Unemployment 101 – A Survival Guide

If like many people in recent months you have been made unemployed as a result of the recession than you have my deepest sympathies. You have joined a movement of people who are growing in numbers, at the time of writing some 1.97 million now form the mass unemployed. While some correspondents claim that the figures are not as bad as they were in the 90’s, the fact remains that behind each of these numbers are real people, with real lives. Right now we are living in very uncertain times and neither the decision-makers, politicians or captains of industry seem to have a real clue, let alone a solution to the deepening recession.

Unemployment makes you undergo a major lifestyle re-adjustment.

For many of us work formed a large part of our lives, what I mean by this is that work gave structure to our daily existence. It is a well-known fact that on average a single person spends virtually a third of their life asleep. When you break this down into a single day that amounts to an average of 8 hours. A full-time job can take 8 hours out of our day, and that’s before we even factor in traveling to and from work, which depending on the distances involved could easily add up to 2-3 hours. So as we carried on with the “daily grind” of work we had to “make time” to go to the gym, meet friends in the pub, and spend time with the family.

Unemployment makes you undergo a major lifestyle re-adjustment. The loss of earnings is replaced with state benefits, you are forced to re-appraise your finances and try to get by with what little money you have. You spend your time looking for jobs on the internet and in the papers, you may, on occasion be lucky enough to get an interview, but the company tells you that they found someone else who was “a better fit for the business”. Before you know it weeks, even months have flown by. You no longer know or care what day of the week it is, as they have little to differentiate them. You no longer go to the gym, you don’t see your friends as often and former colleagues even less. Life, it seems, has finally hit rock bottom, with your social circles ever decreasing, you feel alone, helpless and isolated…

While there’s plenty of advice on claiming benefits, what to do to find work, where to get training etc., there’s no real advice on how to cope with the practical aspects of coping with unemployment.

Now while there are a number of professions that seem to be “recession-proof” e.g. Doctors, Armed Forces, Police force etc, there is one profession in particular that is known for periods of “down time”, and this may give us some ideas on developing our own coping strategies.

If I was to quote the Bard and say “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts” then the profession I am talking about is that of acting/drama/performance. There is much that can be learned from the acting profession.

For example;

Permanent work is rare, and though highly sought after some choose to avoid it in case it limits or constrains their abilities. We know this as being “typecast”, only being seen as being able to play one role.

Actor’s are constantly going to auditions for parts they believe they have the ability to play, and frequently have to deal with rejection (“not what we’re looking for”, “too short”, “too tall”, “too fat” ,“too thin”, “like someone younger”, “need someone more experienced” the list goes on! But despite all this they carry on none the less because they have an unshakable belief in their own abilities, and an overwhelming desire to succeed.

When not performing either on TV or the stage they can often be found working behind bars, serving in fast food chains etc., as they are always looking for ways to keep busy and bring in some money.

Acting is one of the few professions where their work is remembered long after they played their part and rarely escapes discussion. This acknowledges the impact their performance had on people and how memorable it was. When was the last time you heard someone compliment a tradesman on a job they did a decade ago?

We can now see some parallels between the life of an actor and our own. I’m not saying that actors cope with unemployment any better than ourselves, but due to the nature of the business it is a given fact that “down time” is simply a part of being an actor and they have the same bills to pay as ourselves.

So what can we learn from an actor’s life that can be applied it to our own lives?

Treat interviews like auditions, read the script, learn your lines, practice delivery until it sounds fresh every time you say it and not rehearsed.

Don’t dwell on rejection, negativity will only kill any ambition and desire to succeed. Instead, try focusing on the positive aspects of your performance.

While it is possible to turn job hunting into a full time job, don’t let it consume you and tie you to the phone. Take a break, go out for a walk, do anything that gets you out into the real world and out of the confines of your home.

Be prepared to try something new, even if it isn’t what you are used to.

Keep contact with friends and colleagues if possible.  You never know when a job lead may come by!

Don’t let being unemployed cramp your social life, everybody needs to blow off steam and have some fun!

Establish a daily routine that gives you something to focus on other than being unemployed. Having a routine means that you have to account for your time just as if you were working, only with different activities.

While the focus of this article is about being “upbeat” and maintaining a positive mental attitude, it is widely recognised that unemployment can be an emotionally stressful time, and it’s easy to become so absorbed that it can destroy your life. If you are having difficulties you need to talk with someone, be it your partner, friend or doctor. If you feel uncomfortable with discussing issues with your immediate family, the Samaritans are a voluntary organisation and offer confidential support in times of need.

So stay positive and remember success is only an opportunity away.


In the next article I will be looking at ways to make effective use of your time.

2 thoughts on “Unemployment 101 – A Survival Guide

  1. Excellent article. The analogy fabulous. There really isn’t a job anymore that is secure, the only security we can experience is the determination to use our talents and creativity and perserverance to rise above the loss….and being positive is a huge piece of the winning attitude employers look for.


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