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What to Do If You Lose Your Job and Find Yourself Unemployed – 9 Steps


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The threat of suddenly becoming unemployed has always been a major stressor for workers. The loss of a full-time job can result in the inability to meet monthly obligations, or worse, foreclosure and eviction.

Unfortunately COVID-19 has exacerbated this fear. The pandemic led to the widespread closure of businesses. As a result, many people — even the best-of-the-best employees — found themselves out of a job and desperately filling out job applications, often to no avail.

What to Do If You Lose Your Job

Losing your income source isn’t something that happens often. When it does happen, many have no idea what to do or where to start. If you’ve found yourself in this position, rest assured, you’re not alone. Moreover, there are plenty of things you can do to ease the stress associated with unemployment.

Step #1: File for Unemployment Benefits

When you’re employed, you and your employer both pay taxes. Part of the taxes your employer pays is more of an insurance payment than a tax. This is known as unemployment insurance and is designed to provide you with a cushion should you lose a long-term job.

So, the moment you lose your job, the first thing you should do is file for your unemployment benefits. Your employer paid for them as part of your compensation package — the benefits are rightfully yours, and all you need to do is claim them.

Note: There are also benefits related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which are worth checking out in case you’re eligible.

How to File for Your Unemployment Benefits

Every state has its own process for filing for unemployment benefits, so the exact steps you’ll take will depend on your state’s process. Nonetheless, filing for unemployment benefits generally consists of:

  • A Phone Call. Start by calling or visiting your local unemployment office. You can find information about your state’s unemployment program and how to contact your local unemployment office at CareerOneStop.org.
  • Apply. Once you contact your local unemployment office, simply ask how to apply for unemployment benefits and follow the steps provided.
  • Qualification Review. The unemployment office will review your application to determine whether you qualify for unemployment benefits. As long as you didn’t voluntarily quit your job and you worked for more than 90 days, you likely qualify for benefits.
  • Receive Weekly Checks. Finally, once approved, you’ll receive weekly unemployment checks or direct deposits. Although the income will only be a percentage of what you’re used to earning, it provides much needed cash flow in the event of an emergency.

Maintaining Unemployment Benefits

As is the case with the application process, each state will have its own requirements with regard to maintaining access to unemployment benefits. In most cases, you will be required to prove that you’re on the job hunt by providing proof of applications or phone numbers of hiring managers that you’ve had conversations with.

Be sure to stay on top of this communication. Failure to provide the necessary information will result in your benefits not being paid to you.


Step #2: Build or Update Your Resume

Although it’s possible to find a new job without a resume, these tend to be low-paying opportunities. If you want your next job to be a quality, high-paying, long-term career, it’s best to start with a resume. Even if it’s not required where you’re applying, a resume will greatly increase your chances of being called for a job interview.

So, before starting the process of job hunting, it’s best to build a resume if you don’t have one. If you do have one, take a moment to read it and update it as necessary.

Resume-Building Assistance Tools

If you’ve never built a resume and need help getting started, don’t worry — there are plenty of free tools online to guide you through the process. Some of the most popular include:

  • Google Docs. Google Docs has various templates that can be used to design a wide array of documents. To access these templates, simply log into Google Docs and click the “Template Gallery” dropdown in the top right corner. From there, pick resumes, choose the one that’s appealing to you, and fill it out.
  • TopResume. TopResume offers a free resume review from a professional writer. They also have paid services available where an experienced resume writer will help you pt together your resume and cover letter.
  • Indeed. Indeed is one of the most popular job search websites online today. Knowing the importance of a quality resume, Indeed offers a free resume builder.
  • Resume.com. Resume.com is a website dedicated to building quality resumes. Moreover, using the website’s resume builder is absolutely free.

Don’t forget to draft a cover letter to go along with your resume. Your cover letter is the first thing hiring managers see when looking at your application. Give yourself a competitive advantage by spending an adequate amount of time to build a compelling cover letter.


Step #3: Begin Your Job Search

If you’re like most people, you won’t be able to maintain an unemployed status for very long. So, it’s important to start your job search as soon as possible. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the amount of work available in today’s market, there are still tons of companies hiring. Moreover, the pandemic has led to many high-paying remote jobs now being available that weren’t available in the past. So, don’t let the pandemic discourage you.

Although newspaper classifieds still list some jobs, if you’re looking for a long list of opportunities, it’s time to enter the age of the Internet and perform an online search.

Websites That List Job Openings

There are a multitude of websites that list job openings online. The most popular websites among job seekers include:

  • ZipRecruiter. ZipRecruiter is yet another popular job search website. The site uses an intelligent algorithm designed to connect applicants with quality job opportunities based on their level of experience within their industries.
  • FlexJobs. Flexjobs is perfect for someone looking for a job where you can work remotely or that allows you to work outside of the traditional 9-5 working hours.
  • Indeed. Indeed is one of the most trusted websites for job seekers, offering not only a list of job offers, but data surrounding the average pay offered by different companies.
  • Facebook. Facebook isn’t just a social network, it’s a way of life for many. So, it’s not surprising that many find jobs on Facebook. In fact, Facebook even offers a Job Board to connect hopeful applicants with potential employers.
  • LinkedIn. LinkedIn was the world’s first and is still the leading social network for professionals. Many use LinkedIn to connect with hiring managers and business owners in order to find employment opportunities.
  • Craigslist. Craigslist is an online classifieds website. The website offers a wide range of classified ads, including classifieds for job hunters.

You may not find your dream job immediately, so it’s best to apply for everything you qualify for and accept any work available. Once you have a new job, you’ll have the ability to earn money while furthering your search for your dream job.


