Unemployment Survival Guide

No one plans to get canned, but in this climate it’s foolish not to come up with a contingency plan if your boss decides to give you a permanent long weekend.

Krystal at Moneyville, who found herself jobless earlier this year, offers up her advice for treading water until you once again find gainful employment.

Among her tips are to apply for unemployment as soon as possible, then plan out a workday-like job-hunting schedule to ensure you don’t waste time moping or watching The Price is Right. It will most likely be someone who know who gives you your next job, so networking is also key.

If you’re currently or recently jobless, what would you add to Krystal’s recommendations?

8 ways to survive unemployment [Moneyville]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Warning: If you are from the U.S., this guide only has 7 ways to survive unemployment (unless method #8 is “be Canadian.”)

  2. SimplyStating says:

    Also, most places have a Workforce set up where you can go there and they have listings of things locally you could apply for. However, like the article stated it does help to have friends/ex-coworkers in high places for future job opportunities. The longer you remain unemployed the harder it can be to find a suitable employer.

    • TasteyCat says:

      Ex-coworkers can also be a hindrance. If the quality of your work was subpar or you had too much attitude (even if just by burning bridges as you were on your way out), and you want to be rehired, your only hope is that everybody who remembers you is eliminated.

  3. EdnasEdibles says:

    It is so true to not waste your time applying for jobs you would never normally want. It’s tempting because you want a job but those are the folks who call back and then I get all stressed out about working at a place that is not in the industry I want or one that does not have remotely the corporate culture that I’d want to work in.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I think you need to focus on your industry first, and expand as it becomes more bleak.

  4. WickedCrispy says:

    Don’t get unemployed in CA. The system is so backed up it will be 6 months before you see your first check, if at all. The phone system takes days to get through and any little discrepancy seen by the EDD is an automatic disqualification of benefits, or at least an excuse to put your benefits on hold for months until you can have a phone meeting.

    • Aennan says:

      I’d say Georgia is the flip side to CA. If they can find a way to auto-process a claim to start benefits sooner (and not have to hold a hearing) they will. I’m not complaining.

    • veronykah says:

      I didn’t have that experience at all, either when I first filed or when I refiled. I had my first check within weeks.
      You are 100% correct about trying to get through on the phone though, don’t even bother.
      I’ve had a discrepancy in who I listed as a current employer but EDD called me immediately and gave me a REAL phone number to call back to talk to someone. I kept that number for future issues…
      In short, its been pretty simple. Other than refiling requires you to refill out ALL the same forms that you filled out the first time, not simply update them.

    • Mom says:

      Never had that problem. Everything always sped through, and I saw my first check practically before I filed. Of course, you have to do everything online, not by phone. Phone is useless.

  5. UltimateOutsider says:

    While it’s true that having connections will give you the best chances, people do still get hired through traditional channels… and most people are TERRIBLE at writing resumes. Seriously, spend some time really thinking about what you want your resume to say about yourself, and think, “Would I get bored/confused/angry if I were the one trying to read this resume?”

    • EdnasEdibles says:

      Agree about the resumes. Send it to a few friends in your industry or HR if you know of anyone who works in HR. Don’t use all of the suggestions because some will be crap but if the same thing keeps getting repeated, it’s probably true.

  6. IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

    All of these seem a bit obvious, nothing blew my mind.
    Networking is a big one. I really like LinkedIn for that, and in your job search through their site, when you see a job you like there’s a banner up top that tells you who in your contacts may be connected to that company.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Here’s a suggestion I heard from someone about using LinkedIn– make yourself useful in your field by going into the Questions section and answering one question a day in your area of expertise (or at least participate in appropriate conversations).

  7. Sarcastico says:

    The first step begins long before the paycheck ends. Spend your entire working life planning for the job-free times. Being without a job is inevitable for most people. You save and plan for retirement. Save and plan for being without a job. Spend some time, maybe a weekend a month, and live like you don’t have a dime. Eat what’s in the cupboard. Turn the heat way down or the AC way up. Conserve resources and start thinking like someone who doesn’t have a source of funds coming in. Then plan what you can do as an employed person to have resources to meet those inevitable time frames. Gradually lengthen from a weekend a month to a week a month to live like an unemployed person [except, if you are employed, keep going to work but make it like you are interviewing for jobs, networking, working temp to pick up skills, etc.] The key is to already have the mindset of someone totally on their own so when it does happen, you have the mindset and skills of survival, not the shell shock of “I never thought it would happen to me. What do I do now?”

