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Unemployed? A guide to managing job loss

September 2021 – 4 minute read

Key takeaways from this article:

  • Understand the impacts of unemployment
  • How to manage your finances during times of uncertainty
  • What to do when unemployed
Unemployed man on a computer reading a guide to managing job loss

The day you lose your job is a day filled with mixed emotions. Some people are ready for a change and can recognise the opportunities. For many of us, though, it's the beginning of an unknown and uncertain path. You may also experience feelings of grief. It’s important to recognise these feelings and understand they’re very common.

During good and bad economic times, people can find themselves unexpectedly unemployed, so don't be afraid to talk to others about it. Losing a job is more common than you might think, and it doesn’t define you. Having honest conversations can lead to career advancement or even potential job opportunities.

For additional support we have created the Job impact support guide (PDF 472KB) to help you consider the steps and support available to manage your wellbeing, your finances and, eventually, your job search.

If you’re financially impacted and struggling to meet payments, you can speak to someone from Westpac Assist on 1800 067 497 or apply for assistance online.

Securing your future

The time will come where you need to start looking for a new job. You’ll need to update your CV and start sending out applications and making phone calls. Think about what you’re qualified to do and your skills, and search in those areas. Remember, quality is more important than quantity with job applications.

Economically, there are times when it will be a struggle to find jobs. If you can’t find a job at all or you're transitioning to part-time or temporary employment, one of the first things you’ll need to do is look at your finances. This will ensure you have a financial buffer to protect yourself before re-joining the labour force. It is also important to consider your finances if you are experiencing underemployment, which is, when you would prefer to work more hours but are unable to because of economic reasons.

Managing your finances in times of uncertainty

If you’ve been made redundant and received a lump sum payout, remember this money can help tide you over while you seek your next job. We can help you with our budget planner (PDF 718KB) and cost-cutting checklist (PDF 191KB) to manage your money and make savings. To find out about pausing debt repayments, as this can help give you breathing space while you rework your finances and accommodate the impacts of reduced income, contact us at Westpac Assist on 1800 067 497 or apply for assistance online.

The Government has made recent updates to the social welfare system which you may be able to access by going to its website. It is important to understand the eligibility details of programs such as JobSeeker before you factor these unemployment benefits into your budget. Centrelink is also a helpful service. Reach out to get the ball rolling with Government agencies as it can take time for support to reach you. Don't forget to ensure your employer super contributions are up to date too.

To stay on top of your finances, it’s important to make a budget. Knowing what you have and what you’re spending, allows you to work out how long you can afford to remain unemployed. You can also consider ways to reduce your expenses. Look at the options of cancelling entertainment subscriptions like Netflix or Spotify. Try to reduce your energy consumption where possible and avoid unnecessary expenses like takeaway food or coffee. If you end up in a difficult financial situation, maybe you can find a cheaper place to live or think about selling some of your possessions.

Impacts of unemployment

Finding yourself jobless impacts several aspects of your life and it’s important to recognise the ways in which you may be affected. Consider the following areas of your life and how they might be influenced:

  • Mental health – First and foremost, you need to look after your wellbeing. Feelings of loneliness, frustration, or low confidence may be common when you lose your job, but they aren’t permanent. Reach out to family, friends, colleagues and loved ones to let them know how you’re doing and remember you’re not alone. Losing a job is a form of grief. If you’re struggling, talk to your GP (doctor) for advice. There are many mental health support services available online, over the phone or in person. Some great organisations include Headspace, Black Dog Institute and Beyond Blue.
  • Social life – You spend a lot of time with your colleagues when you’re at work. When unemployed, you can miss this social stimulation, and it's even harder given our current self-isolating situation. Reach out to family, friends online. If you’re comfortable, speak with your old work colleagues. This will help you feel connected and supported in this tough time.
  • Daily routine – Working accounts for a large part of our daily routine. While it’s okay to take a break and give yourself a few days to grieve, do your best to maintain a normal routine. This could include waking up as if you’re off to work and making a daily plan. Set some goals you’d like to achieve each week. These could be something like updating your CV, applying for 5 new jobs, learning some new skills or meeting someone new.

Setting yourself up

For some, losing your job is an immediate finish in the organisation, while others must serve a notice period or take ‘gardening leave'. In recent times many people may have found themselves moving from full-time to part-time work as companies cut costs to help them retain their staff and keep their businesses going. Transitioning to part-time work may mean you experience some of the same issues as being jobless, including experiencing the financial impacts of reduced income.

If you're anticipating job loss, or have lost your job, or you’re moving to part-time work, you can take control of the situation and prepare. Try to be calm and use the time to ask questions, understand your entitlements and access any outplacement services available to you. If you've been given a notice period, consider how to utilise that additional income and time and consider talking to your employer about contracting your services. Maybe there’s a part-time opportunity for you? Are there other opportunities within the organisation? Ask for references if you're comfortable. If you need time to process what’s happened, make a time to talk to your employer in a few days to discuss options.

What to do when unemployed

It can be very confronting and hard to think about what to do when or if you’re facing long term unemployment. Here are some tips to help manage this difficult situation.

Get a letter of recommendation

If you leave on good terms, ask for a recommendation letter that can support you in your search for a new employer.

Apply for welfare benefits

If you’ve lost your job and won’t be receiving any income, you should apply for unemployment support. It will probably take a few weeks to complete the process and the sooner you start the better.

Update your CV

You never know where the next opportunity will come from, so you want to have an up-to-date CV that you can use at any moment. Include details about your recent position and the skills you developed (plus any new qualifications).

Update your LinkedIn

When you start applying for new jobs, most employers are going to look for you online, and you want to have a strong professional profile. Update your LinkedIn profile to detail your experiences and skills. You can also update the profile to say you’re searching for new opportunities – so that potential employers can find you.


Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community. It may also help you develop a strong sense of self-worth. Not everyone can volunteer but if, and when you can, it will help you connect to people in your community.


The things we do and the ways we work are fast changing. Freelancing can be a good way to get some experience on your resume and start developing new skills. Sites like Airtasker or Freelancer allow you to offer your skills for temporary, freelance jobs.

Upskill courses

There are plenty of courses online that you can use as upskilling or retraining opportunities. This will improve your knowledge, your CV and might reveal some hidden passions or talents.

Ask for support

You’re not the only person to lose a job. Just about everyone at least knows someone who has gone through this experience, and most people will be willing to help. Let your close friends and colleagues know you’re looking – they might be able to offer advice, contacts, or support.

How to find a job when you are unemployed

Searching for a wide variety of positions will increase your likelihood of getting a job. Instead of focusing on a specific title, consider what you value most in a job and focus on that. Update your resume with your skills and qualifications relevant to the job you’re applying for. Once you’ve found an open position that you’re interested in, research the company, and ensure that your application is of an excellent standard. Quality over quantity.

We’re here to help

Let us help build your financial literacy skills. Visit the Master Your Money page for information to help you plan ahead and reduce the financial impacts of unemployment.

You may find these useful

Help with your finances

We understand that a reduction in hours or losing your job, in times of uncertainty, may cause financial pressure. We can help.

Preparing for your next job

Once the shock has subsided, it’s time to focus on what you’ll do next. This is your time and we’re here to help you make the most of it.

Upskilling and retraining

Add value to what you already know, your future self will thank you. Check out our guide to acquiring new skills.

Things you should know:

This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

 © Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.