Look for Work, But Not Full-Time
If you're smart, hardworking, and energetic, looking for employment could become your full-time job. The key is to be focused and to use your time well. There's a lot of rejection involved in job-hunting, and if you subject yourself to it 40 hours a week, you won't be at your best when the right job does come along.
Spend Wisely—Which Doesn't Mean Don't Spend At All
First of all, there are some things you probably need for your job search: Internet access at home (not to mention a computer); a well-typed, well-written resume; and other essentials. (Keep receipts for tax-deductible expenses.) And don't deny yourself a few little luxuries. If people resent you for spending on such things, remind them that you can't take care of anyone else if you don't take care of yourself.
Take a Bath
Or go to a yoga class or do anything that relaxes you. Eat as well or better than you usually do. Now is not the time to skimp on your physical and emotional health.
Make a Financial Plan
"Unemployment is not the end of the world, and people get through it," says Thomas Bonito, a financial advisor in Livingston, New Jersey. "The first thing to do is make a list of your assets." Then list all your liabilities and begin eliminating expenses you can temporarily live without, such as vacations, entertainment, and possibly services like gardening and housecleaning. "Creating a stripped-down budget and being disciplined about sticking to it will increase your confidence," Bonito says, "and that's good for job-hunting."
Don't Give Up Childcare Right Off the Bat
You don't know how long you'll be out of work, which makes the childcare decision a tough one. If you have good childcare in place, the consequences of disrupting it may be greater than the financial gain. Is it worth being unavailable to accept freelance or temporary work? How hard will it be to find good childcare again when you get your next job? Finally, consider the benefit of keeping your child's routine constant during a time of uncertainty.
If you don't need to get up at the crack of dawn, turn off the alarm clock. Allow yourself the pleasure of an extra hour in bed followed by a slow cup of coffee and a long read of the paper.
Most of us wish we had time to learn something new or get better at things we're only okay at. Libraries and bookstores are filled with how-to books on everything from gardening to writing to crafts. If you crave structure, look into courses at a community center or college where you may be able to audit at a reduced rate.
Check Web sites of organizations you're interested in, or call and ask if they have volunteer programs. Animal shelters, libraries, hospices, after-school programs, and most other nonprofits welcome help.
Get Out of the House
This can be more challenging than you realize. But forcing yourself to leave home will also require that you (a) get dressed, (b) comb your hair, and (c) leave the refrigerator behind. These are all good for your health. If the weather cooperates, go walking.
Say yes to all opportunities that involve talking to people. You never know who might know the person who is looking for the person who could be you in your next job.
Go On Interviews, Even if They're Not for Your Ideal Job
Don't underestimate your need to practice answering questions such as how and why your last job ended. You'll also need to decide how to present your work experience and which skills to emphasize. Practice on a friend or, better yet, someone in your field who's willing to give you a mock interview.
Enjoy the Free Time—It Won't Last Forever
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