Surviving and Thriving Through Unemployment

You’ve just received word that you’re getting laid off from your job of fifteen-plus years. After the panic fades, what do you do?

First (after taking a few deep breaths), give yourself a little time to process this big change in your life. Don’t underestimate the impact of your situation – if you just plunge into a job search, you might not be emotionally prepared for what it requires. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, and see a counselor if you need to.

How much time you take often depends on your financial situation, although even if you’re in good shape it’s generally not a good idea to wait too long before starting a job search. Since it could take six months or longer to find a job, you don’t want to wait until the day before your unemployment runs out to start looking.

Second, decide whether you need to take a “filler” job right away to have some money coming in while you look for a job in your field or re-assess your goals. Part-time work is preferable (provided it would be adequate for your financial needs), since it will allow you time for your job-search. If health insurance is a concern, talk with your unemployment representative or check out the www.detma.org website to get information about your eligibility for the Medical Security Plan. Or go to www.quotemonster.com for info on a variety of individual health insurance plans.

Next, take some time to figure out your current goals, which may have changed since the last time you were job-hunting. You can use this period of unemployment as an opportunity to explore where you are now and where you want to go. Think about your greatest strengths, and the skills that you want to use at this point in your career. What are you most interested in? What is most important to you in a job? A career counselor can help you clarify your direction.

Once you’ve identified some areas to explore, you need to obtain information about these options. Resources like The Occupational Outlook Handbook (www.bls.gov/oco) can be helpful for finding information on specific careers. Informational interviewing is also important, for both informational and networking purposes. Informational interviewing allows you to get the real scoop on a particular type of job by talking with people who work in the field(s) you’re interested in. Start with people you know who might know of someone who works in the type of job you’re exploring. You may need to make some cold calls as well. Though this can be stressful (unless you’re an extrovert), remember you don’t have to ask them for a job – you’re just looking for information about a career field. Most people enjoy talking about what they do, and would be willing to talk with you for 15 minutes.

Some questions to ask: What are your responsibilities? What do you like about the work? What do you dislike? What skills
are important; what skills do you use the most? What are your biggest challenges? How did you get into this field; how did
you prepare?

It’s important to stay as active as possible while you are unemployed, and to take advantage of your unemployment. That doesn’t mean sleeping until noon every day and catching up on soaps. It does mean pursuing areas of interest that may or may not relate directly to the kind of work you’re looking for. Join a group; go to community events; volunteer. Not only are
these pursuits a great way to network, but they keep you active and give you the opportunity to contribute your talents. They also allow you to interact with others on a daily basis, which often becomes important when you’re not working full-time.
And you never know where a job lead will come from.

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