age of 30 have had to seek unemployment benefits since the pandemic began. That’s a significant number of the population.
The effects of furlough or being fired entirely can be personally devastating. There is of course the strain on your finances, and your ability to keep yourself and your family comfortable. However, it also tends to be a mentally and emotionally challenging situation, too. Between the stress of the job search, the hit to your self-esteem, and the sense of isolation, is it any wonder that you might be struggling to push through this period?
We’re going to review some of the areas you can focus on to make a difference to your personal and professional outlook after a job loss. What can you focus on? What techniques and tools can help you to adapt to a changing and uncertain climate?
Do not try to go through this period of hardship alone. It is certainly easy to get yourself into the frame of mind where you don’t want to be a burden on anyone else or cause any undue worry. Pride also plays a role. So you might wind up trying to go it alone. Unfortunately, all this does is put additional pressure on you, which you’ll likely internalize, and can wind up feeling isolated. One of the best ways you can help yourself, your loved ones, and your career prospects at this time is to reach out for support.
This doesn’t just mean financial support, either. Your mental health needs to remain intact, so asking friends to regularly talk to you — particularly about subjects outside of your job search — can be a source of comfort and release. You will also need space to consider your position and undertake focused job searches. Therefore, seeking alternative childcare for just a few hours a week can help to provide you with this room. However, it’s important to bear in mind that COVID-19 still presents a risk to your children and other people, so where possible, your spouse or a close relative to take them to an open area to minimize potential exposure for everyone involved.
Support can also come from your former colleagues and employers. It will often be the case that your boss had no choice but to let you go, and still understands the full value of your skills. It’s generally not considered relevant to include references on your resume or initial application — they take up real estate you could be using for your skills. Still, it’s important to gather these early so that you are prepared. Contact your former employer or any senior figure that you worked with, and either ask permission to provide their contact details if requested, or obtain letters of recommendation. Taking this time to reach out may also raise opportunities in the industry that former colleagues may be aware of.
Make a Plan
That feeling of powerlessness following being made unemployed can cause you to spiral into inactivity. You weren’t able to prevent yourself from being let go, and the world around you can seem to be crumbling, so it can be a struggle to find the motivation to keep moving. Making a forward plan of action is one of the most effective tools you can produce to prevent becoming stuck in this way.
Firstly, make a list of all the most immediate priorities. Get a good understanding of your financial situation — what are your outgoings, and what can you cut back on. If you’re unemployed for months, will you have to make adjustments to how you contribute to your retirement plan or your 401K? Do you need to start an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to minimize the potential negative impact on your future finances? What current loans and credit lines are you able to arrange lower repayments on for the time being?
It can also be helpful to formalize your process and schedule for your job search. This can be hard on those days when you feel as though you’re drifting — it’s a framework for you to follow. Make your plan the night before, as people tend to find this leads to them being more productive the next day. Create blocks for activities; list where you’re going to be directing your search, how you intend to network online, what periods are dedicated to reviewing or rewriting your resume if needed. Remember to schedule breaks and time away from the job search, too, as this will help you to avoid burning out.
Consider Your Skills
If you enjoy the area of work that you’ve previously built skills in, it can be a smart move to look at where the needs in your industry lie. Accountancy, as an example, is not just strictly populated by traditional accountants — there is a demand for accounting adjacent roles that use the same skills. Financial analysts and auditors are all appropriate for those with an accountancy background, with room to grow toward leadership roles with further education. Therefore, it’s worth exploring what demand there is not just for your prior role, but for the skills that you have gained within it.
Becoming unemployed can also be good motivation to explore other career areas that you may be interested in. If you’re able to undertake new training while protecting your current finances through the hard times, this time in history is a particularly good time to do so. You are not limited to attending traditional universities. Distance learning and remote e-learning courses are both prevalent and increasingly recognized by employers. Not to mention that there are many free tutorials on YouTube that can launch careers in sectors that encourage those who are self-taught — such as coding, web design, and the arts.
Becoming unemployed can be a major setback; financially, professionally, and emotionally. However, you should be reassured that the situation is not entirely outside of your control. By focusing on gaining the right support, planning your activities, and building your skills you can achieve a successful and enriching comeback.