    This is akin to being on military reserve. Once a month you train for a weekend to be a soldier. For two weeks a year, you train as a soldier so if and when your unit is called up, you are ready.

    • veronykah says:

      I am in total agreement with you. I freelance and bartend, and the cash flow is NEVER guaranteed but I never stress about money, why? I save, a lot. So when I get fired, or quit or its just a bad week or month it doesn’t ruin me.
      Why other people don’t do this is beyond me. I know people who KNOW they will have slow periods during the year and do absolutely nothing. Makes it very hard for me to feel bad for them when they start whining about not having money and freaking out about rent.

    • wackydan says:


      Live well within your means sums it up nicely. Case in point:

      We bought a house for $142 that was in need of repair, but should have had full value of $170K+… The bank told us that we were approved for $350k… WTF?

      We didn’t furnish the house right away, nor rush into fixing everything… Taken our time and done it all via cash.

      Both cars are paid off… My income has increase from about 60k to 115k since 2004 and we are pretty happy to be saving money and not upgrading to a bigger house.

      I was laid off for 8 months… had enough money in the bank that I wasn’t sweating it… including paying for COBRA. 8 months later I’m re-employed, having just enjoyed (MOSTLY) that 8 months off with a few vacations and a lot of “Me” time. My daughter was born during that time, and if not for being wise with my money, our situation could have been far different.

      Spending is a choice and I find that many “hard workers” aren’t really working that hard… they just find work hard to do… :) The real hard workers, the real professionals are the ones that even if laid off find themselves back in the saddle sooner or later while the “work is hard and unfair” people find themselves laid off seemingly forever. Too F’ing bad.

      • flyingwolf says:

        I wish I could find a job paying me 115k a year.
        My last 2 jobs (same extremely specialized field) for the past 6 years has paid me no more than 32k a year.
        It is simply not possible to have a family and a home (rent) and still save money when bringing in only 2400 a month.

        • wackydan says:

          Wolf… What the heck field are you in? I’ve known a lot a people who invested heavily in a degree or specialized field that can’t find good work…

          Also… Where do you live? I know having a family makes it difficult to move, but I couldn’t make but a 1/4 of my income in my home town, and that is why I left and moved around from opportunity to opportunity. If you can’t moveout of a dead end town, you’re not going to get ahead.

          • the_wiggle says:

            If you can’t moveout of a dead end town, you’re not going to get ahead.

            Ultimate truth this. Nothing like circling the drain.

  8. david0mp says:

    Unfortunately method #1 may be impossible for some companies who are trying to avoid wrongful termination lawsuits.

  9. qbubbles says:

    That dude was at the Stewbert Rally. I know. I snapped a pic, too.

  10. whitecat says:

    Six weeks and she thinks she’s qualified to give advice on how to survive? Feh. She wasn’t surviving, she was taking a vacation. Try 22 months being jobless and get back to me.

    My first piece of advice, after applying for benefits, would be to create a budget. Find out the amount of your monthly award and spend some time paring your expenses to fit. Because I did this right away, I haven’t missed a payment and my credit remains excellent. Then figure out what you’ll do when benefits run out. Think about what you can sell to survive. Being terrified of being homeless is not productive. Figuring out how long you can hang on before you sell the house or break the lease, and what you will do then, is.

    Get used to rejection. It may be months before one of those hundreds of resumes you send out gets you so much as an email or phone call. Actual interviews are so rare as to be cause for wild celebration. Don’t take it personally. Remind yourself constantly that there are millions of well-qualified, intelligent people out there in the same boat. It’s probably not your fault you’re unemployed.

    Try to be patient with people who give you useless but well-meaning advice. “Have you tried freelancing?”, heard for the twentieth time, can make you want to scream. (Gosh, why didn’t I think of that? Oh wait. I did.)

