Today's economy

Here’s what to do if you lose your job

By Kevin Press,

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Man sitting at the kitchen table while reading a newspaperGlobal unemployment jumped an estimated four million in 2012, as a result of a slowdown in economic and employment growth. According to a report from the International Labour Organization, there are 28 million more jobless people around the world today than there were before the financial crisis.

The news in Canada isn’t much better. Certainly our current 7.1% unemployment rate is an improvement over the post-downturn high of 8.3% we saw in 2009. But a report published last week by Scotiabank economist Erika Cain suggests the drop is due largely to a decrease in the labour force participation rate. According to Cain, the employment-to-population ratio in Canada reached just 61.8% last year. That’s down from 63.5% prior to the financial crisis.

Job loss has become a fact of life for too many Canadians and their families. Fortunately, the news need not be taken sitting down. There are good moves that you can make if you lose a job. Here are 10 basics:

  1. Learn how employment insurance works. Check out this link to the Frequently Asked Questions page on the Service Canada site.
  2. Get the word out. The art of networking has never been more important to you. Book informational interviews with friends and colleagues. Ask them to help you expand your network. Don’t count on LinkedIn to do this for you. Get out there and drink as much decaf as you can stomach. Here’s Job loss and the art of networking, a post I published in 2009 that tells the story of one job hunter’s networking effort.
  3. Google yourself. Your digital presence could probably use a bit of cleaning up. Will employers be impressed with what comes up when they do a search on you? Delete what you need to delete. And if there isn’t enough professional content with your name on it, create some. Launch a blog if you have to.
  4. Think about what you want to do and where you want to do it. This is a rare opportunity to take a fresh look at your career. Do you want to stay in your field? Do you want to try a new industry? A new city? We can’t all be picky, of course. The point is that thinking these questions through will help you plan your search.
  5. Start working on your resume. It probably needs more than an update. Research good examples of resume design in your field. See if you can make a connection with one or two HR professionals and ask for their feedback on how to present yourself on paper.
  6. Redo your budget. It is small consolation, but you will save a bit of money by not having to go to work. The financial pressure that comes with unemployment is real though, so do what you can to give yourself a bit of certainty about what you can and can’t afford to spend.
  7. Take full advantage if you’re offered access to a placement agency. They’re especially helpful if you’ve been in the workforce for an extended period of time. They’ll push you out of your comfort zone, but it’s worth it.
  8. Find friends you can talk to. For a lot of people, the emotional impact of unemployment can be severe. The last thing you’ll want to hear is platitudes from former colleagues about staying positive. Connect with people who have been there, or for that matter people who are there now. It’ll help with the day-to-day.
  9. Develop an exercise regimen. Join a gym if you can afford to. Job hunting requires a ton of energy (physically and otherwise). Regular exercise will be critically important to you.
  10. Talk with a financial advisor. There are important financial decisions to make, particularly if your unemployment lasts an extended period of time. It all depends on your situation, so I won’t offer specifics here. If you don’t have an advisor, this is a good time to connect with one.

One additional thought: If you believe that you’re at risk of becoming unemployed, start building an emergency fund. Save as much as you can, without racking up consumer debt in the process, of course.

Working well More bright ideas for managing your career and making the most of your benefits.

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