Staying Afloat While Navigating Unemployment and Job Hunting

by Bestow Team | April 23, 2019

Recently Unemployed and Lost

It happens to everyone at some point — unemployment and a sense of panic. The reason for your unemployment is moot. What matters is that you’re going to do something about it.

If this is you right now, it’s important you know you’re not alone; there are currently more than six million people unemployed in the United States. Many of these people can relate to the same fears and feelings you’re experiencing.

But it’s even more important that you know you can and will get through this with a little help from your friends. (Hey, that’s us!)

It’s time to take a deep breath, focus, develop a game plan, and take your career head on.

Table of Contents

Unemployment Survival Checklist

Before You Panic: Your First Days of Unemployment
Unemployment can happen to anyone

Unemployment is scary, especially in the beginning. You’ve lost the security of your job and you’re left with a ton of unknowns. You could hang onto the unknowns, or, you could use this time as the perfect opportunity to start something new and exciting.

Whether you’re planning on staying the course of your current career path or interested in starting something new, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of overall success.

Update Your Resume and Portfolio ASAP

An updated resume is everything when you’re job hunting, whether you’re looking for freelance or full-time work. The first thing you should do when unemployed is start updating your resume.

Make sure your new resume uses bullet points, gets to the point quickly, and is easy to scan. It’s reported that 40% of hiring managers look at a resume for less than a minute, so you need to make an impression quickly!


Having a resume free of errors is key

If your resume is getting long you might even want to consider removing some older, less-relevant experience. (Odds are you won’t need to list that experience as an intern for a high school theater class.)

If you’re considering any new industries or types of jobs, comb through your entire resume and see if any job descriptions or skills need to be updated or tweaked to fit that industry.

For example, if you’re looking to branch into writing, look at previous roles and think about if you did any writing there that you can now highlight.

If you’re in a creative space you’ll also want to use this time to update your portfolio. Add any new and relevant work that you can legally share. Ideally, you want a portfolio site you can easily link potential clients, but even an organized Google Drive folder will do.

List Out Jobs You’d Like

Consider your job options before jumping into something

It might sound obvious, but truly ask yourself if you had your dream job. If not, list out jobs that sound appealing and within reach based on your skills. That last bit is especially important, as you most likely want to look for jobs that are within your grasp. If you have the time to learn new skills and train for a job type or industry completely out of your wheelhouse, more power to you!

All in all, unemployment is the perfect chance to evaluate if you’ve been happy with your career path. If not, take it as your golden opportunity to start fresh!

Find Freelance Work for Supplemental Income

With an updated resume, portfolio, and job list, this is a great time to think about freelancing. Finding full-time work can be a full-time job, while freelance work can be much easier and quicker to secure.

It likely won’t pay as much as your full-time salary, but freelance can be a great way to provide a little buffer during unemployment. You might even be surprised to find you love freelancing and decide to pursue that full-time.

You’ll want to secure insurance for freelancers if you do decide to stay this course!

Take Part in the Gig Economy

If freelance isn’t cutting it or you’re simply looking for something different, you can always look for various gigs in your area. Some common ideas are:

  • Being a professional dog walker
  • House or pet sitting
  • Driving for a ride-share service
  • Getting involved in drop shipping
  • Becoming a paid survey-taker

Every gig has its pros and cons. The key is to research which ones sound appealing to you, see if there are any qualifications required, and make sure you’re fully prepared for the job.

Consider the Pros and Cons of Unemployment Benefits

Collecting unemployment can make a huge difference in your life when you’re going through a tough time. In some cases, it can mean the difference between having groceries or not.

Despite this, there are also a few drawbacks to collecting unemployment:

  • You have to take the first offer you get. Unemployment forces you to apply to a minimum number of jobs each week. The biggest downside? You have to accept the first qualifying offer you receive, even if a better opportunity is on the horizon.
  • Unemployment benefits are taxable. When you collect unemployment pay, you can elect to have taxes taken out then, reducing your take-home pay, or you can choose to pay them during tax season. This puts you at risk of owing on your taxes, so careful planning is needed either way.
  • Starting a business can end benefits early. If you’re looking to start a business, that’s excellent! Unfortunately, starting a business can result in your unemployment benefits being terminated well before you’re making money. Again, careful planning will be needed to navigate these waters.

