By Jaclynn Knecht, Career Contessa contributor
Anger, relief and anxiety are just a few of the feelings I had the morning I received my termination notice. Granted, it was from a job whose shelf life had expired many years before—one of my predecessors had called it a “stepping-stone” position—but it was still a shock.
Questions ran through my head: Is this really happening? What do I do now? How will I pay my bills?
It was the last, most important, question that kept repeating through my head. If I didn’t have an income, how would I support myself?
So, I did what I do best: I researched it. And what I found was surprising. Most of the information out there is for professionals who “voluntarily” leave their employment. I didn’t choose this path, it was chosen for me; “assigned” to me, so to speak. Which made me think: What about those of us that are thrust into unemployment? What are the “recommendations” for us to successfully survive being in-between jobs?
Here are a few of my tips for successfully surviving being in-between jobs (voluntarily or not):
Create a daily routine
Not having a desk or an office or a supervisor to report to at a specific time doesn’t mean you should sleep in and relax every day. I find this to be one of the major misconceptions of unemployment. It is as if some people think I’m on vacation when I say I’m “unemployed.”
I don’t sleep until noon. I set an alarm every day, I get up, I check email and social media, I go to the gym, I come home, I shower, and I get back to my search.
I don’t sit around with my feet up, hoping for the phone to ring. My next job isn’t just going to fall into my lap and neither is yours. We need to work on making it happen.
Cut out unnecessary spending
A number of the articles I read, pertaining to people deciding to leave one job in pursuit of another, advise seekers to have at least three to six months’ worth of savings burrowed away. Thankfully, I had been remarkably fiscally responsible throughout most of my career, so I was able to segue into this new phase fairly easily. However, don’t be fooled—establishing and adhering to a budget can be tricky.
After budgeting in necessities like rent, a car payment and insurance, your cellphone bill, utilities and other monthly expenses, figure out where you can comfortably exist. If you realize that there are aspects you need to cut out, do it strategically. For example, if you can live without a daily coffee run (or two), invest in a coffee machine that will allow you to save a few dollars each day. Or, if you have a tendency to eat out for lunch and dinner, start stocking your fridge and cooking a few times a week.
The point isn’t to alter your life in a way that makes you feel stifled, but to make your dollars last for as long as they possibly can. The one aspect about unemployment that nobody can predict is how long it will last, so in order to be prepared for anything that may arise, you should try to save wherever possible.
Don’t close yourself off from fun – or friends
I spent the first six weeks of my unemployment on my couch with my laptop. I applied for every job that I was remotely qualified for, even if I lacked interest. My friends tried, over and over, to get me out of the house, but the shame and embarrassment of what I was going through wouldn’t let me leave that couch.
I cut myself off from civilization for a while. Was I depressed? No, I don’t think so. I would describe it more as “determined.” I was determined to not let this setback affect me, and to get past it before anyone really knew it had happened. Did that work? No. And the only person it hurt was me.
Go out. Leave the house. Drink a glass of wine occasionally. Laugh. Have fun.
If I could impart a little wisdom to those that may be going through the same things that I did: Let your friends help. It will make you feel better. It will make them feel like they are helping, and it really is a win-win for all.
Why am I offering up these tips and tidbits?
Well, I recently came to the realization that being unemployed isn’t actually the end of the world. My life isn’t always going to be like it is right now. This is a phase, it will pass, and when I look back on it, I want to be proud of the way I handled myself and of how I bounced back from this unexpected change of course.
But, more than anything, I want to be proud of the fact that even though I didn’t choose to make this change—it was forced upon me—I worked through it as hard as possible.