Surviving a Job Loss

 

Without a doubt in today’s economy one of the scariest things that can happen is an unexpected job loss.  Unless you’re in the upper levels of management you’re unlikely to know if money isn’t coming in quickly enough and just how bleak the prospects for clients may actually be. 

Don’t beat yourself up.

The fact is that job losses happen to the best of us and we can’t always see them coming.  With the uncertainty of this economy it’s best to imagine the worst and hope for the best.  Even if you believe your job is secure I challenge you to read through this list of simple suggestions I’ve compiled about surviving a job loss.  If this makes you uncomfortable because your debt is high, your savings are low or you just don’t know what you’d do if you lost a job tomorrow then stay tuned for my “Nuclear Meltdown June Budget” series. 

Job Searching

Consider what you’re proficient at, what you’re naturally talented at doing and how you want to spend your time.  Make this not just a list of skills like “proficient at Microsoft Excel” but a strength “I enjoy taking raw information and using Excel as a tool to provide readable reports to assist in managerial decision making.” Consider your preferences and make them known in a positive, productive manner.  “I love the synergy of a team atmosphere but also can get a large volume of orders processed working alone with minimal supervision.  When issues come up I like to know my manager is willing to answer my questions to assure the company is getting the best deal possible.”

Start networking with old co-workers and friends.  This can be as simple as writing an email saying “I was updating my resume and thought about you when we worked on project X together.  How are you doing?  If you have time in the coming week I’d love to catch up with you over coffee!”

Join this site and create a great profile.  Actively search out former co-workers and join networks.  Keep it positive though, no one wants to hear about how your last boss was the biggest jerk in the known universe.

Google every possible version of your name (potential employers will) and manage any negative content that you find. Time to eliminate those photos on My Space from your bachelor party. Sorry.

Call temp agencies in town and in the next major city. Set up interviews and bring your resume.  Show up interview ready as if you’re meeting the owner of the company.  Temp agencies want to know you are ready to see their customers on very short notice.

Plan on performing lots of informational interviews and be prepared to ask for a working interview.  This may be a day long test of how you handle phones if you’re in for a clerical position or reviewing a set of plans if you’re up for an engineering job.  The longer you spend time with a company the better they’re going to get a feel for your personality.  Ask lots of questions and always research the company beforehand.  Even if there’s not a lot out there you make this a selling point in the interview.  If you’re interviewing for a marketing position you may say “the city resources page didn’t have your company listed as a local resource for quality x; I’d love to work with your team to make that happen.”

Get the name and position of each person you meet during an interview.  Write down the company address and get business cards.  Within ONE DAY write each of the major interviewers to thank them for their time and the honest discussion of the position and your talents.  Make sure you spell the company name right. 

Contact former supervisors or teachers and ask for a personalized recommendation letter.  DO NOT forget to send them a personal thank you note for their time.

Drop by your local colleges and check out their course schedules.  Audit a class you want to learn something about and network with other student and the teachers. Develop a proposal for a class the college should offer that you would love to teach. Check out the flyers for inexpensive yoga classes, students who need tutors, $1 beer night and upcoming concerts. Walk around campus and enjoy the beautiful landscaping – it’s free.

Remember that a company doesn’t hire because you need the money or you’re too bored at home playing Donkey Kong in your pajamas.  Show up with a good attitude and demonstrate how you’re going to save or earn the company money. 

Bills

Sit down with all adults in your immediate family and decide what’s necessary to survive. Plan your budget around that.

Keep a positive attitude; it’s easy to get discouraged.

Review any upcoming bills or statements.

Decide what can be paid back over time (like medical bills), put on hold (some student loans) or negotiated (family loans).

Call every company you pay on a regular basis.  Let them know you can no longer afford their service and need to make different arrangements.

This is definitely the time to cut back or eliminate expensive cell phone plans, cable, subscriptions, maid service, lawn service, personal trainers and internet subscriptions (not broadband per se, but World of Warcraft).

Take a good look at your savings and be realistic about how long you will be able to pay the bills.  Now, go back to your bills and make more cuts.

Saving Money

Losing a job, whatever the reason, is stressful.  Don’t become complacent in your jobless existence or you’ll find the money has dwindled to nothing and your options are few. 

