Coping With Unemployment

On a daily basis you check your email to see if your sixteen different job search agents have returned that dream job. You send your resume to at least five positions a day. Heck, you even look in the Sunday newspaper! The media tells us that the economic recovery has begun. Companies are hiring. People are optimistic. Yet you are still unemployed. 

If you’re out of work, particularly if you’ve been looking for a job for quite some time, it’s easy to get discouraged. After all we define ourselves so much by what we do. How many minutes after you meet someone for the first time, do you ask him or her, “so what do you do for a living?”

Even those that support you, family and friends, can unintentionally create problems. How many times as a job seeker have you heard, “so, have you found anything yet?” If you’ve been unemployed a while, it’s easy to take that the wrong way. can help you cope with being unemployed and set the stage for job search success.

1. Budget - Now that may sound fairly obvious, but you need to understand what your expenses are and how you can control them. Do you really need two ISP’s? Can you really watch all those channels on premium cable? Or how about that daily double decaf soy Latte down at Starbucks? You need to prioritize where you are spending your money.

There are certain expenses you may not be able to control such as rent or a house note. But for expenses like credit card debt, examine your statement to see if you ever automatically signed up for a payment protection plan. Chances are your credit card company may have enrolled you, if your balance has been over a certain amount. Take advantage of that, many of those plans will allow you to suspend payments temporarily.

The key to a budget is to put it on paper. Whether you create an Excel spreadsheet or scribble it on a note pad, having something that you can look at and change is a great help in developing a budget that will last.

2 .Routine - What does being employed really do for us? Besides a paycheck, it gives us a schedule. Being unemployed should not be different. You should stick to the same pattern you had when you were working. Resist the nightly temptation to watch Leno and get plenty of sleep instead. 

During the week, actually set your alarm clock. Pick a time to get up and get ready as if you were going to work. Does that mean you need to put on business professional clothes? Not necessarily, but hey, if it helps keep you focused then why not.

Being ready for work every day means that you can respond to an interview request quickly. Also, by keeping a schedule, you will have an easier time of transitioning back to the work world. And you won’t scare your new co-workers by looking like a sleep-deprived zombie your first week on the job.

3. Exercise - If you’ve been unemployed for any length of time, you’ve probably become use to wearing your sweats or some other sort of casual clothes. Funny, when you go to that interview, your suit feels a little tight. Although you wish you could blame your dry cleaner for shrinking your best interview suit, you know you can’t.

You don’t have to join a gym. You can exercise by taking a walk in a nearby park or dusting off that old Richard Simmons tape. In addition to exercise, watching what you eat can help as well.

Regular exercise and consistently eating right can help make sure that interview suit fits a little better. But it’s the added bonus of staying healthy during a stressful period in your life that is most important. 

4. Keep informed - Watching the latest Jerry Springer or keeping up with All My Children is not something that will keep you up to date on current events. Staying current on what’s happening in the real world is what keeps you connected. 

Whether you read the paper, surf the Internet, or frequent your local library, challenge yourself to learn about what is going on in the bigger picture. At the very least make sure you keep current on business trends. Being unemployed means that you need to be keenly aware of what factors are affecting the marketplace, especially in your industry.

Doing research can give you ideas on what industries are growing and what companies are hiring. And you will also be able to engage in the “small talk” that often precedes an interview. Whether it’s the recent landing on Mars or discussing the 11 Oscar Nominations that Return of the King received, chitchat like that can help ease the tension when you’re meeting a recruiter or hiring manager.

5. Volunteer -­ When you’re working, you always say to yourself, “I think this organization or cause is worthwhile and I should really help out.” Perhaps while you were working you helped with your money, now you can help with your time.

Becoming a volunteer should be a commitment that will last beyond your unemployment. So examine it seriously, before you decide to do it. Most organizations that rely on volunteer help will welcome anyone, no matter how much time he or she donates. But again, explore carefully how you can contribute during your unemployment and then what you can do after you start to work again.

Besides being a wonderful networking opportunity, it is great to have that sense of accomplishment. Try this site to help find that right volunteer opportunity: volunteermatch.org

6. Support Groups - No matter how well meaning your wife, husband, parents, in-laws, or friends are, if they aren’t unemployed, they will find it hard to understand what it’s like to be out of work. That’s not to suggest that their support is not needed or welcomed, but sometimes you need to seek out others who are also unemployed.

