COVID-19 has impacted the lives of people around the world in ways many could never imagine. Those who care passionately about education are scrambling to find ways to keep students engaged during this difficult time. Yet, some organizations in the education sector have furloughed employees or had to close their doors altogether. Making matters worse, unemployment rates continue to rise to record-breaking levels as the virus continues to spread in some areas and slow in others. If you’re unemployed, facing these realities can often leave you feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and hopeless. These are valid responses to the global pandemic, but stay positive because not all hope is lost. While unemployment numbers are still high, there are many things you can do to better yourself and set yourself up for success in the future. Below we provide our top five tips to survive a global crisis when you’re unemployed.
1. Find Out if You Qualify for Unemployment Benefits
The COVID-19 outbreak might have caused you to be unemployed for the first time in your life, so the concept of collecting unemployment benefits may be completely foreign to you. Unemployment benefits come from federally mandated unemployment insurance paid by employers in the event “workers become unemployed through no fault of their own.” Although unemployment insurance is required by the Department of Labor, it’s a joint federal-state program. States are in charge of crafting eligibility criteria, setting benefit amounts, and determining how long one can receive unemployment benefits.
The main purpose of unemployment benefits is to help workers get through a temporary job loss, allowing them to still afford to pay their monthly bills and keep food on the table as they search for a new job. Most states offer 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, though it depends on where you live. In most cases, if you’ve lost a substantial amount of income through no fault of your own, you have a good chance of getting approved for unemployment benefits. Prior to the pandemic this typically included workers who were laid-off from their jobs. Passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided additional stipulations and relief for workers impacted by COVID-19. They include:
- Benefits are not only for those who have involuntarily lost their jobs, but also those who have been furloughed, those who have taken a massive reduction in hours, and those who have quit their jobs for fear of contracting the virus.
- Under the CARES Act, freelancers and other gig economy workers also can apply for unemployment benefits, as well as self-employed people who have an LLC or an S-corp. These groups of workers typically do not qualify for unemployment benefits.
- Unemployment benefits typically do not pay the full amount of wages a person made prior to losing income, creating somewhat of an income gap for recipients. The CARES Act also allows for an additional $600 per week in benefits through the end of July 2020 at the time of this blog.
Changes to unemployment benefits under the CARES Act, although temporary, make it so that almost everyone who has lost income as a result of the coronavirus outbreak qualifies to receive benefits. Yet, some still are not eligible. Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst who specializes in unemployment insurance at the National Employment Law Project, warns, “Individuals who are able to work from home with pay aren’t eligible for benefits, nor are those receiving paid leave from their employer.” Evermore also states that workers whose misconduct or negligence led to job loss are also not eligible for unemployment benefits, even under the CARES Act.
You can find out exactly what type of unemployment you qualify for and get a better idea of a weekly amount by checking your state’s unemployment insurance website. You can also find out specific eligibility requirements and the application process you must follow for your location. Prior to applying, make sure to have your human resources department clarify the company’s policy on contract extensions if you are an independent contractor and their policy on payment terms if you are an hourly or salaried employee.
2. Map Out Your Days & Your Weeks
As welcoming as permanently living in your sweatpants may seem, keeping a regular routine and schedule is one of the best ways to keep your focus so you stay productive. Regardless of exactly how you map out your day, starting early is key. You are more likely to get more done and less likely to grow depressed or inactive. Some considerations when putting together your schedule include:
- What will your new day-to-day look like? Give yourself some time to relax each day and each week, but don’t let it get out of hand so you tank your productivity.
- Communicate your schedule to your spouse, partner, kids, or anyone else who shares your home. Some may be in the same situation, so supporting each other in keeping a regular routine will benefit all, even kids who need to engage in distance learning.
- Set aside at least a couple of hours each day to work on securing employment. Prepare your resume, research companies you want to work for in the education sector, and search for jobs that fit your career goals.
3. Make the Most of Your Free Time
Being unemployed provides you with more free time than you likely want or need. Enjoy a little rest and relaxation, but do your best to make the most of your free time by refreshing and broadening your skills to set yourself up for future success in the education sector. Some things you can do, which may even make your job hunt easier and more successful, include:
- Refresh your resume and update your LinkedIn profile. If you’ve been with the same organization for several years, you probably haven’t had the time to review your resume until now. Add any new skills you’ve acquired to your resume and to your LinkedIn profile. Also, update your LinkedIn profile to notify recruiters that you are back on the job market and open to new opportunities.
