7 Ways to Survive and Thrive During Unemployment

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Maggie Niemiec
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I never thought I would be laid off at 24 years old. But that’s exactly what happened to me in April when Ladies’ Home Journal, the 131-year-old women’s magazine, effectively shut down and the entire NYC editorial staff was out of the job.

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My first reaction was shock. Then came the worry, anxiety, and fear. What would I do next? Would I find another job in New York? How would I make my rent? I talked to my family, friends, and colleagues. I prayed that everything would be OK, and I gave myself time to simply process what had happened.

After all that, I got down to business. I made it my mission to find my next gig, and I was incredibly fortunate to start working for Verily shortly thereafter. But I learned a lot about making the most of my unemployment along the way. If you’ve ever been on the job hunt, you already know you need to update your resume and search job boards like crazy. But to get a leg up on the competition—and maintain your sanity—try some of these tips.

01. Develop a routine.

As tempting as it is to stay in bed all day, try to stick to your old schedule as much as possible. If you used to get up, take a shower and make a cup of coffee every morning before work, then continue to do that. Now instead of heading to the office, you need to find another spot, such as your living room, the neighborhood coffee shop, or your local library, to set up camp while you apply for jobs.

02. Reach out to all your contacts.

Letting your connections know you’re on the job hunt is a must. Email contacts individually to fill them in on your situation and let them know what exactly you’re looking for. Always attach your resume to those emails. Even if you haven’t talked to someone in a few months, reach out. If you had a good relationship with them before, chances are they’ll want to help you out. It’s a good idea to update your status on Facebook and LinkedIn as well. You never know who might see it and know of a potential opportunity.

03. File for unemployment.

This is a crucial step and should be done as soon as possible after a layoff. If you received severance from your company, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits until after severance payments stop. However, it’s still a good idea to file the paperwork early. Check with your state unemployment office about how to apply.

04. Create a budget.

Now is the time to examine your bank account and spending habits. Separate your wants from your needs and figure out where exactly you can cut back. Financial planning websites like Mint and LearnVest (both free!) will be your new best friends. Develop financial goals for the future. Even though you probably can’t meet them without an income, they’ll be a good jumping-off point for when you do land that next gig.

05. Stay social.

When you’re unemployed, all you want to do is save money—and doing so can quickly turn you into a hermit. But fear not! There are plenty of ways you can stay social without breaking the bank: Meet up with friends at the park for a picnic, scour out the area’s best happy hour deals, or host a Netflix night at your place.

06. Plan “me” time.

Missing that weekly mani/pedi you used to get? Set aside a Friday night to give yourself a manicure—file your nails, moisturize your cuticles, and break out a bold color—and really relax through the process. If manis aren’t your thing, find something else that is, like running or cooking, and make it a regular part of your schedule.

07. Remember: Your job does not define you.

It’s easy to get swept up in our careers and the constant drive  to be “successful,” so much so that we can start to derive our worth from our jobs. (I know; I’ve been there.) That all goes away in a flash when you no longer have said job. The good news is your identity comes from something much greater: You’re a daughter, wife, sister, mom, or friend first. Rest in that and avoid comparing yourself to others.

Photo by Shannon Lee Miller