Published 10:20 am on January 06, 2009
Unemployment Survival Guide
By Althea DeBrule
Coping with unemployment—whether expected or unexpected—is never easy. The uncertainty and anxiety associated with job loss ranks as one of the most stressful experiences in life. Oftentimes, the thoughts and emotions surrounding a job loss are so intense that it can feel as if you’ve been kicked in the ribs. As a Christian, you have all of the tools you need to survive unemployment and you don’t have to do it alone (Psalm 23). This survival guide to help you prepare in advance, overcome the stigma of unemployment, maintain the right state of mind, apply for unemployment benefits, thrive while unemployed, and find new job opportunities.
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Preparing in Advance for Unemployment
You may wonder why a section on preparing in advance for unemployment is included in this survival guide; but laying the groundwork in the event you lose your job could make all the difference in how long you remain unemployed and the degree to which it impacts your family and personal situation (Matthew 10:16). Here are four items for your preparation "to-do" list.
1. Prayerfully develop an unemployment contingency plan. Include the actions you will take to minimize the impact of a job loss should it occur (Proverbs 21:5).
2. Review your spending habits and financial status. Take steps now to reduce and/or eliminate expenses and luxuries. Increase or start an emergency fund with enough cash to pay for six to eight months of household expenses in the event you are unemployed (Hebrews 13:5).
3. Determine the impact unemployment will have on your employee benefits. In most cases, this information can be found in your employer's annual summary plan descriptions. Check out COBRA benefits eligibility and research unemployment compensation (Proverbs 18:15).
4. Prepare a job search outline and develop a contact list for networking possibilities (Proverbs 16:3).
Overcoming the Stigma of Unemployment
Losing a job hurts. Before unemployment you had status, security and a promising future. Now, you feel powerless, everything is lost, your world has been turned upside down, and there's no hope for the future (Proverbs 13:12a). You may doubt that any help is possible, and may even have visions of being homeless and bankrupt; but there is good news! Scripture is full of wisdom that will turn your life around when everything seems hopeless as a result of unemployment (Proverbs 13:12b).
1. Talk to God. Make Him your trusted sounding board. He will listen to your fears, concerns and complaints. Cry out to Him and pour out everything that's in your heart, especially the humiliation and shame you feel because of unemployment (Philippians 4:6-7).
2. Have faith and don't doubt. Believe that God can turn the circumstances of your unemployment into opportunities for your benefit. Allow Him to replace disgrace with honor (Romans 8:28).
3. Talk to your family. Get the issues out in the open so you won't feel so helpless or alone. Work at keeping communication channels open throughout the unemployment period (Psalm 49:3).
Maintaining the Right State of Mind
No one takes a job planning to be a victim of unemployment. In most cases, it's not your fault that you are unemployed. When companies make layoff decisions, many good performers lose their jobs as well as poor ones. To keep from becoming embittered or harboring resentment against bosses and co-workers who are still employed, you must maintain the right state of mind.
Scripture tells us that every thought must be taken captive and made obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), and that we are to fill our minds with truth and meditate on things that strengthen and encourage (Philippians 4:8-9). Consider these ways to keep your mind rightly focused during unemployment.
1. Keep a positive attitude and look for sudden good breaks. Liken your circumstances to a glass half-full where unemployment is a temporary situation that allows you to regroup and consider life from a fresh new perspective (Psalm 31:24).
2. Take a few days to rest, seek the Lord and recover from emotional highs and lows you have been experiencing since you were first informed of a job loss. Get plenty of sleep (whatever amount is appropriate for you). This will maintain good health, boost your immune system and diminish the effects of stress (Psalm 16:8-10).
3. Get ready to wait. Perseverance and patience will be needed to keep focused during unemployment (Psalm 5:3).
4. Stay away from negative, pessimistic people or environments that drain your energy and cause your attitude to deteriorate. Reflect on the things you want to accomplish, activities you will undertake to maintain balance, or work on unfinished projects (Psalm 1).
Applying for Unemployment Compensation
Unemployment stops the flow of money you are used to receiving. As a result, the top money-related question you may have is, "How am I going to pay my bills now that I don't have a job?" Unemployment compensation may be the answer if you have been laid off, downsized or have lost your job through no fault of your own.
You are responsible for applying for unemployment compensation in person, by phone or online as soon as possible after being notified of a job loss because it can take two to three weeks to receive your first check. Check your state's unemployment documentation requirements and follow these guidelines.
1. Gather all required documentation such as employment dates and addresses of former employers, and have this information at your fingertips when you file to keep your claim from being delayed.
2. Check your eligibility. The average time you are able to collect unemployment checks is 26 weeks. However, during times of economic slowdown, the limit may be extended to 52 weeks.
3. Once approved, to continue to receive unemployment checks you will have to file a claim either weekly or biweekly and report any earnings you may have received. You will also be required to look for a job and may be asked to prove that you did so.
Thriving While Unemployed
The transition period from job loss to re-employment provides an opportunity to thoroughly evaluate the strategies you use to make life work, and to shift reliance on self to dependence on God. Learning to thrive during periods of unemployment is necessary to give you purpose and bring your God-given purpose, values and life goals into focus. Consider these strategies to help you thrive during unemployment.
1. Use your time wisely (Ecclesiastes 3:1-12). The most valuable resource available is time and it costs nothing. Unemployment gives you a lot of it; so establish a regular action-oriented routine that uses the extra time you now have to strengthen your relationship with God, family and friends, as well as look for a new job. Vary this routine from time to time as you learn to rest and abide in God.
2. Manage your finances (Ecclesiastes 7:12). Financial hardship due to unemployment can be managed effectively if you revise your household budget and negotiate reduced loan and credit card payments until such time as you are able to resume regular ones. If suitable, seek debt counseling to reorder your expenses, avoid foreclosure or find a bankruptcy alternative.
3. Make informed decisions (Proverbs 19:2). Delay making hasty emotional decisions without taking time to consider the facts; but on the other hand don't procrastinate because you fear the unknown or are uncomfortable with the risks you must take.
4. Celebrate small successes (Zechariah 4:10). Rejoice over each accomplishment or small success you achieve.
Finding New Job Opportunities
During unemployment, it's normal to be concerned about whether you will ever work again. However, instead of worrying you can choose to believe that you will find a new job and a better place to work. Try these strategies.
1. Get help from your church as you develop a job search plan. Ask members if they are aware of any job openings. If your church has a career ministry, it may be aware of available job opportunities in the community or the church itself (Proverbs 15:22).
2. Make a list of all of the things you know how to do and evaluate your skills. It has been said that every job requires at least three skills. Look for creative ways that your skills can be combined to form three-skilled job opportunities (Proverbs 22:29).
3. Take advantage of every available free career resource to help with resume preparation, interviewing skills, and other job search aspects. Check your local unemployment office for re-training programs that can prepare you for a new job (Psalm 90:17).
4. Network with people who share similar career interests. Join trade associations or business networking groups related to your career interests. Contact former employers to see if there are job openings that have not yet been made public. It is a well known fact that networking is the best way to find a new job (Proverbs 12:14).
You can make it through unemployment. God has planned a great future for you. He knows this period of unemployment will strengthen and prepare you for greater impact for Him (Jeremiah 29:11).
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