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By Doreen Martel

Taking steps to get back to work after a layoff

Most of us dread the idea of getting a pink slip telling us that we have been laid off from our job. When the period of unemployment continues, several things begin happening that can feel like we are losing control. Financial issues become one of the primary things we focus on. Combine this with competition for new work and multiple rejections from applications and resumes and the consequences can be devastating.

However, long-term unemployment does not have to lead to a path of destruction; instead, these tips for surviving long-term unemployment can help most people stay on the right track.

Immediately after a layoff

We never want to think that a layoff means we will be out of work for a long period of time. However, it could be helpful to begin immediately after a layoff to make plans to survive being unemployed. Being proactive in these areas can help those who are facing a layoff regardless of how long it lasts.

  1. Apply for benefits – Immediately upon being laid off, apply for unemployment compensation. Generally, the wait for benefits is two to four weeks and could be longer. Check into costs for COBRA or other health insurance that will cover you and family members while you are laid off. Coverage may be more expensive, but a sudden need for care could be catastrophic.
  2. Get your finances in order – One of first things that must be addressed when being laid off is finances. Since unemployment compensation generally covers only about 80 percent of wages, this will be critical, especially for those who tend to live paycheck to paycheck. Take a look at credit cards, revolving charges and all fixed expenses. Identify areas where costs can be cut. This will allow a bit more flexibility in the event that unemployment turns into a long-term problem. Contact creditors immediately, as some may be able to offer reduced payments during unemployment.
  3. Get your resume in order – Most of us never think about our resumes while we are working. Clean up your resume to highlight your skills, education and clearly define what you offer to a potential employer. Request a written letter of recommendation from employers as appropriate.

After the basics are complete

Once the basics are done, it is time to take a hard look at what process must be followed to ensure that your period of unemployment is not wasted. Too frequently, long-term unemployment has a negative impact on mental health and family life. Often, this is due to feelings of inadequacy and can lead to a cycle of doing nothing, which can be difficult to break. There are some simple things that can be done to avoid this potential pitfall associated with long-term unemployment.

  • Skills enhancement – Brushing up on current skills may be more important than ever. It is important to remember that competition in the job market is going to be fierce. For many, this may mean making sure their skills are up-to-date so they can aggressively compete with others seeking employment. Job centers, community colleges and even local high schools may be offering free or low-cost training options. Look into these classes and see which ones may fit into your career goals.
  • Plan for success – Whether you have been unemployed one day, one week, one month or one year, it is important that success is always the final goal. Make a plan to contact potential employers every day while you are laid off. This may involve searching for potential opportunities through local newspapers, job fairs or using the Internet. Do not leave any stone unturned in your attempts to land a new job. Doing this daily also helps keep you focused on the end goal – returning to work.
  • Network – Dig out your phone book or card file and start contacting former employers, social contacts and school contacts. Let people know that you are out of work and looking for new opportunities. Consider attending local networking events that may be offered by local business groups such as Chambers of Commerce or Rotary Clubs.
  • Volunteer your time – Another great way to network and to develop new skills is to get involved in volunteer activities. Not only will volunteering allow you to develop new skills, but you also will be networking with other people. This can help in your job search. Sometimes, volunteering is also beneficial as it reminds us that there are others worse off than we are.

One of the many challenges associated with long-term unemployment is falling into poor daily routines. Many of us lose hope and simply give up looking for work. In the long run, this can create far more problems than the layoff itself.

Get out of the house every day, network as much as possible and do everything you can to make yourself marketable. Long-term unemployment may very well be one of the best things that happened to your career, since it allows you opportunities to develop new skills, new contacts and allows you to consider becoming an entrepreneur.

Do not fall into the common trap of simply giving up and allowing unemployment to define who you are. Take control of yourself during long-term unemployment and view it as a life experience.

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