Step #4: Cut Down on Monthly Expenses

Even when receiving unemployment benefits, you’re going to need to get used to earning substantially less income than you usually take home. As a result, it’s important to take an active role in cutting your monthly expenses in order to ensure your financial survival during this down time.

The good news is that cutting expenses doesn’t have to mean a complete change in your lifestyle. In fact, small cuts can make a big difference.

Common Expenses to Cut

Some of the most common expenses to cut include:

  • Cable. Cable is one of the largest household expenses in the United States. According to DecisionData.org, the average American cable service bill is $217.42 per month, exceeding the average cost of all other major utilities. Cutting cable doesn’t mean having to give up TV entirely; there are plenty of streaming services that cost far less than cable. Hulu subscriptions start at just $5.99 per month, offering up an extreme savings over the current cost of cable.
  • Coffee. According to PBFY, the average American spends more than $700 per year in coffee shops. According to Business Insider, brewing your own coffee at home costs between $0.16 and $0.18 per cup. So, brewing two cups per day of your own coffee at home costs less than $150 per year, offering up substantial savings.
  • Be Mindful of Electricity Use. You can save on electricity bills by making minor changes without giving anything up. Pay close attention to your thermostat. If you can run your air conditioning unit or heater less, you will save money. Moreover, make sure that you’re turning off lights, televisions, computers, and other power-consuming products when they’re not in use. Finally, consider small energy efficiency changes you can make to save money, including switching to LED lighting and Energy Star-rated products.

Pro tip: Companies like Billshark will help you negotiate lower rates on things like cable, your cell phone, Internet, and more.


Step #5: Start a Side Hustle

These days, the gig economy is more prevalent than ever before. More people are moving away from traditional employment and into the freelance industry in search of opportunity. Moreover, while looking for a new job, a side hustle is a great way to turn your extra time into money.

Starting to freelance is relatively simple. All you need to do is take some time to think of things you’re good at that may be valuable to others. Some examples include:

  • Writing and Editing. Are you a great writer? Do you find joy in looking for typos in mainstream publications? Becoming a freelance writer or editor may be the perfect fit for you.
  • Baking. Do you enjoy baking cakes, cookies, and brownies? There’s likely a market for these products among your community. Most states have cottage food laws in place allowing small up-and-comers to bake and sell goods from their unlicensed home kitchen. However, prior to getting into a baking side hustle, it’s best to check your state laws surrounding the sale of food.
  • Translating and Teaching English. Do you know more than one language? If so, you’re in luck. Translating is a valuable service. There is also high demand for online English tutors and teachers, with many opportunities that don’t require a formal degree.

Where to Promote Your Side Hustle

  • Social Media. If you’re producing a physical product such as cupcakes, jewelry, or art, Facebook is likely the best place to promote your side hustle. Simply take pictures of your products and share them with friends with a quirky post. You can also create a Facebook page dedicated to your side hustle, where you can gain and connect with fans. It’s also advantageous to avail yourself of other social media platforms, like Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
  • UpWork. If you’re looking to sell a service such as writing, editing, or translating, UpWork is a great place to find potential customers. With UpWork, users have the ability to create a profile, search for freelancing opportunities, and bid on jobs.

Step #7: Visit a Temp Agency

When full-time work is unavailable, temporary work helps to keep the bills paid and food in stomachs. There are temp agencies across the country that are designed to connect those in need of work with temporary opportunities.

Temp agencies also have an interest in finding you as much work for as much money as possible. They are generally paid a rate based on the amount of money you earn.

Additionally, temporary work often leads to long-term jobs. If you find a temporary job and do well, there’s a good chance that the company you work for will offer you a full-time position.


Step #8: Consider Furthering Your Education

While looking for new job opportunities, you’ll likely find yourself with plenty of extra time. It’s a good idea to consider filling this time by furthering your education. After all, there’s a proven correlation between higher levels of education and higher salaries.

You don’t have to go back to school for a formal degree. Consider diving into online courses that will expand your skill set and ultimately increase your value to potential employers. Try exploring low-cost online training or courses on platforms such as Udemy or Skillshare. Keep in mind that new skills generally open the door to new opportunities.


Step #9: Take Steps to Maintain Mental Health

Finally, the loss of income is a stressful event. Oftentimes, those who lose their jobs find themselves in a poor mental state that hinders their ability to find new work, or worse.

As a result, it’s important to take time to consider your mental health and do everything you can to alleviate stress during this generally high-stress time.

What You Can Do to Relieve Stress

There are several ways to alleviate stress during tough times. Some you may consider include:

  • Daily Walks. Long walks lead to the release of stress-relieving endorphins in your brain. As a result, plan for a daily walk every morning or evening to keep stress at bay.
  • Lean on Friends and Family. Those who love you the most tend to know you the best. Therefore, if you’re in a poor mental state, it’s common for friends or family to check whether you’re OK or ask what’s wrong. Don’t brush their questions off. Sometimes, having someone to talk to and getting your concerns off of your chest is all you need to improve your mental health.
  • Fill Your Free Time. Maintaining a busy lifestyle will likely help to maintain positive mental health. Fill your free time by furthering your education, becoming more active on your job hunt, or getting into crafts to keep your mind busy and healthy.

Final Word

A sudden stint of unemployment is a scary concept. Unfortunately, it’s a harsh reality for many across the United States and around the world these days. However, the most important thing to remember is that unemployment will not last forever.

With a little effort, you’ll find a new job or freelancing opportunities, and the stability that comes with steady work. Follow the steps above to speed up your recovery from unemployment and improve your chances of bouncing back stronger than ever.

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