- Take on some online freelance work. You can refresh and maintain your skills by finding a reputable site to make money online. Micro job sites such as Fiverr and Upwork are quick, legitimate options. While these sites sometimes offer lower pay, it’s always better to move forward slowly than not at all.
- Volunteer online. You can find endless opportunities to volunteer online, especially in the wake of COVID-19. Idealist.org has long been a favorite site for those seeking a volunteer role, but you are likely to see even more virtual opportunities to get involved as a result of the pandemic. Expect to see new platforms, tools, and apps to connect people with volunteers online. Prior to COVID-19, the Be My Eyes App started offering to match blind and visually impaired users with volunteers via a video call to get help with everyday tasks like reading a recipe or picking out clothes. Now more than ever, there is a need to maintain a person-to-person connection in any (safe) way that we can. If you’re looking for virtual or local opportunities near you, you can find thousands here.
- Engaging in professional development. Rather than being a couch potato and moping around for weeks on end, focus on things you can do to enhance your career post-pandemic. You can build a website, create an online portfolio to showcase your work, read, and attend virtual career fairs to network. Take free online courses to increase your qualifications, get a certification, or complete specific training to help you stand out in the applicant pool.
4. Be Thorough With Your Job Search
You cannot meet the requirements for every open position and you likely aren’t interested in every available job. Pick two to three types of positions that offer the best fit for your knowledge, skills, and experience. Focus is the key to success! Don’t allow the COVID-19 pandemic to discourage you from aggressively searching for jobs. Although it may seem appropriate to sit back and wait, this is not the time to postpone your job hunt. In fact, by developing effective job search strategies now, you’ll be ahead of your peers once the current situation normalizes.
Here are some things that will aid with your job search:
- Connect with organization leaders on LinkedIn. Target those organizations with your resume and LinkedIn profile, and focus your outreach and networking towards those potential employers.
- Practice virtual interview skills. The spread of COVID-19 has interrupted the typical hiring process and caused many companies to conduct virtual interviews. Conducting in-person interviews are not worth putting lives at risk. Learning how to conduct yourself in a virtual interview is crucial to success.
- Create a professional email. An unprofessional email address can ruin your credibility and chances for landing an interview. You wouldn’t wear shorts or flip-flops to a meeting with your bank manager or tell the Board of Directors the suggestive nickname you earned on a college trip to Ibiza. Always keep professionalism in mind, and do not let your personal brand make a terrible impression with an inappropriate email address.
- Search for jobs on TrulyHired.
- Tailor your resume for each position. If a recruiter or hiring manager suspects you are sending out mass applications, you will likely get no response. Take the time to match keywords in the job description for which you are applying to your resume. We’ll even help you cater your professional resume to your dream job! We can match you up with a personal career coach to help you review your resume, provide you with a competitive LinkedIn strategy, interview tips, and more. You can find all of our career services here.
- Connect with recruiters via LinkedIn. When you connect with recruiters on LinkedIn, you keep the door open for future opportunities. Perhaps your dream employer does not currently have an opening, but something may open up in the future. Connecting can put you on a hiring manager’s radar in the same way that attending a virtual job fair does. Although many businesses, venues, and conference halls are temporarily closed, you can still attend online networking events to gain insight into people, careers, and companies.
- Create your profile on WorkMonger and have job matches sent directly to you. Spend 20 minutes to complete an in-depth JobSeeker Profile to tell us about your background, skills, and the intangibles that make you, YOU. WorkMonger will analyze your profile and email you directly when we find a job match. If you are interested in the position, we put you directly in front of the decision-maker. If the Employer is interested in your candidacy, you’ll jump straight to the second round and go through the Employer’s selection process.
5. Don’t Neglect Your Mental Health
Stress and anxiety associated with the spread and/or contraction of COVID-19 is a real concern. Adults and children alike can feel overwhelmed and experience strong emotions. Coping with any stress or anxiety you are feeling will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. Taking care of your mental and physical health and well-being, and that of your family and close friends can help you cope with the stress you might be experiencing. As you help others cope with their stress, you also strengthen your community. Some tips you can follow to cope with COVID-19 related anxiety and depression include:
- Engage in positive self-talk that focuses on what you can do instead of what you cannot do.
- Keep a regular schedule that doesn’t stray too far from your pre-coronavirus routine.
- Avoid watching or reading too much COVID-19 news coverage.
- Reach out for help from a professional if you need it.
Most importantly, try to relax and think positive thoughts. Everyone is in the same boat during this challenging time, and we will get through it together.
Headspace is now offering a full year of Headspace Plus for FREE.* Discover meditation and mindfulness tools to help you feel less stressed, more resilient, and kinder to yourself.