Unemployment can be a huge benefit to the right people, but it does have its drawbacks. Carefully consider your state’s unemployment laws and plan accordingly.


Things to Consider When Reviewing Job Offers

Consider your offers carefully

After sending out countless applications and writing numerous cover letters it finally happens: you get an offer. Yay!

Do you accept the first offer you get, or simply wait for one with bigger numbers? No, and, it depends. There’s a lot that goes into a job offer, some of which can be a little deceptive or unclear at first.

When reviewing job offers, you need to consider the following:

  • Base pay: This one is nice and clear. (What a relief, right?)Is the hourly pay or annual salary nice and juicy? Great! If it’s lower than what you were making, this doesn’t mean you should immediately pass, though. This brings us to our next point…
  • Benefits: What kind of benefits are offered in the letter? Insurance, vacation, 401(k), donation matching, technology stipends, education spending? These can all add up very quickly.If you’re offered a slightly lower pay but see that the benefits are great, the offer may still be worth pursuing further. If you already have a trusted financial advisor, they can help you determine the value of these benefits if you’re on the fence.
  • Commute: Filling up your tank every now and then doesn’t seem like much. When you’re commuting an hour or more to work every single day, though, costs can add up very quickly.If the company offering you a job is far away, run some numbers through a gas cost calculator and get a rough estimate of how much your commute could cost you. Don’t forget to think about oil changes and other car maintenance that can arise more frequently when you have a lengthy commute.


Managing Finances while Unemployed

Balance finances carefully


Finances are so much simpler when you have a consistent income. Taking all or most income out of the equation does complicate things, but it doesn’t make finances and budgeting impossible, either.

First off, if you don’t have a budget, this is a great time to make one. If you have student loans or any other kinds of loans, contact your financial institution and see if there’s anything that can be done about your rates. (Millennials, you likely have some student loans and other unique financial considerations you can inquire about!)

As for that budget, contact your accountant and get the conversation going. In the meantime, there’s another big step you can take.

Temporarily Cutting Spending

Cut spending where you can


Who doesn’t love amenities? While many of the little things we subscribe to every month are cheap, they still add up. To make your money last longer until you find consistent work, consider cutting the following:

  • Television: The average American spends nearly $65 each month on expanded basic service cable. If you’re paying for cable or satellite television, cutting the cord could save you $780 each year at that rate.For those of you that still desire the TV experience, there are numerous alternatives to TV that can be free or much cheaper. Do some research and determine if any TV alternatives are right for you.
  • Streaming services: It’s easy to dismiss Netflix as only $12/month or Hulu as only $7.99/month. While each of these on their own isn’t that expensive, having a few of them quickly turns into $20, $30, or $40 per month. Until you find work, see if you can cut back on any of these services.
  • Cellphone Plan: The United States has the highest cellphone plan costs of anywhere in the world, according to numerous surveys. This means it’s fairly likely you’re paying $80 or more each month for service. Cellphones are practically a necessity at this point, but you also may have more data than you need. If possible, consider trimming your plan.


The Next Steps

Eventually you'll find work


Unemployment might be scary right now, but it won’t last forever. The fear will subside and eventually, you’ll find a great job.

Until then, stay calm, stay level-headed, and cut spending where you can. This is a great time to do additional research on finances and prepare yourself for the day you do land a job.

This is also a great time to take stock of your life and really cherish those that you don’t get to see as often when you’re working. Take your dog out for a walk, hug your little ones, go for a walk, catch up with a close friend over a cup of coffee, or take some time to do something you truly enjoy.

It’s not often we have spare time. Use this time to really get to know yourself, tackle your finances, and you’ll find something great in no time!

Additional Resources


Unemployment Survival Checklist

Tackling unemployment might seem overwhelming, but like all things it’s a little easier when laid out in front of you. Download this handy checklist to make sure you don’t miss a beat!

Download your unemployment checklist


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