The Ultimate Unemployment Survival Guide


Unemployment can be a tough situation, but one that most people experience at one point or another during their professional career. Job loss can weigh heavy on an individual, lowering their confidence, self-worth and of course income. It is even more pronounced when the individual is in their mid or late career.

You are lucky though because as usual, we are here to help. This entire article is dedicated to not only surviving all the stages of unemployment but also getting a job as quickly as possible.

If it helps you are not alone, at this very moment there are another 200 million people unemployed in the world, 75 million of which are 15-24. Let’s take a look at how you can stop being part of that statistic; this is the ultimate unemployment survival guide.

Physical & Mental Effects of Unemployment

unemployment effects

The most immediate effect of unemployment is the loss of income. Unfortunately, bills don't disappear when you're unemployed; this can add to the stress that already exists for someone that is unemployed; unfortunately, the effects go much further than that, though.

Although some people might not perceive this as negative necessarily, a loss of a professional routine can make someone feel unproductive and listless. Here are more of the psychological effects:

  • Insecurity: A job can offer a sense of security primarily financial which is a rug that is abruptly pulled from under your feet when you are let go.
  • Networking: Unfortunately there is the potential of completely losing your professional network (this also greatly depends on the circumstances in which you were let go), that can be absolutely catastrophic especially if you are mid to late career.
  • Loss of confidence, identity and self-worth: as I mentioned above having a place and contributing to the economy can have significant positive effects on an individual’s perception of self.
  • Grief: yes, losing your job can equate to the same feeling people have when they lose a loved one.

The Dangers of Self-Pity

Frequently when people go through a rough time in their life, they resort to self-medication in the form of drugs and alcohol. This can develop into a full-blown addiction that can inhibit or completely thwart your attempts to find a new job. If left completely unchecked it can cost you interpersonal relationships, personal assets (including your house) and even get you a criminal record (especially if you develop a taste for illegal substances).

If you feel that you might be marching down that path, seek support. This can come in the form of talking to loved ones, friends or even other people dealing with unemployment.

Effects of Long-term Unemployment:

The American Psychological Association has found these effects in individuals that are unemployed:

  • Increased blood pressure and heart disease symptoms.
  • Lowered Immune system response.
  • Mild to moderate depression and anxiety.
  • More profound effects were observed in individuals with blue collar jobs compared to white collar jobs.

The Pew Foundation found even more worrying results when they polled long term unemployed people (people that were out of work for a prolonged period of six months to a year or longer) compared to short term unemployed and employed people:

  • 46% experience family friction compared to 39% of short-term unemployed people.
  • 43% lost close friends.
  • 24% sought professional help for depression.
  • 70% changed careers resulting in 29% becoming underemployed.

Minimising Costs & Managing Your Finances

minimising costs unemployment

We’ve covered some of the effects of unemployment, so you probably want to know how to limit your costs as much as possible.

The best way to sustain yourself when your income has been restricted down to a trickle is to minimise costs. This includes suspending any monthly subscriptions or unnecessary (luxury) services you might be paying for. Yes, and the first service most financial planners recommend is paid T.V. service.

Kiss your Netflix goodbye, on a positive note this might encourage you to find a job quicker. Just don’t respond to “Why would you like to work for us” with “For Netflix, I mean to be able to pay for Netflix”. Here are some things you can do to cut down money guzzling items in your budget:

  • Transportation: Use public transportation, consider selling your car or share ride (when appropriate and applicable).
  • Maintain your car: increase its fuel efficiency if you can't use public transportation.
  • Use a bicycle: if you have the physical conditioning to do so.
  • Stop spending on all non-essentials: such as new clothes, shoes and accessories, anything that could be considered impulse buys.
  • Cook your meals at home: although ordering out can be a soul satisfying treat (and no dishes to wash), it can be one of those expenditures that slowly creep up on you…and your budget.
  • Extreme measure: consider moving to a more affordable area. Generally not only will real estate be cheaper but so will consumable goods such as groceries and even fuel.
  • Extreme measure: if you are a smoker or a heavy drinker you might want to cut back or completely quit. First because it’s horribly unhealthy and second it's horribly expensive. In fact a period of unemployment can be a great opportunity to become healthier overall, it will better your mood which will in turn help you during interviews and who couldn’t use extra energy?

