Surviving Job Loss: A Millennial's Guide to Unemployment

Surviving Job Loss: A Millennial's Guide to Unemployment

In 2007, more than 50 percent of college graduates had a job offer lined up. For the class of 2009, fewer than 20 percent of them did.
— The Huffington Post

Let's blame it on the recession. 

In 2008 I graduated with a double major and a minor. I secured my first grown up job starting just a few weeks after graduation. Student loan payments weren't due til that fall, I was set. A care-free summer awaited. 

Two years later I was out of a job. The startup I had devoted my life to (and remains one of the best jobs I ever had) went bankrupt. I had just moved to New York City a few months before and spent the next three years chasing after gigs that would stick. It's been almost ten years since I graduated and little has changed. I've been let go from countless startups, big-budget media companies and small ones too. I've been let go while working at a coffee shop, I've been let go while sipping coffee at my desk, I've been let go while walking to a coffee shop. Such a weird pattern to think about now...

Losing your job sucks and the hard truth is that there is no job security anymore. Budgets run out, startups fail, companies pivot, or worse -- toxic work environments force you out. Being a working professional in this day and age means doing the most to stay afloat and when you suddenly get canned (laid off, fired, let go, you choose which term you like), your world can quickly fall apart. As a very experienced sudden job loss-er and frequent career shifter (sometimes not by choice), I'm here to tell you it's going to be okay. 

I don’t want people getting fired to feel like ‘that’s it, I have no value.’ I don’t want it to be identity demolishing; people get fired for all kinds of reasons: a lot of times bosses have their heads up their asses, a lot of times you’re a bad fit and the boss shouldn’t have chosen you, a lot of times you’re just not compatible with the work and it’s hard to know that going in. We all enter things with hopefully the best intentions and a lot of hope and we do the best work we can, but sometimes because of things that are outside of your control: chemistry, your experience isn’t quite aligned, the boss doesn’t know exactly what they want and so it’s impossible for you to deliver... all of these situations people get fired for ...but it’s not ultimately about you. Sometimes people get fired because there’s a really toxic political system in an office and you just can’t get a grasp on it and you can’t break your way into it and you wind up always being sort of left out of being in the bubble, of being the favorite of the boss. And those situations are maddening but they don’t fundamentally change who you are or what you’re worth.
— Jennifer Romolini, author of Weird in a World That’s Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ck Ups, and Failures

I unfortunately have seen far too many friends, family members and overall good people suddenly lose their jobs and realize they have no backup plan. They don't know what to do next, how to prepare for a paycheck-less life or how to respond in the moment it's happening. Processing it all is emotional and frustrating but can also be short term. After years of dishing tips through private DMs and with layoff season coming in hot (Q4 is the worst, by the way), I thought it was time to share my story of surviving unemployment. This series has a few goals:

  • Help you better prepare for job instability

  • Advise you on what to do if/when you lose your job

  • Provide actionable steps that will guide you through your unemployment phase

  • Destigmatize the topic of unemployment so that we can have open, honest and valuable conversations

20+ Steps to Help You Survive Sudden Job Loss

The “Leave It To Beaver” workforce, in which everyone has the same job from graduation until gold watch, is not coming back.
— "Generation Screwed"

I'll walk you through every stage of unemployment:

  1. Before it happens: Being smart with your day-to-day work activities

  2. If/when it happens: Know how to respond in the moment

  3. After it happens: Moving on and making the best of it

  4. Getting back out there: Plotting your next career move

This four-part guide will include links to helpful resources I've successfully used over the years including filing for unemployment (it's basically free money, y'all), budgeting apps, negotiation tactics and email outreach scripts (like asking people for help). The guide is written from a personal perspective, meaning the tips, resources and content I'll be sharing comes from my own lived experiences as a frequently unemployed person. I also have done lengthy research for nearly a decade, reading in-depth reports about how the economic crisis of 2007/2008 has disproportionately affected college graduates of that same year, and continue to. To take things further, I'm continually crowd-sourcing insight from HR professionals who are in the position to hire and fire people. It's important to me that I provide legitimate answers or solutions that set myself and others up for success in the future. 

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