How to handle unemployment

Making the most of losing your job

How to handle a job loss

Many more Kiwis are now facing sudden and unexpected unemployment.

Despite headline unemployment numbers being at rock bottom, those official statistics don’t tell the whole story. Even before the current ‘Delta variant’ NZ lockdown, it was widely reported that the number of people on the “jobseeker benefit” had doubled in just the last four years.

If-or-when the pandemic is finally under control, it will still take time for the economy to bounce back and return to normal. There may even be a ‘new normal’. Some people will get their jobs back immediately, while others will have to transition to an entirely new field – perhaps those in areas such as hospitality, some segments of retail, travel, and tourism.

Understandably, the economic uncertainty of unemployment can be frightening and stressful, even with the expanded welfare benefits available. However, there are plenty of strategies you can use right now to get yourself ready for the next stage in your life.

Emotions and job loss

Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of research to suggest that unemployment often leads to a decrease in life satisfaction, and an increased likelihood of anger and anxiety.

When we go through a dramatic life change like losing a job, we need time to cope. Many people go through the five stages of grief, the same cycle of emotions we go through when we lose someone close:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Remember, you might not go through all these stages, or go through them in this order. You might start feeling angry about the situation, then become depressed. You might not go through the bargaining phase at all. But you don’t have to endure every stage to get back on your feet.

It’s also important to realise that although this grieving process is healthy and necessary, you have to resist the urge to wallow in grief. Give yourself time to honour and reflect on what you’ve lost, and then turn your thoughts to what’s ahead.

You might not go through a grieving process at all.

Opportunity lies ahead

Unemployment could turn out to be an incredible opportunity for you. The steps you take now could end up leading to a job or career you genuinely love.

What you do with your unemployment doesn’t just help you recover financially in the long run. It also helps you cope emotionally.

What to do when you’ve lost your job

Start doing, focus on growth

Everyone experiences failures and setbacks in life. One trait that separates successful people from the rest is how they approach and overcome setbacks. This resiliency is the foundation for the next steps they take. Often, the simple act of doing can take you on a path you never anticipated. All you have to do is take the first step.

Learn more:

Identify important career skills

Unemployment isn’t fun. However, it can be an excellent opportunity for you to develop new skills, shore up your weaknesses, and become a better team member and leader.

Now’s the time to think ahead.

  • What can you do to make yourself more desirable for an employer?
  • Are there certifications that can enhance your technical ability?
  • A degree you need?
  • An industry seminar that can lead to valuable contacts or skill enhancement?

Right now, you have the gift of free time, and you can take advantage of it by developing essential career skills. Do whatever you can to make yourself more marketable and gain valuable industry knowledge.

Some fundamental skills to improve are:

  • Written communication
  • Verbal communication
  • Public speaking
  • Active listening

While it’s crucial to develop hard or technical skills, you also need to learn soft skills that can help you be a better leader, manager, or team member. For example, some in-demand soft skills that relate to most workplaces include:

  • Creativity
  • Adaptability
  • Collaboration
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Persuasion

Identify and improve upon weaknesses

Now is also the perfect time to think about your weaknesses so you can work to overcome or work around them.

To figure out what your weaknesses are, think about the tasks or responsibilities you struggled with in your previous role. For instance, perhaps you disliked leading teams because you weren’t a confident public speaker. Or you avoided writing reports because you were unsure of your writing skills.

Tasks or responsibilities you put off, tried to avoid, or outright hated are often signs of a personal weakness and are worth exploring. For some ideas, consider these common weaknesses:

  • Having difficulty saying no
  • Getting nervous speaking in public
  • Not finishing what you start
  • Focusing too much on the details
  • Procrastinating on important tasks
  • Avoiding conflict
  • Time management
  • Being disorganised
  • Having trouble asking for help
  • Taking on too many projects at work

Interviewers often ask about your weaknesses, and it’s a sign of emotional intelligence when you can talk honestly about where you fall short and what you’re doing to overcome these areas.

Learn new skills online

A period of unemployment is the perfect time to learn new skills to boost your career opportunities. Many virtual learning platforms offer free or low-cost classes, while others are similar in cost to a university degree.

For instance, Udemy has over 100,000 courses, costing between $10- $100 per course. Search around for coupon codes and sign up for their newsletter. Udemy often puts their courses on sale at a heavy discount.

Another advantage of virtual learning is providing structure to your days and helping you stay focused and productive.

Use your network

Your social and professional network is a valuable resource you can utilise to help you up-skill and re-enter the workforce.

Share your plan and career goals with your friends, family members, and colleagues on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Join your college or university’s alumni association. Reach out to past colleagues and clients to find out what they’re doing. Sometimes, a casual conversation can unexpectedly open up an opportunity.

If you plan to stay in your current field, join your industry’s top professional association. If it’s within your budget, expand your skill set by investing in seminars or workshops – even online ones – the association offers.

Try to spend some daily time networking and connecting with others.

Prepare for interviews

You also need to spend time preparing for job interviews. Research top job interview tips and brush up on your body language-reading skills so you can better read your interviewer.

You can also prepare for a job interview using role-playing. With role-playing, you and another person stage a mock interview to practice answering some of the tough questions you’re likely to face.

Role-playing can feel awkward or silly, but it’s a useful exercise to help you prepare for the intense atmosphere of a job interview. It can also help calm your nerves and help you feel more confident when you finally have the real interview.

Improve your social media and CV

You must update your resume now that you’re actively looking for work.

It takes time to write a compelling CV, and even though you’re ready to get it in the hands of as many people as possible, you’ll get better results if you put some energy into making it stand out. There are plenty of online review services that can look over your resume and then give you actionable advice for what you can do to make it shine.

Your social media profiles also need to be reviewed. Many employers now search social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to scrutinise applicants during the recruiting process. Are there any posts that could shine a negative light on you professionally? If so, take them down and replace them with posts highlighting what you’re doing right now to stay productive and expand your skills.

Exercise

Getting in shape is one of the best things you can do during your unemployment. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found a positive link between exercise and happiness. Exercise can make you feel happier and more positive about your life.

Daily exercise might also help you avoid sinking into the depression many people fall into after losing their jobs.

Mindful, meditative exercise like yoga or walking outdoors can be especially beneficial during this time of stress and uncertainty.

Setting an ambitious exercise goal can also work in your favour when it comes to your job search. For example, many people put a short list of their hobbies on their resume, and some interviewers also ask about hobbies to get to know the applicant better. Being able to say, “I just finished my first marathon,” or “I’m taking jujitsu,” demonstrates self-discipline and focus.

Stay busy

Volunteer, read, meditate, focus on your hobbies, take up new hobbies – do whatever it takes to keep your mind and soul active. This will pay off as you’ll also limit negativity and avoid slipping into a nasty habit of watching Netflix all day!

Being able to discuss hobbies and new skills in job interviews will also demonstrate your self-discipline and focus.

The bottom line – make the most of a job loss

Being unemployed is an incredibly scary prospect. After all, most of us spend the majority of our waking time working, travelling to or from work, getting ready for work, and so on. What do we do when there’s suddenly no more work? How do we find another job (or another pool of clients, or a new pool of customers) when so many other people are after the very same thing? And when our previous skills might be irrelevant?

The key to surviving unemployment is to maintain a positive outlook and learning new skills that make you more desirable to employers. Plenty of employers are hiring right now, and many more companies will start hiring once the latest lockdown is over. The effort you put into bettering yourself now will pay off eventually.

So, if you’re currently unemployed, what are you doing to stay productive?