During the months prior, the company I worked for had gone through some growing pains. My hiring manager had left, and for several months everyone in my department reported to each other. Instead of devolving into some sort of tech version of Lord of the Flies, we actually held each other accountable — and had a lot of fun.
Meantime, middle management (finally) was being hired for all departments. When ours came on board, many positions in my department were eliminated. I had never been fired before, and as paperwork titled “COBRA” and “Severance” was handed to me, I couldn’t help but wonder how I was going to pay for Christmas gifts. Or even lunch that day. I didn’t know whom to call first. I didn’t know whether I should cry in front of my HR manager or wait until I started walking home. When you lose your job unexpectedly, your mind tends to go with it. Some people have a backup plan, a side hustle that brings in enough cash to cover the bills until they can land another gig, or a spouse who brings home enough bacon to get the family by.
For many of us, though, that’s not the case. Most Americans barely have any savings, and many carry tons of debt. Unemployment benefits can help (a lot), but it still takes getting your head together to stay sane until you find your next job. I’ve found these tips can keep you from losing your mind if you lose your job:
1. Stay Busy
One of the most important between-jobs actions is to stay productive. Finding a new job can take a long time, especially if you’re applying for jobs at Eastside companies such as Microsoft, T-Mobile, or HTC, where the application and interview process can take months.
Consider taking a few online courses, hitting the gym a little harder, or volunteering. Your next employer will be impressed with how you handled this unexpected time off.
“I really like to see someone that takes circumstances into their own hands and uses the time off while looking for a new position to keep up on continuous learning or who keeps busy with volunteering, project work, or consulting,” Bellevue-based recruiter Tara Gowland said.
If you’re staying productive, there’s no reason to gloss over a period of unemployment in your application. “I personally don’t think you need to address a gap in a cover letter, as most employers don’t read them anyway and go straight to the résumé,” Gowland said. “That being said, your résumé should go into brief detail as to what you have been up to during the gap, whether it’s current or in the past.”
2. Stay Off Facebook
Social media is one of the biggest wastes of time, even if you consider using it to network while looking for a job. While writing this column, I found myself distracted by the pings of a message and sucked into celebrity gossip news. The next thing I knew, 20 minutes had passed.
What job-related tasks could you do in 20 minutes?
If you’re serious about finding a job, consider removing Facebook from your smartphone and dedicate a specific amount of time to it. If you need social media to help you find a job, allot extra time as needed.
3. Keep a Routine
One of the hardest parts of losing a job — especially if you’ve had one for a while — is losing your routine. You’re used to waking up at 6, eating breakfast at 6:30, grabbing coffee at 7, and sitting down at your desk around 8. Humans evolved to have a routine; it’s why we have a circadian rhythm. When you lose your job, try not to lose your routine. You might want to sleep in a bit later, but waking up at the same time every day, making breakfast, and getting coffee will not only help prevent you from falling into a rut, or even depression, but you’ll be mentally sharp when you find a job again.
If your old routine just didn’t mesh with you — perhaps you were required to get up way too early or spend a ridiculous amount of time commuting on Interstate 405 — you may want to rethink the next job you apply for, or even your career. It’s never too late to go back to school, and if you do get unemployment benefits, that time provides a great opportunity to explore retraining.
4. Don’t Give Up
Searching for a job — even in our booming economy — can be a job in itself. Interviews are stressful, and waiting to hear back from companies can test even the most patient person. Remember that hiring managers can sense attitude like my dog can sense a neighbor coming home with food. If you are down and out about looking for a job, a manager will be able to tell during an interview.
If all else fails, find some puppies to play with for a few hours. I might let you borrow my puggle. That would help you feel a little bit better, and feeling better means better job applications, better job interviews, and, soon enough, a better job.