    Find something reasonably inexpensive to do with your time other than looking for work, something that gives you a sense of accomplishment (because fruitlessly looking for work won’t). Paint your kitchen, clean out your closets, start a garden, volunteer, start a blog, write a novel, learn to cook, take a road trip and visit friends

    Something I still haven’t found out how to do: deal with privileged assholes in interviews who only want to talk about how long you’ve been out of work, rather than how well you can do the job you’re there to talk about. Like I really need to be reminded it’s been a f’ing long time, and as though the real reason it’s been so long isn’t because privileged assholes like you are not hiring more people. The only way to deal with something like this is to remember that you are probably better off not working for such privileged assholes.

    • ARP says:

      Great practical advice, although you got a little bitter towards the end. I’m sure its frustrating, but you have to not let it get to you. Interviewers can see the rage, even if you try to hide it.

      • b52doc says:

        I have to agree on the rejection part. I have a friend who is a hiring manager and she tells me that within one day of posting a vacancy she will get 30-40 resumes; growing to over a 100 on the second day. She just looks at the first 10-20 because there is no way she could look and respond to all of them.
        Now it makes sense why I never hear back from the hundreds of resumes I have sent out. Timing is really crucial when looking for a job now. An RSS job search feed from indeed.com helps out a bit.

      • whitecat says:

        I reserve my rage for interviewers who enrage me. So far there’s been one, and the rage did not kick in until later. I can maintain my composure and professionalism during the interview, and I did. I walked out of there shaken and feeling ambushed, but I did maintain.

        An hour spent talking about the job, the company, and my qualifications? Great! That’s what I’m there for. An hour being lectured by an oblivious overprivileged asshole about how long I’ve been unemployed? Counterproductive, cruel, rude, unnecessary, a waste of everyone’s time, and an ostentatious exhibition of terminal cluelessness.

        Thank Maude I didn’t get that job.

    • shepd says:

      Canadian unemployment (which is what this article is about) may or may not be different from US unemployment in that the EI benefits scale down (quickly) over time. After about 6 months you go from about 50% of your regular pay to 0% (ie: You’re on welfare).

      This ruins any and all budgeting ideas, because welfare will pay for next to nothing. The average family (yes, family) on welfare in Canada lives on $20 a week for food. Definitely, with a budget like that, you can’t afford paint. Even free paint wouldn’t do, since you will still need brushes, drop cloths, etc.

    • richcreamerybutter says:

      I really like the inexpensive fun ideas. Getting out of the house is crucial, and the physical activity will help you restore a positive outlook. Since I tend to cook a lot, I’ll make an afternoon out of perusing an area’s inexpensive ethnic grocery stores. Wandering the aisles of a new market is very relaxing, and I end up spending much less than I would if I limited myself to nearby stores.

      I also agree wholeheartedly that some HR reps and managers leave a lot to be desired in terms of people skills. I tend to work short to long term on-site freelance gigs, so I’ve been to many interviews. Most are fine, but about 15% make me ponder how the person dresses him or herself in the morning. Just think of it this way: do you really want to work for a company that has so little regard for prospective employees?

    • richcreamerybutter says:

      Also on the subject of unprofessional interviewers: a recruiter set me up with an interview for a certain info site a few years ago that was still preparing for launch at the time. They rescheduled my interview no fewer than 5 times. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I arrived at the final scheduled day and time ready in my usual impeccable outfit with portfolio in hand. The interviewer seemed initially confused, then took me into the conference room (he looked to be pretty typically techie startup, so I’ll leave his hairstyle and attire to your imagination). I was barraged with a bunch of buzzwords that were within their 3 month popularity period, and then I proceeded with expounding upon my own background. At the end he said, “I dunno why they had you come in today since the other guy you need to meet with is out” and then, “I’ll have you come in again to meet him.” He briefly introduced me to a few other schlubby dudes, and then the hot but not-too-bright receptionist somehow showed me to the door (bizarre!). When I was on the street 20 minutes later, the recruiter called and said they didn’t think I was “right.” I replied, “the feeling is mutual!” This company enjoyed a brief national TV campaign pushing a product that, to this day, I have no idea how they were able to fund. I’m not sure what happened to them, but assume they disappeared or are repurposing themselves after superior free services took their place in the market.

