In January 2008, 78.3 million Americans had jobs. By November, that was down to 76.7 million people and shrinking fast. The 3.9 million who were unemployed in 2007 have seen their ranks grow by 41%, meaning that a lot of people are unemployed now that haven’t been in the recent past. Those who have been there before probably know a thing or two about how to survive the situation, but the newcomers likely don’t.
This series is written for those of you who have recently left the middle class with what feels like a bootprint on your ass.
I will start today with a brief overview of some of the skills I have learned during the roughly five years that I have been marginally employed. During this time I have done a wide variety of things to make money, including: bartending, consulting to nonprofits, consulting as an engineer, reporting, selling my own novel, selling other people’s novels, selling Amish made furniture, designing furniture, carpentry, masonry, and professional driving. I’m not proud – but I like getting paid. But that’s not the kind of skills you need to survive lengthy unemployment.
First off, don’t panic.
More than anything, you have to keep your eyes open and sharp. Depression will threaten that more than anything, so keeping your attitude up will be your top goal. Learn how to check in with yourself – how are ya doin’? Make sure you know the answer straight up. Exercise regularly, both in body and mind. Keep a regular schedule and sharpen your skills by reading up in your chosen field.
With your eyes wide open for opportunities, the most important thing you can do is stay active and healthy. Get out and constantly network with people you don’t even know, just getting to know them. You never know where a lead might take you as you ask for new leads. People are often interested in helping someone like you who could use a break, so remember who they are and remember your great Karmic debt to the universe when you finally land something.
Try to keep up with friends, even if their talk of vacations and recent purchases eats at you – let them know cheerfully that you know how to survive without all that stuff. Be proud of your ability to keep it together under stress, because that which doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.
Specifically, the skills you’ll have to develop fall into broad categories for the next posts:
- Eat well – lentils and rice can be dinner for less than $0.50 a serving.
- Get up every day – a routine separates you from the unemployable
- Have a hobby – make something you are proud of, like a blog, a craft, or skill
- Eating out – it’s good to get out, but you have to watch it.
- Drinking and drugs – both can kill you.
- Smoking – cut it out or at least cut down
- Lottery – you’re not getting out of this in one easy step.
- The State – unemployment benefits might be yours.
- Start your own biz – consulting and other work takes little startup.
- Agencies – temp gigs have gotten many people by.
- Networking – constantly talk to people just to know what’s going on.
- Small gigs – opportunities are everywhere if you keep moving.
- Resumes – you’ll need many, some of which are “dumbed down”.
- Free work – watch it, but it can lead to a paid gig.
Sharing & Paring Expenses:
- Home – a roommate or a new commitment can help
- Car – you may not need one of your own
- Food – cooking together can save a lot
The Dark Side
- Priorities – in a pinch, know which bill you pay first
- Banks – they have their schedules, and you’ll have to know them
- Collections – know the laws, know your rights.
- Creditors – tell them before you miss a payment.
Before I get into these topics, I’d love for everyone who has been through this to offer their suggestions. It’s easy enough to do it anonymously in the comments, and I will not delete any genuine comments on my blog. Thank you for reading, and I look forward to what you have to say.