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9 Ways to Stay Sane When You’re Unemployed

Being unemployed sucks. I know, I’ve been there. The first few days of sleeping in and watching Judge Judy while everyone you know is slaving away at their desks is great. But once the novelty wears off, you start to panic. You haven’t changed out of your sweatpants for two days. You realize your emergency fund won’t last forever. The conversations between you and your dog are getting deeper. The realities of unemployment are starting to get REAL.

I made the mistake of bumming around while I was unemployed. I engaged in some passive job hunting but it wasn’t enough to keep my mind busy and I started to feel like I was on crazy pills (plus you can only write so many cover letters in a day).

The key is to keep your brain occupied while staying productive. Here are nine ways to accomplish that:

1. Stay on the same schedule
For the first day or two of unemployment life, give yourself a break and treat it like the weekend. Sleep in, watch reruns, eat pizza for breakfast. But after your makeshift weekend, it’s Monday morning and you’re back on the clock. If you were a 9 to 5’er in your previous life, wake up like you normally would and start getting ready for your day. Once you’re presentable start tackling any of the below.

2. Set up informational interviews
People love talking about themselves so give someone in an organization you want to work for that opportunity. Scour company websites and LinkedIn for people you want to connect with and send them an email inviting them out for coffee. Let them know that their position intrigues you and you want to learn more about what they do. Although it may not result in a job offer, it’s a great networking opportunity and gives you a chance to new careers you never even knew existed.

3. Jazz up your resume and LinkedIn profile
Give your resume a new zest for life and spend time updating your CV. If your resume has been collecting dust for a couple of years, it could probably use a makeover. Don’t neglect your LinkedIn profile either – polish up your skills and add more oomph to your job descriptions.

4. Invest in yourself
You’ve freed up 9+ hours of your day to use at your leisure. While staying committed on the job hunt is ideal, you’ll want to spend some of that time focusing on YOU. Sign up for that spin class that was only available at 10AM. Take an online course on a topic that interests you or sign up for a Toastmasters class to work on your speaking skills.

5. Take a part-time gig
You can still earn some unemployment benefits while working part-time. Whether the job you take is related to your career or not, working and earning can really help you stay out of the unemployment funk. Consider consulting work or temping at an office.

6. Volunteer
Volunteering is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your time. Give back to the community by offering your skills, whether it’s mentoring young adults or designing a new website for a non-profit. Volunteering is also a great way to network with people both in and outside of your industry.

7. Reconnect with your network and let people know you’re looking
No one will know you’re looking for a job unless you tell them. A few weeks ago a graphic designer friend sent out an email to his network letting everyone know he was back on the job hunt. The other day another friend of mine mentioned he was looking for a designer for his printing business. Guess who I immediately thought of and referred? Most people are happy to refer you to job opportunities but they can’t do that unless they know you’re looking.

8. Work on that business plan
As scary as it is, getting fired has been the best thing that has happened to many entrepreneurs. That corporate safety net is gone and being unemployed gives you the time and energy to work on your business plan. If you have the itch, now’s the time to scratch it!

9. Slash your budget
Money anxiety skyrockets when you’re unemployed. If you’re not bringing money in, that emergency fund can only last so long. To keep it going for as long as possible, you need to reduce your expenses. Ask yourself: what can you cut back on? You need to eat but maybe that means no more restaurant outings. You need a roof over your head but maybe you can move back home with your parents and sublet your apartment until you get back on your feet (don’t forget to get the green light from your landlord first). See where you can decrease your spending and stick to your new budget until you can get back on your feet.

How did you keep yourself busy when you were unemployed?

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12 Comments

  • Reply Chonce March 9, 2015 at 10:47 am

    These are great tips since being unemployed can start to feel a little rough after a while. When I was in between jobs after graduating college I started off catching up on some rest then I became super bored and anxious since I don’t think I’m cut out to stay at home all day. I started getting involved with an employment coaching agency and set up a few mock interviews and met with a mentor. Then I got a routine going where I basically became a full time job seeker working on my resume and cover letter and applying to several jobs each day. At the time it kept me busy and really paid off because I found a job 3 or 4 weeks later.
    Chonce recently posted…My $0 Budgets Challenge ResultsMy Profile

    • Reply Christine March 10, 2015 at 9:31 am

      Mock interviews are so beneficial especially if you haven’t been on one in a while. I remember when I had my first interview after a few years, I was so rusty and realized how I could have benefited from some practice. Great tip!

  • Reply Melanie @ Dear Debt March 9, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    These are great tips. I think meeting people and networking are so important! Also, doing whatever it takes to get by, even if it’s things you don’t want to do. On another note….that rabbit in the photo is creepy! lol
    Melanie @ Dear Debt recently posted…Such is LifeMy Profile

    • Reply Christine March 10, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Hey, poor guy is just looking for a break 😉

      Some people refuse to get a job they may not want because they feel it’s beneath them. Your job isn’t your identity, especially one to hold you in between.

  • Reply Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet March 9, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    The recent downturn in the oil industry has a lot of people here in Calgary unemployed. I think it’s best to network with anyone you can and be open as possible to finding a new position. A lot of the postings are not even advertised and I think it’s true when they say “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”
    Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet recently posted…5 Ways You Overspend in RestaurantsMy Profile

    • Reply Christine March 10, 2015 at 9:39 am

      Many postings are advertised only for formalities but most companies prefer to hire internally or through referrals. Check out LinkedIn – some postings have over 200+ applicants! No one has time to go through each and every one. You need to find any way to set yourself apart and referrals definitely help.

  • Reply Aleksandra Sagan March 11, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    I’ve luckily never been unemployed (yet).

    The only thing I would add to this list – and you sort of cover it with taking a part-time gig – is to really focus on your side hustle so you can keep bringing in some income and not demolish your emergency fund or go into debt. Of course, you would still have to have a barebones budget, but it could be the difference between having to dip into an emergency fund or not.
    Aleksandra Sagan recently posted…A thank you letter to my student loansMy Profile

    • Reply Christine March 12, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      You definitely need to focus on bringing in some income. Every little bit helps when you’re unemployed! It could be as simple as selling stuff you don’t need on Craigslist or doing website reviews on UserTesting. I’ve done a couple already and it’s such easy money!

  • Reply Meg Lund September 23, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    I have recently found myself unemployed, and I have to tell you, it’s not easy. You suggest, however, to use the time to volunteer, which I really appreciated. I think the hardest part about unemployment is because I am sitting at home thinking about myself and my situation, and I can feel myself becoming more and more self-interested and negative. That being said, volunteering will give me some time to get out of myself and my situation and help other people. I really think that that is the most positive and beneficial thing you can do. I will definitely start doing it; thank you for sharing!

  • Reply Angela Waterford January 25, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    My husband was recently out of work for about a month. He had a really hard time at first because he felt like he needed to be doing something useful. After a couple of weeks he started working on his resume and LinkedIn page, as is suggested in this article. It was exactly what he needed because he suddenly had something to focus on again!

  • Reply Hazel Owens April 6, 2016 at 10:53 am

    I’ve been unemployed a few times in my life, and I can confirm that it can be a scary time. I like your advice to reconnect with your network and tell people that you’re looking for work. Like you said, no one’s going to know you’re job searching if you don’t tell them. Whether you reconnect with your old coworkers or join some career placement agency, getting your name and resume out there is essential to finding another job. Thanks for the article.

    • Reply Christine April 6, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      You never know who might have or know of a position that’s a good fit for you. It’s super important to make your intentions known for that reason 🙂

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