Just experienced a job loss? You have our deepest sympathies.
There are many reasons for job loss: firing, layoffs, redundancy, illness, injury, end of contract, business failure, or technological change to your industry. Natural disasters can wipe out a business or industry overnight. You might have had to quit due to personal circumstances or to move interstate or even to a new country. No matter the cause, it’s happened and you’ve lost your job. You’re unemployed. What do you do?
Dealing with job loss and unemployment
1. Don’t panic
Job loss frequently comes as a shock. Don’t panic! Your termination interview is often your last chance to negotiate any final benefits. It’s not just about money; you can also ask for references, contacts and your employer may offer services such as counselling and help with your job search.
Ask why you’ve been terminated and discuss your performance in the role. See if there were any particular strength you displayed or personal weaknesses that you can address in future jobs.
Don’t immediately rush around telling stories that make you look bad. Don’t do anything silly or illegal like shopping with company credit cards, breach non-compete clauses, reveal confidential information or trash sensitive information and systems. Breathe, take the high road and exit gracefully.
2. Don’t dwell on the negative
It’s natural to be upset and even angry about losing your job. Don’t badmouth your employer even if they fired you. It’s a small world and those words will come back to haunt you. If you think your employer has acted illegally or you’ve been wrongfully terminated, get in contact with the Fair Work Ombudsman or consult with a lawyer.
When talking to your former colleagues, don’t focus on the loss of your job. Talk about the opportunities you’re looking forward to pursuing and the direction in life you’re planning to take. They’ll be more comfortable and more likely to help you out if they have something to offer. Being constantly negative affects your state of mind; think positively and you’ll feel happier too.
3. Get paid everything you’re owed
It might be a while before you’re receiving a steady income again. In most cases you’ll be entitled to a payout for all your entitlements, which can include:
- Any outstanding wages, including allowances and penalty rates
- Accrued annual leave and annual leave loading
- Pro-rata or accrued long service leave (if applicable)
- Redundancy pay entitlements (if applicable)
Your contract may have other conditions that apply. Don’t forget you may also be owed superannuation, which should be paid to your super fund.
If your employer has gone into bankruptcy or insolvency, you can still get assistance with receiving your entitlements through the Fair Entitlements Guarantee or the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme. If your employer is not paying the entitlements you’re owed, then contact the Fair Work Ombudsman!
4. Apply for unemployment & other payments
In many cases you can receive income support or other payments to help you through this period of unemployment.
Centrelink has a range of payments for various circumstances, each with its own set of conditions. Get in touch to see what you can claim. Do it straight away; it can take weeks to go through this process and be approved.
If you suffered an injury or illness on the job that has put you in this situation, you should be entitled to workers compensation. Your employer has an obligation under occupational health and safety (aka OHS, now known as work health and safety or WHS) laws that require injured workers have access to first aid, fair workers’ compensation and return to work rehabilitation.
Don’t forget most superannuation funds provide you (by default) an insurance plan. This can include an income protection in the case of temporary disability or illness, or a benefit if you’re seriously disabled and are unlikely to work again.
5. Adjust your lifestyle
First and foremost, don’t avoid your creditors! If you’ve got a home loan or short term loans you’re paying off, go and discuss it with the bank immediately. They can help you consolidate your debts, minimise interest costs and lower your repayments.
You should also make immediate changes to your lifestyle. Prioritise the things you need over conveniences and “wants”:
- Start walking and riding instead of driving for short trips.
- Use your time to shop around for the best prices on essentials.
- Eating out is expensive – get into the kitchen!
- Downgrade internet services, phone plans and other contracts.
- Pay off credit cards and get rid of them (at least reserve them for emergencies)
If you’re expecting a long period of unemployment, or you’re thinking it’s time to make a permanent lifestyle change, then cut deep and cut early. Downsize the things you don’t need – luxury cars, multiple cars, high priced rental home, flash boats and expensive hobbies.
If you’ve got no income coming in, you’ll be relying on your savings to survive. Finding ways to generate a little extra money each week will help you stretch those savings a lot further.
- Sell off the house worth of stuff you’ve accumulated over a lifetime but never use.