This idea may seem overly dramatic and some folks may not need it and that’s okay. For those that do just remember to start simple. If there were other people that were laid off from your company, call them first. Check in on them. Find out how they’re doing. If you think it would be worthwhile to get together, then do it.

Some people you encounter will be negative, frustrated by their lack of success in finding work, they will likely try and infect you with their bad attitude.

The long-term value outweighs the risk since this can be another networking opportunity. After all a job that might not be a fit for them, may be for you and vice-a-versa. And it is reassuring to know that there’s another person or group of people going through what you’re going through.

7. Entertainment - Yes that’s right, entertainment! You need to find a way to have fun. Whether it͢s reading a book, playing a game, or watching TV, you need to work at making sure that some form of entertainment is part of your week.

You need to figure out a way to include entertainment in your budget. Even if it means clipping coupons, going to Happy Hour and eating bar appetizers at half-price, or waiting till that first-run movie hits the cheap theaters, you need give yourself permission to relax and enjoy life.

Looking for work is a full-time job. Like any job, you need to have a break. So don’t short change yourself and feel guilty about goofing off every once in a while.

Whether it’s managing your budget or planning something fun, the goal is to keep you focused. Without that focus it is easy to get discouraged. The first thing that you lose when that happens is your attitude.

The bottom line in keeping a positive attitude while you’re unemployed is to remember the bigger picture. People get interviews because their skills match the job requirements. People get jobs because they have great attitudes.

The author, Wayne Rainey, is human resources professional with 9 plus years of diverse experience in both corporate recruiting and the temporary staffing industry. Wayne can be reached via email at and welcomes any questions from fellow job seekers who may want a recruiter’s perspective.

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Changing Your View Changes Everything!

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Its like that when you lose your job, too. When I was fired from my first professional job, I thought my future had collapsed. That woe-is-me perspective blocked my ability to see that what happened had opened, not closed, opportunities. In time, my view broadened, and my understanding emerged.

Not only did I come to realize I disliked the job and wasnҒt good at it, but I was also ill-suited for it. I thought I could do anything, but I couldnt. I chose wrong. Once my self-awareness (and self-esteem) came to terms with why it happened, my view shifted, and so did my future.

Changing Your View

You can wait for perspective, or you can develop it. Like an architect taught to design by looking at something within a narrow context first, and then viewing it from wider and wider angles, we can learn to see our own life situations from different and wider vantage points; we can grow ғnew eyes, as it were.

Changing your view may take time, but you can start by nudging yourself toward new perspectives using these approaches:

1: The once-a-week, step back approach

Force yourself to step back from a narrow job-loss vista, in order to gain perspective at least once a week. Volunteer at a hospital, work with a charity, organize a community event, read to disadvantaged children, or help that elderly neighbor. Be of service.

ItԒs easy to lose perspective of whats going right in life. Keep your view clear. Or in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, ғThe best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

2: The see-the-world anew approach

Never taken a yoga class, read a mystery, or planted a garden? Always gravitate to the same websites, read the same magazines, or frequent the same establishments? Venture out. Drive back roads to the grocery store, take a class you never imagined, or learn to paint. You canԒt change your view to reboot career prosperity, make new connections, or notice hidden opportunities unless you replenish your soul and grow new learning pathways along the way.

3: The reframe-the-picture approach

Woe is me or an opportunity to retool? Personal tragedy or personal growth? Permanent scar or catalyst for a dream-pursuit? How you see your life is how you live it. What frame have you put around your job loss? Is it helping or hurting your personal view of your future?

Lee Iacocca said, “In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” Thats true, but as you do, keep reframing the picture.

Go Beyond the Frog

The frog in the well, described by Mao Tse-Tung, captures the thought, ғWe think too small. Like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view.

When we suffer job-loss, we see the world from the vantage point of something taken away, something lost, something stolen from us. Yet, when we nudge ourselves to broaden our perspective and remerge from that well-of-loss to a larger world of opportunity, thereԒs a profound shift in our energy and our outlook. Thats because changing your view, changes everything. Try it!

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