March was a bittersweet month for me for two reasons. The first, I paid off my last credit card debt. That’s right, I have no more interest accruing debt aside from my mortgage! You have no idea how happy this makes me and how much stress was removed from my shoulders because of it. I still have my credit cards, and still use them on occasion, but only when I have the money to completely pay off what I use. Otherwise they do not get used 🙂
Once I get a refinance on my mortgage done, get a few other financial bits squared away (like paying a friend that I owe money to, buying dad a new used truck, etc.), I will tackle the mortgage head-on and try to get it paid off ASAP.
So that’s the good. Now the bad.
I was laid off at the end of March.
I got two weeks severance, I had a small emergency fund, and I qualify for unemployment, so it’s not a total loss I guess. But anyone who knows me knows how devastating being unemployed is for me, considering how much pride I take in my work and my personal success over the last 8 years. Not to mention I take care of my disabled father, and my #1 fear in life is not being able to support him. That’s a worst-case scenario, and not likely to happen, but the fear is still there. Quite frankly I am glad that it is. I’d rather be someone who worries enough to prepare than someone who is complacent enough to let everything just slip away.
So anyway, being unemployed for a month today, I figured I’d write about what I’ve done so far on unemployment, and what I suggest others start doing if they find themselves in a similar situation.
My recommended steps when you find yourself unemployed:
1. File For Unemployment Immediately If You Qualify.
A relative of mine also lost their job this week and assumed you have to wait a week to file for unemployment. That is not the case (at least around here), so file right away to get the ball rolling. Even if you get a severance pay that would prevent unemployment from kicking in right away, file anyway (including webcerts) because then unemployment will start immediately after severance runs out.
Not sure if you qualify? Apply anyway, they’ll tell you one way or the other.
2. Update Your Resume.
Theoretically you should be updating this consistently already whenever you feel you’ve developed a new skill, launched a new project, received a new certification, etc. That way you don’t have to scramble to remember all of this all at once. Especially since job loss tends to create panic, and we don’t always think clearly in that scenario.
I keep my resume in Google Docs so I can update it anywhere I have internet when I have something new I can add or change. This also lets me share it with people I want opinions from in regards to the content, and it lets me download various file types of my resume (PDF or .DOC for example) to send to employers.
3. Create a Cover Letter.
Even if you just have a basis of content for a cover letter that you can fill in per job, having one prepared and ready to use when applying will make job applications a lot easier. It will make you look more professional and like a serious applicant if you use cover letters when applying where applicable.
4. Create or Update your LinkedIn Profile.
I’m not a HUGE fan of LinkdedIn, but I know a LOT of job recruiters or potential employers will look at your LinkedIn Profile on their own to get a feel for who you are and what you know. In fact I had an interview this week from a recruiter that said he did just that. In the age of technology, you want to be “in the know”, and LinkedIn is the employment hub of the web it seems. Don’t miss out just because you don’t have an account.
Not to mention, LinkedIn allows colleagues endorse your skills or write reviews on your abilities, which just makes you look good.
5. Start Applying For Jobs, Even If You Don’t Have All The Qualifications.
A lot of places are willing to train if you don’t have every qualification listed in their ad. You might be surprised, and you might get some paid training out of the deal.
Since I am in a technology field, I find that Indeed.com and occasionally Dice.com give me the best results in job prospects. My boyfriend is in more of the labor industry, which Craigslist produces the best results for him in regards to job listings. But we’ve both had success finding our types of jobs on all of these, so don’t focus on just one job board. I tend to use as many as possible.
6. Don’t Just Rely On Job Boards, However.
I’ve noticed there are some companies out there that don’t like to list their jobs on job boards because they don’t want to go through potentially hundreds of applicants. Instead they’ll either go through a recruitment company, or they will just list the jobs on their own website under a “careers” or “jobs” link.
The recruitment company is SUPPOSED to be useful to filter through applicants that might better fit what they are looking for, saving them time and filling the position quickly. This benefits both the company and the potential employee because recruiters are supposed to help create the “perfect marriage” between the two. So don’t be afraid of recruiters either, they may have access to jobs that you don’t, or more quickly than you do.
Alternatively, companies will just list the jobs on their own website where only people who may be passionate about the company, or know that the company fits their needs and might apply. This also helps filter out people mass-applying for jobs. So think of companies in your area that match the type of work you are trying to do (or look them up), and go to a companies website and look for job listings.
I recently did this for a company in the area called Graphcom, who is the ONLY company within 30 miles that I know of that does web development work around here. It just so happened they had two listings I qualified for, but were not listed on any online job board, so I applied. Unfortunately they had already been filled, but I would have never known about them if I stuck to job boards.
7. Keep Track Of All Jobs You Apply For.
I find that keeping a numbered listing in a google doc is the best method for me to keep track of the jobs I apply for. The boyfriend has also adopted this method for his job searching.
This is an important record to keep because:
- You don’t want to apply for the same job twice. And if you’re anything like me, I’ve applied to over 70 jobs in the last 30 days, and that would be a lot to “remember”.
- Unemployment requires you to keep track of all job correspondences (MD requires you apply to at last 2 jobs a week or every 2 weeks), this way you’ll have those records handy
- You want a place to keep notes on interviews, points of contact, etc.