Although these measures won’t help you get a job, they will help you maintain your finances while you job search. These steps will also help you avoid unnecessary financial stress, which can affect your mood and desperation when looking for a job.

Credit When Unemployed

Credit can be extremely dangerous when you do not have a source of income. Credit cards have one of the highest interest rates of any short term loans, including fees for late payments and other hidden fees. Usually when you only pay the minimum payment, it goes completely to interest, doing nothing to pay down the amount of debt you have accrued. This should be the “hail Mary” or the final ditch effort of your strategy or measures of assistance you should employ. If you abuse credit, it will be a ghost that haunts your finances even after you gain employment.

Credit cards have one of the highest interest rates of any short term loans

Before you start spending you need to make sure that your credit card offers you a reasonable interest rate. If your country has a credit rating system and you have a low rating, be careful because most cards for people with low credit scores come with exorbitantly high interest rates. The bills and loans you might already be struggling to pay off will only be compounded with the burden of credit card debt.

Networking When Unemployed


No matter what stage your career is at, networking is not only valuable and beneficial, some argue it's necessary for the development of an upwardly mobile and successful career.

Never Stop Making Connections

This is an extremely significant step, networking will keep you visible in your field, or if you are transitioning into a new field (remember the statistic 70% of long term unemployed people perform a career change) will keep you in the minds of the people you are ultimately trying to reach.

Develop A New Network

Although you might lose your immediate professional network, losing your job is an amazing opportunity to perform a proverbial spring-cleaning of your professional network. As I mentioned above, the first network you can tap into is composed of people with a shared experience, that experience being job loss.

If you intend to continue in the field you did before the interruption of your employment your network of jobseekers can become a sort of “force multiplier”, allow me to elaborate. Generally, jobseekers (especially ones that are not competing for the same positions) will inform other unemployed individuals in their network about job opportunities they stumble upon while performing their own job search. Beyond this immediate benefit of “casting” a larger net, one of the members of your network might achieve employment in a position that will be beneficial for you and your own job search.

Something you need to be aware of is using all the resources you have available to you. Profession social networks and job search websites can be valuable resources for someone looking to make connections within a specific industry or field. Even if your attempts at connecting through some of these sites do not pan out, they are still valuable tools for research when applying and interviewing for jobs.

Finding an Alternative Income

alternative income

I know this may seem insensitive, but now is a great time to be unemployed. The gig economy has created an immense pool of jobs and of course income creating opportunities. Many of these jobs require zero experience and few qualifications.

If you have an applicable skill you might be able to freelance using that, be it web design, content writing, graphic design or illustration. Having a skill will make freelancing more lucrative, but like I mentioned it isn’t absolutely necessary, there are jobs on freelancing websites that include moving items and answering phone calls from home.

Here are some websites and their main features for freelance or Micro-Jobs as they are also known:

  • Fiverr is usually found on most blogs that deal with freelancing, why? Because it’s simple and simplicity is elegance, but with a twist. Instead of job posters putting up the task they want, they create a portfolio and then clients chose their favourite freelancer.
  • Upwork formerly the already successful freelance website Elance-oDesk, this website is straightforward and to the point but adds useful features such as chat, earnings tracking and the ability to deny jobs. Jobs are posted by clients and freelancers make offers on said projects.
  • Freelancer is arguably Upwork’s main competitor with over 9 million postings. The main distinction is that it has more tech orientated jobs, compared to the more marketing orientated offerings on Upwork.
  • Flexjobs although essentially a job search website, it has a plethora of freelance jobs, which are also screened to discourage scam job postings. The term “freelance” returns an admirable 3,121 jobs.

Even traditional job boards such as Monster and Adzuna offer some freelancing jobs postings, but definitely not as many as websites that specifically cater to freelancing professionals. There is one more solutions of quick money without any contractual obligations.  Websites like Taskrabbit that allows people to post odd jobs and chores, and “Taskers” to apply for them. These tasks are so lucrative for some people that they have made it their full time job. 

