Losing Your Job: The Survivors’ Guide

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Losing your job can be a traumatic event for a range of financial and personal reasons. Still, unfortunately, it’s becoming an ever more common event in light of the economic shocks surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic. While there’s often nothing you can do if your company isn’t in a position to keep you employed, that doesn’t mean you can’t get straight back on your feet again as quickly as possible. So let’s look at a few ways you can make getting back into the saddle as quick and easy as possible.

Take the Help You Need

The first reaction that many people have to being made redundant is to be angry or determined to get straight back into work without taking the time to make sure that they’ve explored all their options. While it’s great to want to get back to work as soon as possible, you can’t expect instant results, which means it’s always good to get yourself into a comfortable financial position until you’re safely back in a job. In addition, job seekers are entitled to various benefits that they have earned through their years of service in the workforce and that you should look into to shore up your accounts.

Statutory redundancy pay: If you had been working for your employer for more than two years when you are made redundant, you are entitled to statutory redundancy pay. While the amount you receive will depend on your age and status as an employee, you should make sure you have received what you are due.

Jobseekers’ Allowance: The major state benefit you can claim while you’re looking for a new job is Jobseekers’ Allowance. Anyone who is actively looking for work can claim this benefit. The amount you will receive is based on a calculation that considers your age, your previous income, and the number of National Insurance payments you have made so far.

Housing Benefit: While you are unemployed, you may still be paying rent or a mortgage, which you’ll need to keep a roof over your head. To help with this, you can claim aid from your local council, which can also help you with your council tax bill in some circumstances.

Universal Credit: Universal Credit is the new Government scheme that combines various tax credits into one payment, so you don’t have to do as much administration work. Through this scheme, you can apply for working tax credits or child tax credits to help you keep paying for the essentials, though if you already receive credits, you’ll need to make a new application for the extra ones.

Make Sure You Help Yourself

In the rush to make sure you are financially secure and find yourself a new position, it’s often easy to forget to take care of yourself. In the first instance, it’s a good idea to surround yourself with the emotional support of family and friends. Getting a job in a period of economic uncertainty can sometimes take a while, and it’s no good if you push yourself too hard and succumb to feelings of helplessness or powerlessness because you’ve set yourself on an unsustainable path. One of the best things you can do is set yourself up a daily routine so that you don’t lose track of yourself during that time. When you are unemployed, your job is to find a job, so treat each day as a working day and be at your desk by 9 am. But, equally, you need to give yourself time to have lunch breaks and to clock off at a reasonable time so that you don’t burn yourself out.

If you’re struggling financially due to your unemployment, it’s important to make good long term decisions rather than panicking and getting yourself into trouble. Many short term lenders and payday lenders advertise themselves as being able to help during periods of unemployment, but relying on short term finance rather than balanced books is not a viable long term strategy. There is certainly a place for short term finance, and it’s definitely appropriate in some cases where another paycheck is coming soon, but it shouldn’t be a part of a long term strategy. If you are having trouble with debt, or you think you may soon begin to spiral into a debt problem, it’s important that you get in touch with a financial advisor or a debt support charity as soon as possible. Often, you can make some simple changes to your finances to make them sustainable even if you’re in a tight spot, so never be afraid to ask for help.

Re-invent Yourself

One of the great opportunities you can grab as you look for your next job is the chance to re-think your career and what you’d like to do next. This may be the first time in many years where you have the opportunity to train or re-train to add new skills to your arsenal or to go down a completely new path within the work you already do. One of the first things you can do is update your CV to make sure you’ve done your career to date the justice it deserves. This means adding all the experience you have, no matter how small, that may be considered interesting or useful to an employer. It also pays to think laterally about your CV: While you may have actually done one job, could what you did and how you did it be useful information for another job that you might also like? There’s no reason you have to go straight back into an identical job to the one you just left, and this could be an opportunity for you to broaden your horizons a bit.