- Give up your study or hobby room and rent it out.
- Years of dedication to a career or hobby have made you an expert? Offer lessons and tuition to help other people improve their skills.
Pick up short term contracts, part-time work or join a temp agency. Call up about odd jobs advertised in newspapers and bulletin boards. It doesn’t matter if it’s not your exact area of professional expertise, earning something is better than nothing!
7. Be honest with close family and friends
No matter what the circumstances, losing a job is usually devastating. The loss of financial security is a major part of the equation. We also derive structure, purpose and meaning from our job. It influences how we see ourselves, and how other people see us.
Share what you’re going through with people you trust and love. They will be there to support you and help you get back on your feet. Your immediate family and dependents will also be financially affected by your change in circumstances. The sooner you tell them and make lifestyle adjustments, the better off you’ll be emotionally and financially.
8. Take care of your health
Have you been letting those extra kilos build up? Invest your free time in getting fit and healthy again. Prepare and eat healthier meals, relax, meditate and exercise regularly.
Exercise is an especially good outlet for stress and worry. It boosts your mood and energy, and helps you sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. It will help keep stress under control. You’ll feel more refreshed and clear-headed when you face each day.
Don’t start drinking more alcohol, smoking or taking drugs to cope. They won’t just ruin your health and state of mind, they’re also really expensive!
9. Don’t abandon routine
Work is frequently the foundation of our daily routine. It forces us to get up, dress and be on site by a certain time each day. Losing that foundation throws many things out of whack; sleep patterns, exercise regimens and social activities.
Stick to your routine and find positive activities to fill your ‘work’ time each day. Spent those hours job hunting, volunteering and on self-improvement. It will help you be more efficient and productive during your unemployment.
10. Don’t become isolated
Fear, anxiety and depression from job loss can naturally trigger your ‘fight or flight’ response and cause you to retreat from social interactions. Unfortunately, that’s possibly the worst reaction you could have in that situation. Many job openings are never advertised, they’re filled by word of mouth. It just takes the right people meeting in the right place at the right time.
Use your free time to network. Catch up with friends and family with whom you’ve lost contact, get in touch with old colleagues and make new contacts. These relationships can provide you with essential feedback, support and advice. If you’re lucky they might even present you with an amazing new opportunity.
It’s probably not advisable to just rely on the internet for networking. On the other hand, social media has become a powerful networking tool. Join LinkedIn and other social sites, polish your profile, ‘connect’ with friends and former colleagues, and build brand “you” online.
11. Think about your next life goals
Don’t rush into the first job you’re offered. It’s possible to coast through a career on momentum, convenience and sense of security. Maybe it’s not perfect for you, but seeking out a new career path requires effort and risk. Well, your hand has now been forced and you’re in a position to make drastic changes.
Use this opportunity to reflect on who you are, where you are and where you want to be in 5 years, 10 years and 20.
- Is it time to slow down your pace of life?
- Do you have a passion you’ve always wanted to pursue?
- Is it time to tackle the study you’ve been deferring all these years?
- Are you finally in a position to start your own business?
- Do you finally have the skills and experience to get the job you’ve always wanted?
12. Plan and execute the next step in your career
There is help available for you to develop new skills and qualifications. Australia has payments and schemes in place to support mature age students get training or retrain. Scholarships are not just for fresh faced high school graduates, they’re also available for people to pursue postgraduate and professional development later in life. A vocational trainer’s qualification can turn a lifetime’s worth of training and experience on the front lines of an industry into a whole new training career.
If you want to strike out on your own, there is a wealth of information available online. There are even grants and other assistance available to help you start your business. In your networking activities, you might find a business partner. You might also find ‘angel’ investors; people who will invest their own money in your new enterprise.
So it’s still a bad situation
At the end of the day, times of unemployment are uncomfortable periods in your life. Uncertainty and anxiety eat away at you, while the cost of living eats away at your financial reserves. Don’t forget these periods are almost always temporary!
Take control of the situation early, manage your time and resources effectively, and eventually you’ll overcome it. With planning, thought and a dash of luck, you’ll come out of it stronger and better off than before.
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