Temp Jobs

Another way to temporarily secure income when unemployed is registering or looking for temp jobs. Usually, temp jobs (short for temporary jobs) have a specific period of duration. During the writing of this article, reed offers close to 40,000 temp jobs on their website. An interesting benefit of temporary employment is the ability to explore various fields and professions without committing to them. It would make your attempt at making ends meet also a foray into a new career. If you do decide to take the temp work route, here’s a small list of very well paid positions you can look for:

  • Focus Group Participant: Companies will pay you between $40- 100 an hour, for your opinion on services, products or concepts they offer. Unfortunately you have to be on sight for the process, so consider that when applying
  • Refuse Worker: It’s a dirty job and the pay reflects it, garbage collector can be paid $60,000 a year, to deal with other people’s refuse.
  • Seasonal Jobs: Retailers frequently pad their workforce for the holidays or periods of high customer volume. This can be a great opportunity to make some money for the expensive holiday season. Although seasonal retail employees are the first on the list of priority hires, companies also hire marketing personnel and even social media assistants. There is even an ecosystem that is created by this influx of seasonal hiring, creating a need for temporary recruiters which can be paid upwards of $25 an hour.

Remember that a temporary job might turn into a full time job if you have a good work ethic and the appropriate amount of dedication.

Unemployment Benefits

unemployment benefits

Most developed countries offer some sort of provisional fund to help people experiencing unemployment. But, these payments aren’t usually made indefinitely; they are intended to be a temporary financial cushion and are only a percentage of your previous salary.

Many european countries on the other-hand offer long-term support for unemployed citizens. For instance, Ireland and the UK extend unemployment benefits indefinitely, until the person finds employment. But the system is often confusing.

For example, in the UK there are numerous unemployment benefits to apply for which can make the process quite complex.
The most basic of these is Jobseekers Allowance which is a direct payment every two weeks to anyone who is over 18, not in fulltime employment and actively seeking work. The first step is to go to your local Job Centre and 'sign on' to confirm that you're unemployed and actively seeking work. You will have to continue to prove that you are looking for a job or risk losing your benefits.

Other benefits that you can apply for in the UK include:

Housing Benefit: which is provided by local councils if you need help to pay your rent or mortgage while unemployed or on low income.

Council Tax Reduction: is also provided by your local council and can reduce the amount of council tax you pay by up to 100%.

Finding a Job

job search

Underemployment vs. Unemployment

You need to decide whether to divide your efforts between being underemployed to make ends meet and searching for jobs or dedicating all your energy to finding a job that is appropriate for your abilities, education and experience. Although it might not seems so initially, this can prove to be a difficult decision especially when you have financial obligations such as rent, car payments and dependents to take care of.

I would recommend that if you have a source of income, to keep it because the last thing you would like to do is get a different job due to the same financial desperation that caused you to take the “temporary” job you currently have. That is exactly what career coaches recommend too. Instead, try to find time to dedicate to your job search. This could be during your lunch break, after work or on the weekends (although companies aren’t open on weekends that doesn’t prevent you from sending CVs to their HR departments).

Employment Gap

The more prolonged your unemployment is, the harder you job search will become. A significant gap in employment on your CV or resume, will create red flags for most hiring managers. So the earlier you find a job the better. Here are some steps you need to take to find work.

Update Your CV/Resume

The first thing you should do is of course update your CV or resume, this will present your qualifications, credentials and experience to your prospective employers. What many people surprisingly overlook when editing their CV/Resumes is making it industry and job post specific. There are certain professional experiences that will increase your chances of getting the job that you are pursuing and highlighting those when applying to a job that requires them will at best get you an interview and at worse ensure it makes it to the desk of the hiring manager.

This is especially important if you are applying to a large company that might use an automated CV/Resume “tracking” system. Essentially applicant tracking systems, “filter” submitted resumes or CVs by looking for specific keywords and skills that match the position that was posted.

The best way to beat the applicant tracking system is to study the job posting closely and use similar language, because the person that wrote the job posting, is most likely the person that defined the keywords that the software will be looking for.

Never Stop Sending CVs

Momentum is crucial when job searching, this means that even if you get an interview, you should continue sending CVs. Another common mistake jobseekers make when looking for a job, and this is especially true if they have a stable form of income, is to give up if they didn’t immediately get an interview at their company of choice. It can create a feeling of complacency and eventually keep the person stuck in their current less favourable position.

