There are an estimated 15.1 million people unemployed at the moment. So no, it doesn't exactly make us want to burst out singing "The Star Spangled Banner" when we hear that Congress has tied the fate of unemployment checks to that of extending tax cuts to the rich. We know what the jobless really want isn't 99 weeks of $300 benefits checks. They want jobs. And until they get them, the new normal is one big smack-down. But coping with continued and seemingly ever-lasting unemployment is no fun, especially around the holidays.
Here are five tips to help the unemployed get through the holiday season.
1) Take a vacation from looking for a job. Traditionally, hiring slows down during the last few weeks of December anyway. Decision-makers are frequently on vacation and sending in your resume just risks having it get overlooked or buried deep in the stack of accumulated email. So give it a rest.But there's another reason you should take a break from job-hunting: You need it. Looking for a job is a full-time job, one that is marked by frustration and dealing with rejection. Clear your mind and take a break. You don't have to travel to Aspen or Cancun on your job-hunting vacation. Just don't turn on your computer or check emails for a few days. Go for a walk instead. Stop yourself from worrying about the "what ifs?" It's just for a few days and the "what ifs" will still be there when you jump back into the game.
If it's any consolation, several banks have already announced that they won't be evicting anyone for the last two weeks in December. Before you start thinking of them as big-hearted giants, consider the publicity they'd get over putting little old ladies and babies out on the street on Christmas Eve.
2) Instead of sending out your resume during this time, actually stop and take a look at it. Show it to people who work for companies where you'd like to land and ask them whether it feels right. Experts say you need a few resumes ready to go, depending on the different kinds of jobs you are seeking -- and all of them should be tweaked for the specific position as you send them out. There is no such thing as a universal cover letter. Each one must be tailored to the job. If appropriate, consider a video resume.
3) Go volunteer at your local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, Police Athletic League or hospital. There is always someone in worse shape than you and being able to help them will make you feel better. Why not form your own jobs support network? Just post a free ad on any number of local blog sites -- Patch.com, a local mommy blog, your kids' school -- and hold the meeting at the Starbucks. Go around the table and let everyone introduce themselves and say what kind of work they are seeking. Reminding yourself that you aren't alone in this recession helps.
4) Don't succumb to the pressure of spending money that you don't have on holiday gifts. You'll only feel worse later. Buy only what you can afford and know that your kids will survive the experience of being denied an iPad. There are plenty of ways to reduce what you spend on presents and entertainment during this season. "Having a Merry Christmas" doesn't have to mean overspending and buying things you'll regret later.
5) Make a list of five things you will do come Jan. 2 that you haven't tried yet.
Some suggestions for that list:
Take a Class at the Community College. Don't know Facebook from LinkedIn? They have a class for that. If you have been out of work for more than six months, there's a good chance your skills set needs expansion. What are you waiting for? Many community colleges are offering free classes to those who are unemployed.
Ask for Help and practice accepting it when it is offered. Call up your wildly-successful-but obnoxious college roommate and tell him you need work. Have a frank heart-to-heart about your situation with the in-laws. It's hard to face up to our need for a helping hand, but there is no better time to do it than right now.
Keep the Faith. What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.
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