The Unemployed Battle Plan

26 Sep

Your employer’s business went down the toilet. You were on “the list”. That evil boss finally got his/her chance to send you to the chopping block — whether or not you actually deserved it.

No matter how this happened, you have now joined the 14.9 million people in the United States who are now unemployed. The current employment rate is 9.7 percent, according to federal Bureau of Labor statistics. Yes, you have become a statistic.

I have been in this situation thrice before. Though I’ve managed to survive, I made both wise and outright stupid decisions during those spells. Some made serious impacts on me — for the better and worse — that last today, even though I’ve managed to hold down my current job for more than four years.

The key to surviving unemployment is basically sitting down and mapping out a strategy. It’s a war out there, so it takes seriously hard work and being slick as glass to win it.

1. Chill out.

Losing your income is like being hit in the gut with a sledgehammer, even if you were somewhat expecting it. Suddenly, you don’t know how you’re going to get that next rent check or car payment. Whatever stature you had is gone. It’s sheer terror.

You have to take some time out to process everything. This is especially true if you worked at a high-stress job that was eating you alive and/or with a horrible boss who flat-out screwed you over. Unless you know of an immediate and serious job prospect that you must pursue, spend whatever day of the week U-Day fell through the following weekend on a major chill-out mission.

Preferably, find a place far away from where you used to work. The last thing you need is a reminder of where your life just fell to hell — especially if you live REALLY close to that place. One of my former workplaces was a five-minute drive from my home.

Look up a good, trustworthy, ACCEPTING and NON-JUDGMENTAL friend or relative who lives out-of-town or out-of-state and see if he/she is OK with you crashing on the couch, in the guest room or even on the floor. Make sure your getaway location is not too far away. Yes, an out-of-town trip will cost you, but you can find ways to reduce costs. These include not paying for a hotel, plane tickets or a crazy amount of gas.

Plus, you need to surround yourself with friends and/or family members who love and accept you, even if you have hit rock bottom. You’ll quickly find out you have several “friends” or “close family members” who do the opposite.

I know this will be next to impossible to do, but keep your mind away from the situation as much as you can. Spend quality time outdoors and try to look up free/cheap attractions in the area. Sometimes, a night IN with your friends will be so much more relaxing — and free.

You have to recharge your batteries. You can’t soldier through the unemployment mine field when your emotional energy is non-existent.

2. Treat the day as a work day.

I owe a lot of this section, and quite frankly, a lot of this whole blog, to a dear friend of mine in Florida, one of the few I had left when everything crashed and burned during my time living there. Her expertise was also in human resources 🙂

The following Monday after your sabbatical is time to get to work! Now!

When you’re stuck at home jobless and with no money to do much of anything, it’s oh-so-tempting to sleep until noon, watch daytime TV and pick up a new soap opera addiction. Sure, it’s tempting to dream of a shirtless man with a six-pack saving you from an evil overlord who puts mind-control chips in people’s brains (if that’s the way you swing). But now that your little getaway is over, it’s time to buckle down! Don’t give in!

Every weekday, start out the day as if you were going to work. I’d advise making a “day shift” Monday-Friday schedule, even if you were accustomed to working evenings or nights. You want to work when most businesses are open or when most management — the people who do the hiring — are on duty.

I’d make your shift, something like 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pick whatever works for you, but maintain some sort of day shift schedule.

So, get up around 6 or 7 a.m. Take a shower if you didn’t do it the night before. Eat breakfast and drink your coffee — whatever you would do before work. After that shower, dress in something you would not be ashamed to wear in public. You don’t have to dress to the nines or in something that would fit your old employer’s dress code.

But please don’t wear those sweatpants that look like they’ve been eaten by a coyote. Don’t wear that shirt covered in beer and pizza stains. Make sure your drawers aren’t “holier” than the Ark of the Covenant.

Brush your teeth. Fix your hair. Shave. Put on deodorant, for crying out loud. Ladies, put on your makeup.

You want to want to NOT look like warmed over hell for two main reasons. First, looking better gives you a greater feeling of self-esteem, and you need all the confidence you can get. Also, if you make a job-related phone call — and you need to get to an interview right away — you can spend far less time having to primp and stressing about your appearance. You may not even have that time, period!

3. Assemble your arsenal.

The first thing you have to do before you even attempt to look for a job is make sure you have everything within easy grasp. Spend your first unemployment shift doing this.

Make sure you have all of your “paperwork” ready to go. This includes an updated, well-designed resume, cover letters and any needed work samples. Have multiple copies of everything and back up any electronic files on a disk.

Next, have your interview clothes picked out and ready to go. If you pick an outfit you haven’t worn in a while, make sure it still fits. Wash the clothes and keep them clean! Get any shoes, socks, panty hose (for the ladies), even underwear ready!

