Unemployment advice, circa 2009

The government reported record unemployment today, as if anybody needed to have that validated. The economy sucks, and it’s not a fun time to be on the beach. The problem, as reported by MarketWatch, is that growth in continuing claims — a measurement of the difficulty of finding a NEW job — is even outpacing first-time claims.

Continuing jobless claims rose by 159,000 in the week ended Jan. 17 to a seasonally adjusted 4.78 million, the most since the government’s records began in 1967…

Meanwhile, the number of new claims for state unemployment benefits also increased, up 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 588,000 in the week ended Jan. 24. This put the number just 1,000 below the 26-year high for initial claims set a month ago…

“We see no chance of this picture changing in the foreseeable future,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for High Frequency Economics. “We expect net job losses of about 3 million through the first half of this year.”

Job losses are occurring in all sectors, including media, and my heart goes out to colleagues who lose their jobs. However, I found my new life while unemployed, and you can, too. So here’s my advice:

  1. Go directly to the unemployment office. A lot of people resist this, because it’s a pain and an acknowledgment of your situation. Rise above it and get it out of the way. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll get your checks.
  2. Take a vacation. Get away. Clear your head. Rest. Read. Most people panic, but panic takes you into tomorrow, and your head needs to be in today.
  3. Make a plan. This is where a lot of people miss it, because their only concern is getting a job with enough income to sustain their lifestyle. Bad thinking. Time is your friend and your enemy, so use it wisely. What will you do the first month? In three months? Six? Your reality will change as time goes on, and you should prepare for it.
  4. Obviously, cut expenses. You cannot afford anything that doesn’t meet the criteria of basic “need.” I’d hang on to the Internet as long as possible, but there’s always the library.
  5. Open your mind and follow your heart. The worst thing about being unemployed is the waiting, and even that has been changed in the new world. In earlier times, I’d make Lego creations every day, just to keep the creative juices flowing. The last time unemployment graced by presence, however, all I did was study and write. The Web is endlessly fascinating, and if you’re going to lose yourself, do it here.
  6. Learn new skills, like basic HTML, photoshop and other tools of the Web. You’re taking control of your future in so doing, and you’ll amaze yourself along the way.
  7. Blossom where you’re planted. This is always good advice, but especially now. Be a blessing to yourself, your family and your friends. If you have a dog, pay attention. They’re always “in the moment” with a smile. Make a conscious effort to do the same thing. Some days will be harder than others, but no matter how bad you feel about yourself and your situation, it could always be worse. Unemployment is not a death sentence. If you choose the pity pot over Life, you’ll squander every moment that’s before you. Good luck with that.
  8. Develop and hone your brand. In a networked world, your brand is everything. Is it what you were, or will you make it something new? Make this your priority, for it will carry you far.
  9. Being employed isn’t what makes you a journalist, so if that’s your calling, keep at it. Audience building begins with one. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings.
  10. Pick a charitable cause, something you’re passionate about and volunteer. If you’re busy giving of yourself, you’re much more likely to “hear” the messages that Life sends your way.
  11. Don’t be afraid to turn the page. It’s not the end of the world; it’s merely a new adventure for you and yours. Fear is tissue paper disguised as a brick wall. It will destroy you and everything you love, if you let it, so meet the future with realistic thinking, but always temper that with the truth that opportunity doesn’t always follow our plan.

Your real mission is to give Life a chance to put all the pieces in place for your next doorway. You have a big role in that, but often it’s most important to just get out of the friggin’ way. You’ll be all right. I promise.

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