Let's face it. This coronavirus crisis has lasted longer than most of us would have ever anticipated. I'll admit that I thought this was going to be a one- or two-week situation, and then we would go back to "normal". But fast forward, here we are.
Businesses have shut down for several weeks, events have been cancelled indefinitely, and stay-at-home orders are in place all across the country. As a result, many of you may have been laid off or furloughed and are trying to think about what to do next. I've got you covered! Below I share answers some of the questions you may be asking right now, so keep reading!
1. Should I file for unemployment benefits?
Absolutely! File for unemployment benefits as soon as possible. You are eligible for unemployment if you are out of work through no fault of your own, i.e. you have been laid off, furloughed, or your company has closed due to the coronavirus impact. However, each state has its own eligibility requirements and fine print, so you'll want to do your due diligence before filing. CareerOneStop, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, has created a site to make the research and filing for unemployment benefits a lot easier: Find Unemployment Benefits.
Good news is, with the passing of the federal CARES Act (the law from Congress that is making those $1,200 stimulus checks possible), you can get additional and/or extended benefits on top of your state's unemployment program. The CARES Act allows you to get an additional $600 per week for a limited time, and a 13-week extension on unemployment benefits beyond your state's maximum.
And if you didn't have a job with traditional unemployment (think independent contractors and gig workers), you are now eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
2. Should I let my “bill” companies or landlord know that I’ve lost my job and need assistance?
This is not a time to be prideful or bashful. If you need assistance or a grace period with paying your bills or rent, ask for it. Many utility and credit card companies are offering temporary hardship programs, payment plans with longer end dates, or simply delaying payments, so take advantage and get the reprieve that you need. You may simply need to fill out an application to do so. If you can call the customer service lines, that can prove helpful as you have the opportunity to speak with someone directly vs. just filing the application blindly.
3. I don't have a job or a lot of money saved up. How do I handle my finances right now? What should I do with my stimulus check?
First things first, cut back on any unnecessary spending. Luckily, we've been in the house a while, so hopefully you've been able to save on gas, food, and personal care (my nails are beyond struggle mode right now). But now would be a good time to trim the fat in your budget wherever you can. Subscriptions you don't need, the premium TV package, that vacation you were planning to go on. Limit your discretionary spending and focus only on the critical needs.
If you have a hobby or side hustle that you can monetize while you're back on the job search, kick it into high gear. Platforms like Wix, Weebly, WordPress, and Google offer free websites to get you up and running. The extra income will help provide a cushion and bridge the gap until you're able to secure your next full-time job opportunity.
If you get a stimulus check, tax refund, or other windfall of cash, now is NOT the time to pay down debt. I know that goes against conventional wisdom, but hear me out. As previously mentioned, you may be able to get a break on some of your obligations if you contact your lenders and explain your current employment situation. Wouldn't it be a waste for you to pay off your credit cards right now, only to run the balances back up due to lack of income? Save those extra dollars you receive as you may need them to live on as it may take time to find a job.
4. Julia, companies are FIRING, not hiring. How do I even find a job right now? How do I approach my job search at a time like this?
Not ALL companies are downsizing or laying off workers during this crisis. In my last article, "How To Thrive As A Job-Seeker In Today's Job Market", I shared a list of industries that are hiring during this crisis including remote communications and online learning. So you CAN get back into the workforce! But how do you get started?
First, take a minute to determine if you are in urgent need to just get a job (ANY JOB, ANYWHERE) or if you can be more patient in your search to find the right opportunity. If you're in urgent need, research the companies that are hiring and what roles are available. Next, take an inventory of your most marketable skills and expertise. Do you have extensive technical/software knowledge? Are you a customer service boss? Whatever your skills may be, make note and then compare them to the open positions to see where you may find a match.
If you haven't dusted off your resume or LinkedIn profile in a while, use this extra time to spruce them up so you can submit a competitive job application. But you know that you can't just apply. Networking should and will be your best friend right now. With everyone at home and online, you can start connecting with recruiters, hiring managers, decision-makers, and current employees and begin conversations. Set up informal Zoom meetings or phone calls. Start working the virtual "room" and start being seen.
For more information about Julia Rock, check out Rock Career Development or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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