  11. b52doc says:

    I graduated from college in August and began my job search in April and haven’t found anything yet. I recently found a great resource at the county employment office down the street. Doesn’t cost anything and they offer help with job placement, resume workshops, computers access, mock interviews etc. I also use VA services to try to land something but nothing has come up.
    Just have to treat your job search as a full time job and stay positive. Really easy to get frustrated and depressed with the job market.

  12. Macgyver says:

    The article crap. She was only unemployed for 6 weeks.
    Let me know when she’s been unemployed for 4 years. I bet she won’t be saying be positive anymore.
    And then having to move back in with your parents. And hear them every day asking if you found a job, have you been looking for one. And them saying when I was younger I worked there, and there, and there. Like I give a shit where you used to work.
    They think it’s so easy to get a job, that as soon as you ask for a job, they hire you. This ain’t the old days, that’s not how it work now.

    The thing that sucks is, you can send out all the resumes you want, but these people won’t even so much as call or email you back. And these temp agencies won’t even call you back either.
    And trying to find a job online sucks, almost all of them have lots of spam on them.

    • Mom says:

      Anybody who’s been unemployed for 4 years either doesn’t want to work, or needs to change how they’re looking for work. Whatever they’re doing isn’t working.

      • jesirose says:

        lol agreed. 4 years? That’s when it’s you (the unemployed), not them (the employers)

        • whitecat says:

          Prior to this year, I might have agreed with you. But with my education, background, network, and resume, I still cannot get a job after nearly two years of looking hard, so I no longer think someone out of work for four years is just not trying. In my three decades of working life (which includes several previous recessions), I have never seen anything like this. It has never been this bad.

          People who are not unemployed right now have no business judging those of us who are. You have no idea what it’s like.

          Like I often tell people who bitch about their jobs or think unemployed people just aren’t trying hard enough – wanna trade?

          Didn’t think so.

          • jesirose says:

            I’m not saying he’s not trying. But the problem is still him.

            • whitecat says:

              No, it probably isn’t.

              I’m sure it makes employed people feel more secure to believe that they are working these days because they are exemplary employees. That way, at least they might convince themselves they have some control over the situation.

              But it isn’t true. If you are working today, it is because you are LUCKY. That doesn’t mean you aren’t an exemplary employee – it just means that being exemplary has little to nothing to do with whether you’re working these days. Plenty of exemplary employees are knocking themselves out daily, and have done so for months on end, to find any kind of work. It does not help the situation when smug people who are lucky enough to still be employed either insinuate or outright state that your being unemployed is your own fault.

              It CAN happen to you. One day you’re basking in the glow of your excellent performance review , your recent 17% raise, and your boss’ assurance that your job is completely safe, and the next day IT has locked you out of the system and the security guard is waiting to escort you out the door. The reason is nothing you did – “budget cuts,” they tell you. Sorry, and good luck.

              Just. Like. That.

          • the_wiggle says:

            All the u/e folks I’ve ever known bust their @sses looking for work. Supply & demand is as vicious as ‘nature red in tooth & claw’. Employers know they have the workers by the short hairs & have zero compunction about using said hairs as bungee cords.

            As for a trade? Hell yes even as stupidly destructive as it would be. Plenty of days every week where I have been sh*t on for the umpteenth time by management & the client – yes I do want to trade right out of the call center ghetto. At least the problems & stresses would be different.

        • Macgyver says:

          It’s the employers, not me.
          I mean how the hell can you be looking for someone to fill an entry-level position, but you still want that person to have years of experience. If no one will hire you, how the hell are you gonna get experience.
          At least these people can call you back, and if they don’t have the time, tell you secretary to do it, that what they get paid for.

          And also it’s harder for me cause I have 2 herniated disc. So these companies look at me as an insurance liability.

          • jesirose says:

            A secretary does not get paid to call everyone back, they have actual duties.

