Zombie Economics: Unemployment Survival Tips

Rick Emerson, author of "Zombie Economics," stopped by with his tips for surviving unemployment.

You'll find more information about Rick and his book right here.

Q: For the past several years, Oregon’s unemployment rate has been among the highest in the nation. Where do things stand now, and what’s the forecast for improvement?

A: At the moment, Oregon’s unemployment rate is about 8.4%, which is still higher than the national unemployment rate of 8.2%. The silver lining –as always– is that we don’t live in Detroit. Things seem to be picking up in certain quarters, but it’s far from a steady improvement – the best way to describe it is “one step forward and three-quarters of a step back.” As with many things, the best strategy is to hope things recover in the near future, but don’t plan on it. Remember: In the best of economic times, it takes, on average, sixteen weeks to find a new job. In a poor economic climate, that timeframe expands to thirty-four weeks.

 Q: Even in a bad economy, job loss can be a shock – people sometimes don’t know how to proceed. What’s the first thing someone should do if they become unemployed?

A: As someone who comes from the world of radio, let me say that I have been there.   First, take a moment to acknowledge the situation – yell, curse...be angry at your terrible luck. Then, start making decisions, because staying in “wallow” mode will only increase the danger.

Next, you apply for unemployment. No shame, no guilt, no putting it off. And then you divide the total amount of unemployment you've got coming by the amount you'll get every week...and you realize that's your deadline for getting a new supply of “ammunition”...for getting new income. Then, you start cutting expenses.

Q: When people are looking for a new job, every interview can feel like a longshot. What can they do to increase their odds?


A: Rehearse your interviewing skills. Make a list of questions you think you’ll be asked. Make a separate list of what you’d like to be asked. Write answers for both. Your goal is to deliver this information without it sounding staged, forced, or contrived. Your first dozen attempts might be terrible, but those are just rehearsals. You will get better. As you practice, you might feel embarrassed or self-conscious. This feeling will vanish faster than you think, and once you’ve got the job, your rehearsal process will make for a great story.


Q: Staying motivated and positive can be a real challenge when you’re unemployed. How can people retain some kind of optimism during a long job search?


A: Here are a few things that will help to keep your mind on the right track:

  • Dress for how you want to feel. If you want a shortcut to feeling helpless, here’s a hint: Don’t shave in the morning. Don’t shower, brush your hair, or put on anything resembling clean pants. Or...dress like someone with a purpose. Dress like someone who is refusing to back down. This will drastically impact your outlook, your focus, and your productivity.
  • Make and keep a schedule. Every night, plan out your timeline for the following day. Who will you be contacting about a job? With whom are you following up? If your résumé or cover letter needs to be polished, schedule it.
  • If you have recurring scheduled events (playing a team sport, a monthly lunch with a friend, a novel you’re writing), stick to your schedule. Your brain needs structure, and when your brain feels like things are happening, it will stay switched on, cranking out information you’ll need to move forward.
  • Volunteer. Schedule a set number of hours every week working at a non-profit, a community group, a charity or church – something that you can really put your heart into. Not only does this help to keep you structured, but a lot of times, this experience can really look good on your resume.


 

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