Finding the Right Job & Income When You’re Unemployed

Trisha Miller
Finding income while you're unemployed
Reading Time: 5 minutes

When you’re unemployed, managing your time and money becomes a balancing act. You want to spend enough time finding the right job, but you might also be in need of obtaining unemployment benefits, which can be confusing. We’ll show you how to plan ahead, take control over your job search, and work through your application for unemployment benefits. In addition, you’ll start looking at yourself in a different light as an employee. You can take this time to really go after the jobs you want and market yourself as the integral asset that you are, to get the full salary that you deserve.

What Do I Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits?

Unemployment benefits are a tricky thing. The rules and regulations surrounding them differ a bit depending on what state you live in. I suggest that you go read up on exactly what is expected of you from your local unemployment office, usually located in your state’s Department of Labor offices. To give you the short of it, you can apply for benefits, but it’s not guaranteed that you’ll receive them. First, you’ll need to give them information about the reason for your unemployment. Often times, they will contact your former employer in order to confirm. This means, if you were fired with cause or voluntarily left your job, the unemployment office could deem you as ineligible for benefits. On the other hand, if you were laid off for one reason or another unrelated to your performance, you’ll most likely be eligible for benefits. Of course, there are exceptions to all of these rules. After all, every situation is unique, so check with your local unemployment office to see what they think about your scenario.

In addition, if you do qualify for benefits, there are usually tasks that you must perform in order to keep the benefit funds coming. Namely, you’ll need to prove to the government that you’re actively pursuing a job. The money is meant for you when you suddenly find yourself out of a job and need some help for a limited time frame. This means, if for some reason you find other income or don’t need to keep looking for another job for some reason, you shouldn’t be collecting benefits any longer. As such, you’ll commonly be asked to report jobs that you apply to throughout the week and you may be asked to meet a specific quota of applications.

Lastly, benefits will run out. Out of work individuals can only take advantage of the supplemented income for a certain period of time, which changes depending on your state. Most states will allow up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits; that’s a little bit more than six months. However, you have to pay attention to that “up to” area. The bureaucrats in charge of distributions will take a look at your situation, including your previous income, and they will determine the amount of benefits you could be eligible for and for how long. You may or may not receive the full 26 weeks. There are nine states that provide less than 26 weeks and two that provide more.

How to Find the Right Job for Me?

When you’ve been laid off from a job, it hurts. You’re now in panic mode financially, but at the same time you’re likely trying to find a similar job to your previous one. Or perhaps you’re seizing the opportunity to find your dream job (and you should!) So, how do you balance the two?

Start with a “job plan”. As early as possible in your job search, begin working on a plan that suits your job wants and needs. What I mean by that is, sit down and write down two columns’ worth of information — what you want from a job and what you need. Once you have the basics down, start planning out how many places you will apply to each week. It’s also a good idea to work in what types of places you’ll be applying for. Use the calendar on your phone or get a planner if you can and write notes to yourself for each week. Since the usual benefit time maxes out at about six months, try to set a strong plan for yourself to get a job within that time frame and plan for time before you actually start the job. Some jobs will have a two week or one month waiting period before they hire you on. Now you can actually start your job hunt.

Although it can be easy to apply online and watch the calls come in (or not), we have some other tips for finding a good job while you are unemployed. First, work on your resume. Employers see hundreds of resumes every year. They usually see a similar format with similar information. Try to make yours different. You can still include the classic information that they need to know in order to hire you, but you can also go above and beyond. Include some information about why you’re a good asset to the company on a personal level, not just professionally. What’s more, if you can find a new eye-catching template that keeps your resume looking sharp, focused, and uncluttered.

Next, go meet people in person. If there’s an employer that you’ve applied to and you’ve really got your eye on, go check in with them in person. I know that everything is usually done online these days, but when you’re unemployed you’ve really got to make an impression when you’re trying to get a job you really want. Don’t just let it pass you by. Do everything within your power (without harassing them) to make a good impression and explain to them why they would be remiss to not hire you immediately.

When Do I Start Thinking About Other Options?

If you’re closing in on your unemployment benefit deadline fairly soon and you haven’t found anything particularly promising, you might be thinking about settling for less than your dream job. You might even be considering taking a job that doesn’t meet the standards of your previous job. You now feel desperate and it’s not a good feeling, but don’t despair, you do have a couple options that could help you out.

If you’ve tried everything and you simply cannot find a decent job, you could qualify for some extended benefits if your state is experiencing an unemployment problem. When unemployment rates are high, your local economy could be a factor in whether or not you can find a job. However, just because you qualified for regular benefits does not mean you’ll qualify for extended benefits. This is mainly used for those who are having an unusually hard time finding work because of their state’s unemployment rate. I recommend applying for these as early as possible, while still working your job plan that we talked about earlier. Chances are, if you’re at this point, you might also be thinking of any possible way that you can make a little money to get you by.

I’d suggest waiting until you have no other options before dipping into a retirement savings account or using a credit card to supplement your income. In addition, if you can manage to keep some of your savings intact, that’s even better. Try to only take what you need and keep planning ahead. You should also have an unemployment budget that you’re sticking to. Keep working that budget and making it work for you. Remember anything that you take out will be taxed and you’ll have to earn it back later.

Sadly, things don’t always go the way we planned, especially when it comes to losing a job. It’s tiring, frustrating, and sometimes downright humiliating. However, you can make this situation work for you. Use this time to your advantage. Make yourself an even more valuable asset than you already are. Train yourself for your dream job. Make your benefits and income work for you. Set a budget and a plan that makes you feel in control. Pursue the jobs you really want and don’t simply rely on waiting for the email or call. If there’s a job out there that you really want, you can prove to them that you deserve it.

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