            “If no one will hire you, how the hell are you gonna get experience.” – I hear people make this comment all the time, but… obviously people get started in their field somehow. It’s not like no one has gotten hired ever who didn’t have experience, or it wouldn’t be possible for anyone to be working.

            “And also it’s harder for me cause I have 2 herniated disc. So these companies look at me as an insurance liability. ” – Why the FUCK are you telling a potential employer your medical history? It’s none of their damn business! What kind of an idiot offers up this information? My boyfriend had a ruptured disk and he does manual labor, and he’s STILL managed to be steadily employed since the time he hurt his back!

            As someone who has a permanent disability let me tell you this: stop fucking telling potential employers that you’re a damn liability! They can’t ASK you so stop offering it up. I would never tell an employer that I’m disabled until I needed to request reasonable accommodation.

            I get at least one call a week from a recruiter. I didn’t go to college (well I dropped out actually), and at some point, I started at entry level with no experience. IT IS POSSIBLE.

            I know plenty of guys who try real hard to get a girlfriend. Just because they’re trying real hard and failing doesn’t mean all girls are bitches. It may mean there is actually something wrong with what they’re doing.

            • Macgyver says:

              I don’t tell anyone about it. It was a workers comp issue. And that’s public record. So that’s how they know.

            • evnmorlo says:

              With fewer jobs and more people, there will be a substantial number of people unemployed, and for the most part the same people who were unemployed at the start of the recession or who have below-average resumes. Just like there is a certain group of men who won’t have girlfriends since all generations of men are competing for basically one generation of females (and ladies are not known for their generosity to begin with). Sadly both of these are in a negative feedback loop as well, since no one wants to date someone unemployed, and no one wants to hire someone wan from lack of sex.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      “The article crap.”

      Anyone else see a potential interviewing or resume problem here?

  13. sheriadoc says:

    #5 cracks me up. Be selective? If I was, I’d apply to only a job or two every week. That’s not going to get me anywhere. I’ve applied for $10/hour jobs, temporary jobs, internships, jobs at places I really have no interest in working at. And even with NOT being selective, I’ve only gotten four interviews in ten months. Any posting for an entry-level job on Craigslist is getting at least 100 resumes where I’m located. It’s all about getting lucky and emailing your resume at the right moment so the hiring manager actually looks at it. It’s hardly about what your skills and experience are anymore.

    Also, I’d recommend posting your resume on Craigslist. I was actually contacted by an interesting local company, interviewed yesterday, and things are looking sort of hopeful. You’ll get tons of spam garbage, but try it out. You never know.

    And if you pay utility bills, see if you can get any kind of discount or assistance. I’m with PG&E for electricity and get something like a 25% reduction every month on my bill. Every little bit helps.

    • Mom says:

      I hire entry level technical people. The one thing I can say for someone looking for an entry level job is that you have to have something that makes your resume stand out from the other resumes that the hiring manager will get from recent college grads. Out of 100 resumes that I get, 95 will have the list of courses they took, and the job they had at Red Robin. Not surprisingly, everyone with a CS degree takes the same classes. The other 5 will have interesting internships, projects, volunteer work, or all three. Guess which ones get interviews?

      The other advice I would give to an unemployed recent grad, especially in a technical field, is to continue taking classes. The brain gets rusty really fast, and when I start asking technical questions, you want to have things fresh in your head. Continuing to take classes also gives you continuing access to potential project advisers, internships, etc. See the previous paragraph about why this is important…

      • sheriadoc says:

        I’m not in any technical field, but I do list internships I’ve had, as well as volunteer positions I currently hold. Not sure if it really helps me, but I want potential employers to know I’ve not been totally sitting on my butt for the past ten months.

    • wellfleet says:

      When you apply for PT jobs you’re not actually interested in, or that are below your qualification level, you ARE wasting your time and the hiring manager’s time. Why? Because the second you find something more in your field, or better paying, you’ll bolt. Hiring managers know this. It’s expensive to hire and train people for work, so you want to hire people who might stay a while.

      • Bibliovore says:

        Some places will promote from within. An entry-level part-time job for a company that also has positions you’d actually like to be in could become a win-win situation — their initial training of you can stay within the company, and you can be in a much better position to move into your preferred job.

