- Rose Kennedy For the AJC
Oh, it happens −you just hope it never happens to you.
All kinds of people lose their jobs without notice, whether it's the unexpected company takeover, the "how can you be so harsh" before a holiday layoff or a downsizing that even the gossip girls didn't have a hint about.
If you've become one of the suddenly unemployed, your first inclination might be to huddle under the covers and moan for days, but you should try talking sense to yourself instead, according to psychologist Robert L. Leahy in Psychology Today. Keep repeating that being unemployed is simply a current situation to deal with, not a character failing.
"Unemployment is a normal part of life for millions of decent people," he said. "Being unemployed is not a crime or a moral failing. Feeling ashamed of economic conditions is like blaming yourself for the economy. You didn't cause it, you don't control it. Bad things happen to good people during difficult times."
Along with a good dose of positive thinking, experts recommend taking these five steps if you lose your job suddenly:
Face your finances
"Don't ignore it. Don't think it will go away," David Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies, told PsychCentral. "You don't need to panic, but you do need to address it right away."
Take steps to apply for unemployment as soon as you are eligible and adjust your budget immediately. Don't wait −not even a few days −before cutting out expenses for things you can live without, from cable TV and eating out to cleaning and gardening services.
Determine how many months you can live without a paycheck before you must take a second mortgage on your home, advised professor of behavioral science Wayne L. Strom in Pepperdine's Graziadio Business Review. "This is an important number," he said. "If you know that you can make it for six months you will feel less pressure to take the first job that comes along. Taking the first job is sometimes a mistake."
Be honest with your family
If you don't have a job, don't leave the house every day like you do, Strom advised. Right off the bat, begin normalizing your status as a suddenly unemployed person. "Don't assume that people will judge you. Maybe they have been through this in the past. The more people you talk to, the better your chance of getting a job."
Get your resume out there
Start with updating your profile on LinkedIn, which reported that 43 percent of employers use social media to recruit and 88 percent of those use LinkedIn. Make sure to follow LinkedIn's tips for the unemployed and take particular care not to enter "Unemployed" when you fill in your profile's current "Job Title" at "Company." Instead, show viewers of your profile what you want your next role to be by listing "Desired next role (specific keywords)" at "your industry." The fact you're "seeking opportunities" can be addressed in your Headline and Summary, according to LinkedIn experts.
Tap your real-life contacts, too
Be methodical and considerate when you're asking for job-seeking assistance from friends. It's a mistake to tell someone you've lost your job and then rush straight to asking about job openings. "Such an approach usually puts the person on the receiving end into a defensive, self-protecting mindset," Strom said. "A better approach, if it is a friend, is to ask if he or she would spend a few minutes critiquing your resume. Offer to buy a coffee. Ask if they know people you might contact for an executive informational interview."
Keep in mind that pressing directly for a job forces your contact into a yes-no situation. "Your objective is to warm up the conversation, gently build rapport, gaining the other person's confidence so that he or she will introduce you to others."
Help someone else while you've got open hours
Once you've put in the obligatory hours of job searching each day, make it a point to donate some time to a worthy cause, PsychCentral recommended. "Although you may be tempted to hang out in your sweats, don't let self-pity take over your life. You could feel useful by helping someone else. Find out if there are any volunteer opportunities in local food banks, schools, shelters or pet rescues."