When you’re faced with a job loss this is precisely the time to make the incredibly hard cut backs.  Think about this: a coworker I’ll call JC was without a job. Still JC went to Starbucks every day, bought new furniture and started a training program. JC played video games all day and stayed up most of the night. JC did not have a single interview in five months, was on the verge of losing the house and JC’s only priority was buying a hot tub.

Now is the time to think ahead and plan ahead instead of spending money without thinking.

Take inventory of your household needs.  Check the bathroom and find out if you need soap, toilet paper, shampoo, deodorant.  Do you need resume paper, ink for the printer or personalized business cards?  Don’t just rush out and purchase them – find the best deal and shop smarter.

Go through your libraries and cull out books you don’t read, movies you don’t watch and music you’ve already downloaded.  List everything on Amazon, Craigslist or eBay.

Contact an organization and talk to the volunteer coordinator.  Get out and meet people who can see you in action.

Your biggest asset right now is time.  You can spend 30 minutes comparing prices at two grocery stores and save 15% on your food expenditures. You can comb the racks at a thrift shop until you find a suit jacket in your size and good condition, drop it off at the dry cleaner with a coupon and repair that loose button yourself. You can absolutely drive slower to conserve gas and shop at off peak times.  Don’t be like my friend JC and ignore the value of time – JC managed to run a red light, get caught, and spent $500 on the ticket and traffic school.

Saving Money on Food

I’m certainly no expert on cheap eating but there are a few strategies I’d like to share.  First is that you must know what you have and what you like to eat.  It’s not use buying a 30 pound bag of beans if you hate them and throw the entire thing away the second you get a new job.

Take inventory of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Without even looking I can tell you I have over 10 cans of tuna, four boxes of cereal and six brownie mixes in my pantry plus three loaves of bread and two gallons of milk in the freezer.  Cereal and milk for breakfast, tuna sandwiches for lunch and brownies for dinner?  I’d survive.  The first step is to know what you have.

Google “meals under $15” and start bookmarking recipes. 

Find ways to substitute. Burritos are just as tasty without chicken and you can live with off-brand mac n’ cheese.

Use the amazing power of the internet to find cheaper ways to do everything, including cooking.  You’ve got a ton of pasta?  Research the best cheese and milk to make better than Kraft mac n’ cheese and make it in bulk. 

If you don’t already have one, buy a used chest freezer on Craigslist.  Fill it with milk jugs filled with water and start stocking up on food when it’s a great deal.

Check the bread store for markdowns on bread and snacks. 

Pick up vegetables at Angel Food Ministry

Ask family and neighbors for their extra tomatoes, lemons, zucchini and oranges. 

Use this list to determine what fruits and vegetables are in season and stick with those.

Call your grocery store and ask when they do regular markdowns on dairy, bread and meat.  Shop during those times and find items you can freeze or eat quickly.

Use this site to learn how to combine coupons, money back offers and sales to buy the food and household products you need at the drug store for pennies.

Making Money on the side

Take inventory of your closets and garage.  Note clothes you’ll NEED to buy (summer shorts for the kids or an interview suit) and pull out the ones that don’t fit or are not worn.  Clean those clothes up and take them to consignment or sell on eBay

A correlation to cutting back on goods and services you no longer find necessary when you’re in a period of unemployment is finding a way to do those tasks yourself and perhaps make a little money.  

If you’re now cutting your own lawn why not let your neighbors know you’ll do theirs every Saturday for the summer for a set price.  You’re local, they know where to find you if you don’t make it over and it frees up their time and probably a little money if they hire out like you did.

If your decision to sell unused items on eBay really takes off, offer to sell your friend’s items for a percent of the selling price. Again, they should know and trust you’re not going to take their item and leave town plus you have a financial incentive to make sure they get the highest possible offer.

Do you have a trailer you can’t sell?  Advertise at Ikea or Home Depot that you’re available for hire out, an hour at a time, to transport those bulky items home.  Many people, me included, can’t take advantage of deals on furniture or appliances without paying huge delivery charges.

What else am I forgetting? Please add your suggestions in the comments section!

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