Another way you can pivot away from your old career path is to join a recruitment agency. Of course, it’s often a good idea to join one anyway because it never hurts to have other people helping you on the job hunt. Still, a recruiter can also help you discover both tried and tested and unfamiliar avenues for you to ply your skills. A recruiter is literally a person whose job is to get you a job, and they earn their pay that way, so it’s in their interest to find different and creative ways of applying your talents to the job market in ways you may not have considered. They’ll also make your case to any prospective employers when it comes to your application, so you’ll have lots of support on that side of things too.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Once you’ve decided on a career trajectory and got your CV into working order, the next step is to start looking for a job. The temptation is to attack this task straight out of the blocks, applying for anything and everything that’s out there, but the reality is that it can take between three and six months to find a job, so you’ll have to pace yourself to avoid burnout. Rather than attacking the jobs market at full throttle, a more slowly paced and considered search can be much more effective on a success per application basis whilst also minimising the application fatigue. It’s a good idea to only apply for jobs within your skill range, for example, which might sound obvious, but it’s important not to discount the idea of taking a job that’s a pay level or an experience level below where you are used to be. Not only could the gap in your CV be more damaging to your career prospects than the lower-level job, but it might also actually provide you with a boost that sends your career off in a new direction. While, of course, the pay is important, the networks you make and the things you learn while on the job are also invaluable, so don’t discount them as a perk of your new job.

Another good idea is to lean on your existing networks, whether that’s putting in a few phone calls or using a social networking site like Facebook or LinkedIn because they already know and trust you within your industry. One of the things that consistently holds people back in networking is being afraid to say they’re looking for a job, but it never hurts to ask, and you may even come across jobs that haven’t been advertised yet. This also applies to getting in touch with likely candidate companies proactively, even if they aren’t specifically hiring your role. The hiring process is long and complicated, and often it can take several weeks or even months to go from a company deciding to fill a role and the role actually being put on job sites or in newspapers. Hence, it never hurts to get in touch. In addition, you’ll know in your own industry which the big employers are, and your getting in touch will save them all that money on advertisements or recruiters, so there’s a good chance you’ll be in the front running for the job if they hadn’t got round to promoting it yet.

A third thing that is important to get right is your interview technique. Depending on how long you have been in the workforce, it might have been many years since your last interview, or it may be that you haven’t actually carried out many interviews before, so you might be a little rusty. While your personal skills may be good, that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be good at talking about your job if you don’t do it often, so practising with friends and family or a recruiter is a good idea. Construct a story or narrative that you can talk through that touches on all the points you think are important for the job and get used to saying it. That way, you won’t be left with nothing to say if the interviewer asks you questions.

What Next?

If you’re measured and patient, you’ve buffed up your CV and engaged the help of a recruiter, and you’ve been smart about your application strategy. Hopefully, it won’t take you too long to find your next position. But what do you do next? Going back to work can be stressful, especially if you’ve had a long absence from the workforce, so it’s important you can settle in comfortably without feeling overwhelmed. Here are a few tips to help you.

First of all, it’s important to ask questions and listen to the answers. Even if you’ve worked in your industry for thirty years, every company is different and has different approaches to the same tasks, so you’ll need to adapt to their way of working. That’s not to say you can’t bring your old skills into the job with you, and one of the perks of hiring externally is that the new employee brings fresh ideas into the business, but it’s a good idea to learn when to go with the flow and when to break the mould. It’s also a good idea to find out if there are any grants in place to help you get back to work after a longer period of absence, especially if you have been claiming one or more benefits. Things like the Back to Work grant are designed to give you a little extra boost to support you coming off benefits and re-entering paid work and can make it slightly easier for you.

Don’t Give Up

No matter your age or employment status, unemployment is never a death sentence. As we enter another period of economic uncertainty, more people will inevitably become unemployed or underemployed. Having a strategy to get yourself back on track is the best way to avoid feeling swamped or helpless. If you see this time less as a disaster and more as an opportunity to make positive changes that you don’t usually get, you cannot only survive losing your job but also take this chance to thrive instead.