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Unemployed? 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 82KB) and cost-cutting checklist (PDF 216KB) 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.

  1. Evaluate your future. It’s important to keep a positive outlook when you’re doing this. The impacts of unemployment on mental health are well-known. You will have time to think about where you want to be in the next year, three years, 10 years. Were you enjoying your previous job? What are you passionate about? Maybe you want to work in a different area, industry or even in another continent. Take these things into consideration and you can start working towards making your dream a reality.
  2. Volunteer. 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. It might even land you your next job. There are online and phone volunteering opportunities and charities such as food deliveries are also in high demand during social distancing and when restrictions around movement are in force. Call up your local community centre or have a look online for what you can do. If possible, focus your volunteering towards your next career.
  3. Network. It’s no secret that when finding a job, who you know is as important as what you know. Reach out to people you trust in your desired industry. Maybe they will know of an opening or even just give you some general advice. It’s always a good idea to hop onto the professional networks, like LinkedIn, and update your profile. Create an online presence and share with employers and recruiters what makes you unique.
  4. Freelance. 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. Freelancing will also help in making ends meet while you find more stable employment. There are also opportunities in temporary employment agencies that might give you the financial boost you need. Please, if you are receiving benefits, check with Centrelink about the policies it has around freelance and gig work.
  5. 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.
  6. Learning how to budget is a skill. Knowing where and what you spend your money on, as well as how you can control your spending and saving, means you can begin to understand your attitude to money and plan for your financial future. 

Let us help build your financial literacy skills. Our free online courses at Westpac’s Davidson Institute can support you to plan for the future and reduce the financial impacts of unemployment.

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.