Hundreds of millions of people could be left without work due to the impact of COVID-19, according to various global sources. Many workers in the developed world will have felt safe and stable in their jobs, so the impact of unemployment can be harsh – causing newly employed people to suffer a crisis of confidence.
How, then, do you cope with finding yourself unemployed? And what can you do, proactively, to dig yourself out of this hole?
Let’s take a look at the reality of overcoming the trauma of unemployment
How does it feel to be unemployed?
I’ve been unemployed at two key times in my life. Firstly, at the age of 18 after finishing my ‘A’ Levels and leaving school. Secondly, in 2014 when I was made redundant from my corporate role as a content writer.
Although both these situations were quite different, there were some common experiences and emotions that came from being out of work.
For me, being unemployed felt:
- Demoralising – in many ways, your job plays a big part in defining who you are. To suddenly have no role and no work structure to your day can seriously demoralise you, weakening your confidence and making you questions your skills, your professional capabilities and (ultimately) your self-worth.
- Stressful – if you need a full-time job to survive (and most of us do, let’s be honest) then suddenly having that regular pay check taken away can be a huge shock. Without warning, you are suddenly faced with the worries of finding new employment, paying your bills and looking after your own (and your family’s) welfare. That’s a stressful experience and something that can weigh heavily on your mental health.
- Financially limiting – without a regular salary coming in, your finances will quickly be decimated. You’ll be relying on your savings, handouts from friends and family, or whatever government or insurance support you can claim. So, your financial circumstances will be severely challenged, leading you to cut back on spending, change your lifestyle and face all the limitations of a sudden lack of cashflow.
In my experiences of being unemployed, this was the reality of the situation – and I know that everyone will deal with the impact of having no job in their own unique way. But the key thing to cling to in this scenario is that you CAN change your circumstances.
If you’re unemployed NOW, it doesn’t mean that you will be unemployed FOREVER.
What should your next move be?
If you’re feeling demoralised and unmotivated, it can seem like a big ask to start getting proactive about changing your situation. But, ultimately, the only person capable of driving you back onto the road to employment is YOU – so, a swift mental ‘kick up the backside’ may be needed to get you remotivated and back on track.
‘Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’ may be one of those old-fashioned cliches that people wheel out in these situations, but there’s a nugget of truth to this phrase. If you want to find a new job, or change your circumstances for the better, you are going to have to self-motivate and get busy.
This doesn’t mean you’re on your own. The support of family, close friends and ex-colleagues will be a huge boost, and I certainly wouldn’t have found a new career path without the care, guidance and help of many brilliant people who were there for me during my time without a job.
So, where do you start? What are your options as a newly unemployed person who urgently needs to regain their income, their professional life and their self-dignity?
1. Salaried work as an employee
For most of us, the obvious move is to look for a new salaried job with an employer.
The vast majority of the world’s workers are employees, and that means you’re more than likely to be looking for a new company and a new boss. So, now’s the time to polish up your CV/resume, sign up to some job websites and start getting your name out there in the job market again.
If you’re already an experienced professional in your chosen sector then think about what your key skills are, what you can offer to a new employer and who your existing professional contacts are in your network. The more contacts you touch base with, the more likely it is that a suitable job opportunity will appear on the horizon.
2. Freelance work as part of the gig economy
Millennials and Gen Y workers now make up the majority of the workforce, and for many of these workers it’s flexibility and work/life balance that come top of their wish list when it comes to employment goals.
This desire to find a career that can flex and move around other life goals, family responsibilities or non-work interests has drawn many people to opt for a freelance career. As a freelancer, you work for yourself, giving you more control over your work life and allowing you to choose who you work for – and when you work.
Short-term freelance work is certainly one way to begin earning some money again, especially if you have professional skills that are in demand and that can be easily marketed. You won’t have the same financial security as a salaried employee, but you will have more self-control over your career, customers and overall balance between life and work responsibilities.
Job sites like AppJobs make it easy to find and apply for new work opportunities (including salaried, contract and freelance roles), so it’s worth signing up to review what job opportunities are out there. The more you search, the more potential roles will appear.
3. Starting your own business
An option that is always worth considering is starting your own business – a scenario where you become the true master of your professional career and destiny.
Founding a business might sound like a big and complex task. But, in reality, there are many ways to start your own business and begin to build up a company. For long-term freelancers, setting up your business could be as easy as registering as a sole trader and finding a stable portfolio of paying customers. Or you may have an amazing startup idea and want to set up a limited company, becoming a director of a full-scale incorporated company.
The key to starting ANY business is to realise that the progression of your business idea begins with some very small, basic steps – and will then grow from these humble beginnings. Amazon, Microsoft and Apple are all giant global businesses that were first founded in garages and sheds – so who knows where your startup idea might take you?
Before deciding to start any business, you should consider:
- Your business plan – before you do anything, write down what you aim to achieve, how you will do this and what resources, people and equipment will be needed to get you to the ‘minimum viable product’ stage.
- Your value proposition – this is the WHY of your business – the value that you intend to bring to your customers through your services or products. Knowing this value, and who your target customers are, is a crucial foundation of any business, large or small.
- Your funding – to start most businesses, you will need money to invest in the set-up of the company. Work out your budget, talk to lenders and look at how you find investment. Without this cash, you’ll never have the resources to get your idea of the ground.
My book, ‘Going Freelance: Building Work Around Your Life’ has plenty of tips and advice for anyone looking to set themselves up as a brand new freelance business.
Digging yourself out of the unemployment hole
Whether you decide to opt for a salaried role, a freelance career or becoming your own boss, it’s going to take some real determination and motivation to end your time of unemployment.
There will be ups and down, there will be plenty of rejection letters and ‘thanks, but no thanks’ emails, and there will be pathways that come to nothing. That’s the reality of the situation. But there will also be a huge number of opportunities and chances to turn your life around.
So, think positive, get the support you need from those around you, and set your heart on achieving your chosen goal.
Unemployment is usually a situation that is forced upon us, but with the dedication and planning you CAN and WILL dig yourself out of this hole.
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