  14. yessongs says:

    Eluta.ca Who cares!!! I’m not Canadian. Not all of us drink beer eat donuts and wear a touke. take off Eh!

    Give us Americans some advice for finding a job.

  15. ThunderRoad says:

    At this point – suicide.

    • Bibliovore says:

      ThunderRoad, I hope you meant that flippantly. Depression is a real risk when you’re feeling helpless about your living situation, and depression can kill. I lost a friend to suicide just last month, in part because he felt unemployable. Don’t let that happen to you.

      If anyone else out there is depressed or suicidal, over job situations or anything else, please seek help — if money is an issue, do a web search for “sliding scale counseling” plus your location, or for support groups in your area. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

      Feeling like you can’t do anything about bad circumstances can cause or worsen depression. If you simply can’t get professional help, do whatever you can to help yourself or at least to bring more enjoyment into your life. That’s harder when you’re depressed, as depression reduces your initiative and lessens your ability to enjoy things. Make yourself go through the motions, and sooner or later you’ll find you’re doing better after all.

      Get in touch with friends, and talk with them and spend time with them. Get whatever exercise you can, which has been proven to help alleviate and prevent depression (the more regular, the better). Do volunteer work for a cause or organization you believe in, and/or for something related to your field. Get out of the house, even if it’s just to walk around the block, and notice something lovely while you’re out, whether it’s clouds, a tree, a sunset, nice architecture, a sweet car, a dog, or your neighbor. Make or fix or clean something that’ll give you a visible result, whether it’s replacing a dead light bulb or washing/folding laundry or drawing a picture or cooking dinner. Each day, find at least one positive thing you can convince yourself to do, and do it.

      Hang in there.

  16. areaman says:

    It sounds like all the other content that’s out there already.

    Also would like to comment on “I spent 6 weeks unemployed.”

    Is that how things work in Canada? Being unemployed for six weeks i a big deal?

  17. BarbiCat says:

    When people mention ‘be frugal’, they always talk about CC payments. Why does no one ever mention downsizing your cable/internet bills?

    I talk to people daily who pay $50 a month on their $250 bill, and are just outraged beyond comprehension when their services are cut off for being 4 months behind in payment. If you’re unemployed and you have no idea when you MIGHT be employed again? A better tip would be to NOT drown yourself in avoidable debt.

  18. JiminyChristmas says:

    If you don’t spend your days in a full-time job hunt, volunteering can be a good use of your time. No matter what you do there is probably some non-profit organization out there that could make use of your skills. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t do well with unlimited unstructured free time, being in a work environment (even if you’re not getting paid) can give some focus to your days and prevent your skills from atrophying.

    Meanwhile, as you continue looking for paid work someone in a position to hire might look kindly on your efforts to stay busy. Also, if you spend a decent amount of time doing skilled volunteer work for a non-profit it could net you another good reference when a potential employer starts looking into your background.

  19. ldavis480 says:

    Hah, that dude in the costume, I saw him on Monday near Yerba Buena area in San Francisco. At the time I had no idea he was Unemployment Man! ;-)

  20. ldavis480 says:

    Hah, that dude in the costume, I saw him on Monday near Yerba Buena area in San Francisco. At the time I had no idea he was Unemployment Man! ;-)

  21. tator says:

    Also, apply for food stamps (SNAP) right away. See if you can get your child’s health insurance through SCHIP. Get a part time job (in US you can earn 25% of your UI check without having it reduced, if you earn over the 25% it is reduced but the reduction will allow your benefits to last longer).

  22. ChandlerInLasVegas says:

    If you are unemployed and your job has been eliminated, like construction and manufacturing, and you aren’t relocating to Mexico or India MOVE to a cheaper place. Find a rent free circumstance and eat it by moving in with friends or relatives. If you have a job that might require travel, send your kids to live with stable relatives. But do not think that you will get a job and everything will return to normal. This is a different Great Recession and the life you had will not be the life you have. If you downsize and if you can retrain or get an advanced degree, do it. You have 99 months at the most to make the best of it and after that YOU WILL BE HOMELESS if you have not prepared.