- You want a way to acknowledge which jobs have turned you down and which you may want to follow up on after you’ve had an interview.
The format I personally use in my Google Doc of jobs applied is:
1. Name of Position, Name of Company, Location
URL to job ad link
Notes of interview dates, when I followed-up (including date), if I received a turn-down notice (also dated)
So 4 lines of information, numbered and dated, and I have everything I need for my personal record, and unemployment should they audit my job applying process.
Another small thing I do that helps me filter through all of my 70+ job applications, is colorize my job listings between applied, turned-down, and interviewed. For example, when I get a turn-down letter I will gray out the text so it sorta looks hidden from the other listings. And when I get an interview set up I make the text bright pink (or red) to make it stand out so I know to follow-up with these people I’ve got interviews set up with.
The final bonus to keeping track of jobs you’ve applied for, is each week I submit my webcerts for unemployment, I am given a processing number. I can stick that processing number in this listing between the “weeks” the processing number is supposed to account for, so I know which jobs counted for which unemployment week.
8. Network With Friends, Family, and Colleagues
I’ve been blessed in my field to have worked and met with many web developers. When I made it known that I was looking for work, many of them started sending potential points of contact my way with companies that might be looking for work. Keep in touch with people in your field for this very reason.
It’s also important to network with new colleagues and companies as well. There are technology “meet-ups” that I attend and have met new people in my field that I can network with. I’m sure there is something similar for a lot of different fields (shows, job fairs, etc). Most of these are free, and a way to get yourself out there and mingling among potential employers.
9. Reduce Your Expenses.
Naturally this is something we should all be doing all the time anyway, but it’s even more necessary when you don’t have a steady income. No more eating out at restaurants, unnecessary expenses, etc.
Go through your finances for the last month (you do keep track of this, yes? If not, you and I need to set down and have a talk), and discover which items you don’t absolutely need. If it’s not shelter, minimal food, or transportation for work, throw it out until you have a steady income.
10. File Your WebCerts!
You don’t get your unemployment if you don’t file your webcerts. And you won’t keep your unemployment if you don’t apply for jobs and keep track of which jobs you’re applying. So do all of these things 🙂 And keep doing them until you have a job.
11. Start Looking For Freelance Jobs, Even Ones You Never Thought Of Before.
I’ve been helping friends and family update their resumes lately, and they all seem to think I am good at it. Maybe it will become a side thing for me, maybe not. But I’m willing to be open-minded about something I could bring in some extra cash for.
I also let my colleagues know to send potential clients my way for web work, and so far they’ve come through pretty nicely where someone just needs a small project done that they don’t want to pay (or can’t afford to pay) a big company for.
But what if you are in the construction and general labor field, or something not as easily networked? I’ve seen plenty of “day” jobs on Craigslist where someone needs a fence built, or a tree cut down (a lot of these, actually), or someone with a truck to haul away debris. It may be a day job that pays cash, but it’s still considered “freelance” work.
12. Invest In Your Skills With Education
This is another thing I decided to take on while job hunting, seeing if I can get a certification that will help make myself more marketable as an employee. And since I don’t do loans (I hate owing money, even for education), I applied for a Pell Grant (and was accepted). I am still going through the motions for this, but having grant money that I can put towards my self-education is a great investment of my time while job hunting.
Don’t disqualify the benefits of online self-education as well. I taught myself everything I know about web development and have never been to college. There are a lot of free resources out there that you can use to improve your skills and quality of life. Whether it’s learning a new spoken language, updating your knowledge on a programming language, watching YouTube videos on construction ideas and projects that could potentially turn into a freelance or “side job”, etc.
Budgets Are Sexy has a series of blog posts on “Side Hustles” and how people created side jobs to bring in extra money. Some of them are off-the-wall, and most of them are things I had never thought of getting into before. But they are all suitable side hustles you can take advantage of to make ends meet while you’re in-between jobs.
13. Sell Your Crap
So you’re unemployed, now you have a lot of extra time to do things you’ve been meaning to do. This could be anything from a project list to cleaning your house. How about making a list of things you’ve been meaning to get rid of either in a yard sale or by donating and see if you can’t sell it for a few bucks? I’ve been going through things like jewelry, my piano, an electric guitar and making a list of things I can or have been meaning to sell and didn’t get around to doing it. But now that I have extra time, it’s the perfect opportunity to knock out my todo list and purge items.
Where to sell?
If you have something to give away for free, Freecycle is your best bet. As far as selling to make money, I’ve had pretty good success with Craigslist, and a local Facebook group in the area for selling goods.
14. Don’t Stop Any Of The Tasks Above From #2-#13.
Your new full-time job is job searching and networking. I don’t know how many times through friends or family or what-have-you, I’ve seen people sit back and expect jobs to come to them or for people they know to help them find a job. Alternatively they will stop applying when they get a good feeling about a job they are applying for, and then don’t get an offer for that job. They’ve wasted all that time when they could have another job interview lined up if they had kept applying no matter what. You simply have to apply non-stop until you get a job offer you want.
You get what you work for, and if you want a job you have to do the work to get it.
Apply, Apply, Apply!