I caught myself thinking the other night about the day of work ahead and lamenting (a little bit, however grateful) about having to get up so early for the long commute and reminiscing (a little bit… just a smidgen) about my time being unemployed. In doing so, I couldn’t help but think of things I wish I could do again, things I wouldn’t do again, and general advice (or common sense) I would like to impart.
So this is for those who look forward to the day when they too can look forward to the morning commute again.
1. Stick to a budget
And I mean it. Break out the Excel spreadsheet, keep all your receipts, really take a critical look at how much you typically spend and what you can do without or cut back on for at least 3 months. Be firm but be realistic. If beer on Football Sundays is non-negotiable, choose domestic over export, cut back on the amount consumed, etc – and see if you can cut something else out of your spending (e.g. unlimited texting, mega cable packages, etc.).
2. Do what you enjoy doing
Yes, you are limited in how much you can spend, but think about all the time you have now! I was lucky enough to enjoy nearly deserted beaches during weekdays and rediscover my love for reading and writing. It is important to do what you enjoying doing because there will be times when even the healthiest of us can be hit with bouts of depression and anxiety that periods of unemployment can bring.
3. Read a lot
For those of you who do not like to read (which I will never understand), I would still encourage you to find something – a newspaper, magazine, or even a blog to enjoy. Reading is learning and why not take the opportunity to learn something new? It is also a great time to do a self-evaluation or assessment of your knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics your next employer would be glad to hire. Who knows… your next employer could be yourself. This book in particular was a good read and helped inform some of the advice I’m offering you now.
4. Knock on some doors
Do not rely too heavily on job boards and advertisements. Print off some 1-paged resumes and visit some potential employers in-person. Yes, receptionists generally do not like having to handle solicitors, but some receptionists do more than their title may suggest. This is especially the case in small-to-mid sized companies where receptionists tend to hold more responsibility and have insight into company operations. Best case scenario: you ask to speak with someone in charge of hiring and actually get to chat with that person. Worst case scenario: you have to leave your resume with the receptionist. That’s not bad. And besides, have you got better things to do with your time? Introverts: more on this in a future blog post to come.
5. Try your hand at temporary employment
This may depend on your skill set, experience and industry, but temp work is advantageous for a number of reasons. For one, it helps keep your skills sharp. Two, it allows you to try out different industries in short stints (in case you are not sure which industry you want to be in going forward). Third, if you do a good job it can lead to an additional or extended assignment. And lastly, temp agencies can sell you to an employer in a way that your resume alone cannot. For this, you get paid slightly less, but – depending on the assignment you accept – it’s generally still worth doing.
6. Always have an interview suit ready
Remember that budget I spoke of earlier? Make room in it for the purchase of that special item that will allow you to fashion your favourite work wear into a bona fide interview outfit. Having it ready in your closet ensures that you are ready for any unexpected interview or last-minute temp assignment. It also provides a great psychological boost to your spirits in a “Let me at ’em!” sort of way. If you can, make room in your budget for a new haircut or style. It can make any outfit that much better.
7. Adjust your investment plans ASAP
Depending on how much you have in your bank account you may need to consider reducing the amount you contribute to any investment plans you may have. Please do not underestimate the power of even an extra $50 in your pocket.
8. Continue to save money
Yes, these are the rainy days you have (hopefully) been putting away money for. Having said that, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop feeding your piggy bank. Sometimes it rains, but you need to save for the times it starts to pour.
9. Allow yourself a treat once in a while
With all this talk about budgeting and saving, it is important to treat yourself to the occasional pumpkin spice latte, bottle of wine, or other relatively cheap guilty pleasures you may have. You deserve it.
I’ll add that this is the time to redeem any loyalty program points you may have (in Canada: Scene, Shoppers Optimum, etc.) – because who doesn’t like movies and who doesn’t use shampoo and conditioner? Also, while most would put away their credit card, I would encourage it if a) you can resist impulsive buys, b) if your credit card allows you to collect points that can be redeemed towards rewards, cash back, etc. and c) you are disciplined about paying off your entire balance each month (as opposed to just the minimum requirement). I was able to redeem points for gift cards. Score!
10. Give yourself permission to be scared
Unemployment is scary, I’m not going to lie. It is a precarious time so there will be times when you honestly do not know what to do. There were weeks when my phone was silent and times when I had to turn down job offers despite my lack of funds. So you can be scared, just don’t let that fear consume you. When you feel panic and anxiety, seek the comfort of others or explore your feelings in a journal.
11. Watch The Price is Right
I’m serious. I forgot how much of a pick-me-up that game show is. There is an eternal joy in cheering others on even if they can’t hear or see you do it.
12. Drink more water
This is a good chance to take up healthy habits that you had always put on the back-burner or consistently forgot to do. For some, exercise would be something to introduce or reincorporate into your life. For me, I always had a tendency not to drink a lot during the workday (I blame my small bladder) so I had no more excuses.
13. Do not let LinkedIn suck your soul
I’ll likely be elaborating on my dislike of LinkedIn in a future post, but unless you have awesome connections, do not focus too much of your energy on this site. Less of this, more of recommendation #2.
14. Accept the fact that you are unemployed
Some prefer to say that they are “between jobs”. Screw that. Just say it: “I am currently unemployed”. Better yet, be able to complete the sentence with what you hope to gain, as in “I am currently unemployed but I’m definitely looking for a managerial position in marketing. Happen to know of any agencies looking to hire?”. Let people know that you are unemployed and be specific about what you are looking for. People generally like helping people, and even if they can’t offer you a job or a lead, they can offer you valuable advice.
15. Do not settle for less (unless you absolutely have to)
You’ll know when you have to settle for less. If you can afford to mull over about a job offer, than chances are you can afford to keep looking for something better if the job offer isn’t what you are looking for. If you need to find a job to pay the bills there is no shame in that. If you can afford to job search in relative leisure, remember to ask yourself these three questions:
1) Will the job teach you something you want to learn?
2) Will you be exposed to industry professionals who may be helpful to you later?
3) How will future employers / graduate schools view this experience?
That’s all I can think of for now. What do you think? Let me know – and be sure to share any money-saving tips or words of wisdom for those following the blog.
Good luck with your journey!