How To Cope If You Suddenly Find Yourself Unemployed, By People Who Have 100% Been There


Unemployment is rampant in Australia right now. Even though the unemployment rate is under what was predicted, there are plenty of arguments to suggest things are far worse than they appear. And it all comes down to the impact of coronavirus on our economy.

Whether this is your first time experiencing unemployment, or you’re an old hand at being between jobs, the fact is being thrust into that weird state of limbo so quickly can have a huge mental impact – even if you’ve been through it before.

I asked a bunch of people who made it through sudden unemployment periods how the hell they did it – and what they reckon helped them along the way.

1. Reach Out To People You Know

Folks might call them “contacts”, but all contacts really are is colleagues, bosses, and other people in your industry who you have met and didn’t hate. Lol.

This is a great time to catch up with these people, whether it’s just dropping them an email or FB message, getting that coffee you keep saying you’ll grab, or sending them a text – according to Hannah, who has been made redundant twice.

She reached out to people she used to work with, but also took up offers for coffee from people who found out she had lost her job.

I reached out to a bunch of people I used to work with/or they reached out to me and I had coffee with them, not to necessarily ask for a job but just for general career advice. People are so helpful and will look out for you if you just let them know.

This is pretty much what networking is, except in a non-wanky way. Just getting in touch with people in your industry, letting them know you’re looking for work, and allowing them to be kind angels who keep an ear to the ground for you.

I personally have found not one, but TWO jobs (including this one, forever grateful Chantelle) through old colleagues – never be afraid to just be like “hey, I’m looking for a new role – know of anything going?”

2. Throw Yourself Into An Unemployment Hobby

One difficult change that comes with unemployment is all this time on your hands. For Andrew, who went through six weeks of unemployment c/o corona this year, the trick was to occupy his mind elsewhere.

My biggest tip would be to find something you enjoyed prior to unemployment and focus on that – I was already into running and golf so I threw myself into those things even more as they were activities I could do regularly and set goals to achieve which created a sense of purpose.

Natalie had a similar tip – she found herself overthinking stuff and getting down on herself when she lost her job due to the pandemic.

What we do 8 hours a day is so much of our identity and having that taken away can really make you feel useless. You get told by the people who let you go that it’s not personal – but you can’t help but let those negative thoughts creep in.

Her trick? Getting real into cooking. She said the process prevents overthinking, and her fam is really enjoying the bulk food treats. Can I move in?

3. Volunteer Or Temp

While you might be spending a lot of time applying for jobs, it’s healthy to give yourself a break – and having some routine to your week can also help with the weird limbo feelings.

For Jessyanne, volunteering at the RSPCA one day a week was a way to get some routine back in her life, and also supported her mental health.

Another option that’ll also get you some cashola? Temping. Jasmine said it got her through her last unemployment period.

 I had done it during uni so I reconnected with the same agency then signed up to like 4 more.

Whether it’s office admin or whatever, the great thing with temp work is you can decide how many days you want to commit to, which means you can keep some time free for chasing your next career move while still making some cash to get by on.

4. Skill Up

Upskilling sounds AWFUL but it’s a great way to fill in time and make it matter in the long run. You don’t even have to skill up in your respective industry – this can be a great time to get all learned about another area you’re interested in. You never know, you might find yourself contemplating a career switch-up.

Samara found doing short courses was a great way to fill time, while also adding some stuff to her CV (or just her brain).

I’ve done a tarot course, makeup online course and leadership course and I have a big forensic/criminology one I have yet to start.

For Amber, spending three months of unemployment learning to code has helped her all through the rest of her career.

I actually taught myself how to code and build a website for a friend who ran a small publishing business. This actually helped me get my next job (not that it had anything to do with websites, it just showed that I used the time to better myself). Funnily enough, those website skills are something which have been helpful in my current role!

5. On The Days You Job Hunt, Treat It Like An Actual Job

When Toni found herself unemployed, she decided treating the job hunting time like it was her actual work hours helped with focus.

Get up and dressed (not in pjs, soz) and be ready to go at 9am. Start job searching, filling out applications, researching options, upskilling, online courses etc until 5pm.

This can be a fantastic way to make job hunting feel like less of a 24/7 burden. By allocating specific days in your week to it, you free your mind on downtime days.

6. Keep Your Brain Switched On

My dad was unemployed for a year when I was a kid. I don’t remember much about it besides the fact he was always free to play trains, so I asked him for his advice.

Keep the mind active through Scrabble or other mentally stimulating games online but be sure to devote set small portions of time.

Substitute Scrabble with literally anything that makes your mind switch on, not off – soz, most video games won’t count here unless they involve problem solving. Basically, it’s about keeping your mind switched on, so you stay sharp and will smash that interview once you land it.

7. Do Things That You Love

One pit you can fall into during unemployment is feeling the constant burden of the job hunt. When Rachael was unemployed, she found doing something every day that she really loved helped her to find a sense of purpose.

Sometimes it was job-related, other times it wasn’t. But it gave me a sense of purpose outside of work that I had otherwise tied so much to my job.

Also a good one – doing things you’ve always wanted to do, but never found the time to. It changes your mindset from “so much time on my hands” to “so much time to DO THINGS WITH”. When Emma was between jobs a few years back, she repurposed the time to get onto shit she’d let fall to the wayside.

My main tip is to make the most of your time. Try and do those things you would never normally get around to after a week of full on work. Also, don’t feel guilty! Read that book, binge that show, sleep in. When do you ever have a whole day to yourself with nothing to do? Make the most of it.

8. Have A To-Do List

Feeling overwhelmed is super common when unemployed. You’ve got all this financial and career pressure on your shoulders, and finding a job / getting your money sorted can feel like an impossible task.

For Emma, she also found it beneficial to write all the shit she had to do on a to-do list each morning.

They could be tasks like dedicating time to actually finding a job, or just ticking off odd jobs from a list. Clean out your wardrobe, find some new cheap recipes to make, tend to your plants, sew on that button. Big or small – it will make you feel like you are being productive.

It’s also a great way to get all the chaos out of your head and onto a page.

9. Keep Up A Routine

Similar to getting ready to job hunt like it’s a normal work day, but different. For Kelly, having a routine helped her stay mentally well.

Still get up the same time, have breakfast, change out of your pjs then do all the chores, errands, job searching during “work hours”. Have a lunch break and knock off time. It helps with the transition into going back to work and having a routine helps with depression.

Here’s the thing – your routine doesn’t have to involve job hunting stuff. It can simply be going for a walk at 8am every morning. Watching TV during the hours of 2pm – 4pm or whatever. Just keeping to a schedule of some sort.

10. Get Outdoors

Take time every day to get outside – for Emilie, getting outdoors was not only a way to reset her brain, it was also a time when she would get new ideas.

Walking is so good for mental clarity, I always feel calmer and sometimes get great ideas just from strolling around. Same with going outside or going somewhere new like a new park/beach/hiking trail etc. it’s like a little reset for your brain and a break from being inside the walls of your house.

This is especially important if you’re at the point where things feel hopeless in the day. It happens, and the best thing you can do for yourself if get into some new surroundings and chill for a bit.

If you’re struggling during unemployment, or just want to talk to someone – there’s help. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.