You should create tiers of companies that you want to apply to. Obviously, top tier companies are your first choice but don't start with those. Start in the middle of your list move up and down from there.  This will give you a chance to refine your approach, interview skills (you do not have to accept a job immediately) and maybe even get feedback from willing recruiters, hiring managers or HR managers.

Referencing Your Current Employer

This can be a very difficult choice, especially if you feel that someone contacting your current place of employment might get you fired. On the other hand not allowing a prospective employer to contact your current employer may hurt your chances at getting a job. So what do you do?

In some cases, the application system will allow to make a note where you can allow the hiring manager to contact your current employer only if you are offered a job. You may also ask your prospective employer to contact you first before they contact your current supervisor, that way you can explain the situation to them and show that you have nothing to hide, but you are fearful that it might cost you your job.

If you are wondering how you might be treated if your employers are aware that you are looking at other job opportunities, try to look at how other people that have left were treated. If you can’t remember or haven’t seen anyone voluntarily leave during your time with the company, try contacting someone that has voluntarily left and asking them about their experience, or ask an employee that has been at the company longer about how people are treated that leave.

Before the Interview

Although you might think that your jobless journey is over when scheduling your interview. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning; you need to do a lot of preparation for the interview. First, you must research the company. Here are a few things you should find out about the company:

  • The company’s mission, vision and of course field of activity. Luckily this is the easiest information to extrapolate and can be found on the company’s website.
  • Find out who will interview you. This can be a bit more challenging than finding the above information, but sometimes can be found either on the company’s website or by using LinkedIn. Make sure that you are logged out of your account or use anonymous mode before you start searching, because remember LinkedIn shows the user who visited their profile.
  • Company culture: this should help you concentrate on items on your CV/Resume that fit within the company’s priorities. This can usually be discerned from the organisation’s social media platforms.

Beyond the researching the company it’s prudent to also do some research into potential interview questions and the best way to respond. Also, make sure you visit the location the interview takes place, so you know how long it will take you to commute there, where the general location of the office in (especially if it’s in a multi-unit office or commercial building). This will also help minimise the anxiety of not finding the space or running late because you miscalculated how long it would take you to get there.

During the Interview

If you have done your research correctly, then you will know the most appropriate outfit for the interview. When in doubt don’t be afraid to overdress, say the company is primarily business casual, you showing up in a tie and blazer isn’t going to hurt your chances. But, if you show up to your interview in casual clothes, that might hurt your chances of getting a job. Here are a few more things to look out for when you go into your interview:

  • Read the Room: comedians use this phrase when referring to the audience’s response to their jokes. They try to discern if certain jokes work better opposed to others and then pivot their routine in the direction that has the most positive response. Although you might have extensively prepared for specific interview questions, you also need to be prepared to pivot if you are asked something else.
  • Body Language: this is something many people seem to overlook, but body language no matter what type of social interaction you are engaging in is an extremely important type of non-verbal communication. Avoid these types of behaviors while in front of the interviewer or interviewers:
    • Crossed Arms: this generally shows that you are either closed off, disengaged or both.
    • Hands in Pockets: again you want to convey eagerness to your interviewer, not a blasé disposition.
    • Slouching: most people have an idea of what a professional person looks like, they sit upright don’t they?
    • Hands: although most interviewers will expect the person across from them to be nervous, excessive fidgeting might be distracting or worse be misconstrued as dishonesty.
    • Excessive Eye Contact: striking the right balance between eye-contact and looking away is nuanced, not enough and you seem disengaged, distracted and flighty. Too much and you become off putting. If you have difficulty knowing if you are making too much or too little eye contact, try enacting a mock interview, with a friend and then ask them if you made the appropriate amount.
    • Hand Pyramid: this is not something you should avoid but something you should do if you do not know what to do with your hands. Place your hands on the surface of the table you are sitting at and thread your fingers so they shape a pyramid. This is what is known as a power pose, and some argue that it makes other perceive you as more persuasive. Another benefit is that it will keep you aware of your hands by not allowing you to fidget.


All these steps will help you survive unemployment. Finding a job will renew your feeling of self-worth and allow you to find your financial independence once again. Have you survived unemployment using any of these techniques? Let us know in the comment section below.