In the week that unemployment skyrocketed to 3.3 million and Congress scrambled to finalize a stimulus package, I am offered a job.
The company sought me out early on, finding my resume on Indeed. My first two phone screenings were the most encouraging and, strangely, relaxing interviews I have ever experienced. I was utterly myself and it was clear the company cared about their employees. It immediately became my #1 job lead.
Then, all of my job leads went very quiet. Coronavirus had spooked the job market into hiding. Pragmatic as I am–and a survivor of the last recession–I saw the writing on the wall.
I began to prepare for a very long period of unemployment.
Millions of people were about to experience what I grappled with. I organized my notes, recited advice I should have heeded, and practised self-awareness so I could share those experiences.
Summation: I got really lucky.
And most will not be so lucky.
That 3.3 million will surge exponentially. Businesses will fail. Citizens will bankrupt. Americans will go hungry.
Even as unutterably grateful for my newfound employment, I still want to share.
Please note, I am not a therapist or professionally trained to aid displaced workers. The following is my experience. Yours will be inherently unique.
The resources provided for unemployed persons in Maryland were provided by Kevin Johnson, Administrator II from the Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning of the Maryland Department of Labor, and shared with his permission.
I’d reached out to my network that a) knew my worth as a professional and b) understood the experience of sudden layoff. The following outlines their advice:
- Your job now is to find a job. In a nutshell, the rough estimate of your regular work hours should be dedicated to finding employment. Now, that’s cute advice for a normal job market, but we are not in a normal job market. Yes, look for work–but also be reasonable with your goals. Disinfecting touchable surfaces is of paramount importance right now. Dedicate time every day to this task. Additionally, hunting for a job is more than applying for jobs. It entails research, studying current affairs, exploring skill enhancement workshops, attending career fairs, networking, updating your resume every week–and often each time you apply for a job (the language in your resume should reflect the language in the description for the job for which you are applying). And, in this current job market (which blows) there is an increasing need for volunteers. Use some normal working hours to support your community.
- Update your resume weekly. Recruiters will only view a file with a specific digital footprint once. Even subtle changes to the content of your resume will refresh your information to prospective employers. Be sure to upload your refreshed resume to each platform you are using every Sunday. Imbed adjectives of your skillset in the footer of the document. This will attract digital programs automated to search for those keywords.
- Create generic email accounts. One should be the main email account listed in your resume. For example [first name].[middle initial].[last name]@[email].com. Helpfully, subsequent emails unique to the platform you are using to network your resume will field incoming alerts. For example, [first name].[last name].indeed@[email].com can be used for your Indeed.com profile. At a glance, this seems like a hassle. But trust me, it’s more of a hassle fielding an inundation of alerts from 4+ platforms in your regular mailbox.
- Send a follow-up. Even if you interview for a job you are not especially excited about, send a follow-up email thanking them for their time. Personalize it. This encourages the recruiter to remember you–which is useful when a more lucrative position opens up at the company. Never respond rudely. If you feel a certain kind of way based on a less than optimal experience, let that breathe for a day, even two, and then send your thank you email.
- You’re not alone. Even before the coronavirus shit storm, there were people willing to help who experienced a very similar situation. Moreso now. Remember, it takes a village. Reach out, vent to a friend, network.
In the subsequent month, my experience also taught me:
- Grief is real. You just experienced a traumatic loss with consequences that throw your survival into uncertainty. You may become angry. You may become lethargic. You may feel unmoored and hopeless. Allow yourself to process these feelings. Do not suppress them. Take a day or two or three, and let grief run its course.
- Make a To-Do List. These tasks do not need to be related–the point is to be on-task. Motivated. Up to something. One day, my running to-do list included: “Clean Bathroom,” “Fill Out WorkForce Exchange Profile,” “F/u w/ Mary,” “Prep Recycle,” “Find Toilet Paper,” and “Figure Out the Healthcare Thing.”
- You are not helpless. Remember that you are still a part of your community. Your worth is not the sum of your employment status. Be in contribution. Volunteer. Be your true north. Inspire.
- Adopt a mindless hobby. For me, this was Monster Legends and coloring mandalas while listening to the news. It’s okay to turn off the part of your brain which stresses about your situation and the reverberation of now to what if. It is okay to rest. Create something. Give yourself the opportunity to accomplish a goal, however small and insubstantial. You’ll feel better for it.
Contact the State of Maryland regarding general inquiries of unemployment benefits by calling 410.949.0022 or 1.800.827.4839. They’re unimaginably busy right now, so also try emailing them via email@example.com. The weekly work search log requirement for unemployment benefits is suspended for 10 weeks beginning March 20, 2020, but my understanding is the weekly WebCert every Sunday is still necessary (it’s like a timecard confirming you are still out of work and not earning income). This may change as well.
The Professional Outplacement Assistance Center can be reached via 301.362.1646.
www.MarylandHealthConnection.gov can help you access medical benefits through Social Services.
Contact the Cash Campaign for free financial coaching and tax preparation via www.cashmd.org. If you are in dire financial distress, 211 is available 24/7 by dialing 211 or visiting webpage www.211md.org.
Finally, www.volunteermatch.org can help place you in a volunteer program.