Here’s the real kicker: Make sure you have more than one outfit ready! You may have to go to an interview one day to be called for another. You don’t want to get THAT call — and find your nicest outfit in the hamper and reeking.

If this isn’t possible because of finances, then make sure to just wash your single interview outfit as soon as you get home with it.

4. Attack!

Immediately begin hitting the online job boards. You may already know of one for your particular profession that is considered “the go-to place”. Most newspaper’s classified ads are also online. Start blanketing anyone and everyone with resumes. You’ll quickly learn e-mail is often your best friend in this case.

You’ll want to check the usual sites like http://www.monster.com/ , but you’ll need to branch out a bit, especially if numerous people in your occupation have been slammed with layoffs. You have to think, “OK, so what else could I do with the degree/training/skills/etc. I have?”

Also, look toward public service. The federal government has a job site available, as do most state governments.

Keep in mind that you should also find temporary employment. A mall is a good one-stop shop for that. Hit all stores up for applications, take them all to the food court, fill them out and drop them off. Because this is only temporary employment, where earnings will be meager, try not to find a workplace that’s too far away from your home.

5. Lunch break!

Sometime in the middle of your day, take a one-hour breather if you can. Fix yourself a cheap lunch, and just chill out. Maybe you can schedule your lunch break around that soap opera with Heroic Shirtless Man 🙂

The workforce gets a lunch break (most of the time). Your new unemployment job should offer the same.

6. Quitting time!

Once the clock strikes 4 p.m., 5 p.m. — whatever… STOP! Yes, stop. Once again, you have to have breathers. Be a relentless pit bull when it’s time to work, but chill out when the “work day” is done. Most of the time, your “brass types” are home by this point. Only break this rule when you know you can pounce on a serious and immediate job prospect at this time.

7. Work it out. Work it off.

As soon as your work day is done, find some way to work out. You don’t have to run three miles or pay for an expensive gym membership. Just do something that involves physical activity. Walking is easy and effective, and it requires no expensive equipment. I’d also recommend doing this outside if the weather permits.

When I was down and out in Florida, I made it a regular point to go the beach when my unemployed work day was done. It was super-relaxing, and the sand provides great resistance.

I highly recommend recommend working out during your unemployment stint for two reasons. First, it’s a great way to decompress and process when you’re stressed to pieces. Second, you’ll get a self-esteem boost when you inevitably drop a few pounds and have an energy boost.

You’ll notice you look and feel better. Your next potential employer will, too.

8. Rest and repeat.

After your workout, come back to home base and do all you would normally do after work. Cook dinner. Tidy up the house. Watch your favorite prime-time show…

Then get yourself to bed at a reasonable hour. You need all the energy you can get to go at it again. Yes, unless the next day is Saturday or Sunday (Give yourself a weekend like the rest of the working world gets.), you should and MUST hit the pavement again.

* * *

Just like unemployment tempts you to watch Shirtless Man and dysfunctional families break chairs over people’s heads during the day, you get tempted to stay up all night watching bad infomercials and the weather forecast in Nova Scotia.

Unemployment’s inevitable “The world can go to hell” feelings you will experience often sometimes gives you a holier-than-thou attitude. You want to do all the things you could never do when you worked like a slave for your employer that dropped you into a seemingly bottomless pit in the end.

But keep in mind that the pit is only bottomless if you let it become that. You must take control of your destiny. You are going to fight the bloodiest battle of your life. There are going to be days when you want to throw in the towel. You will become frustrated and even plain old “mad as hell”. You will cry — a lot.

Despite how many times you find yourself figuratively shot in the face, you have to pull yourself out of the nasty ditch. Get your guns, reload and fight back. Tie that quick, temporary cloth bandage on your wounds and don’t waste time cleaning mud off yourself. Come back determined and with superhuman strength, like those horror movie villains who never die.

Otherwise, those responsible for your horrible situation win. Don’t give them the white flag they want.

Godspeed, soldier.

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3 Responses to “The Unemployed Battle Plan”

  1. Josh October 24, 2009 at 3:58 pm #

    Excellent advice, Mil! Very well-written! This is applicable to more and more people I know these days. It really saddens me to see the economic state or our country. An economic turnaround must happen soon!

  2. Andrew A. Sailer February 19, 2010 at 9:17 pm #

    Hi, I have been following your articles for a few weeks now and was curious. How do I subscibe to your blog? I would like to follow your updates as they come along!

    • flatbrokegirl February 21, 2010 at 2:52 am #

      Thanks! On the right-hand side, you should see the “Subscribe now…” widget. It’s the sixth one down. Click “sign me up”, and enter your e-mail address. You’ll get a confirmation link in your e-mail, and just click on it! You should be good to go from there!

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