Unemployment rates continue to be a problem for tens of millions of individuals across the United States. In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal stated job growth would continue to be sluggish for 2013 and that the jobless rate will likely remain high. The last decade has caused people from all walks of life, educational backgrounds, and from all areas of the country to lose their job. Even individuals that have never been unemployed and those that have always been able to quickly find a job are struggling in this economy.
Not only is it more difficult to keep a job today, it is becoming exceedingly difficult to find a well-paying fulltime job once unemployed. Recent studies indicate that nearly 40% of all the unemployed individuals in the country are considered to be “long-term” unemployed; they have been unemployed for 27 weeks, or longer. As a result of this, and the continuing high unemployment rate in the country, several years ago the U.S. Government announced supplemental unemployment insurance benefits for some individuals that have exhausted the state-level benefits.
This guide is designed to be a comprehensive resource for those that are recently unemployed, and for those that have been unemployed for longer periods of time. From how much money to expect while receiving unemployment benefits and how to apply for compensation through the managing the emotional toll of being unemployed, this guide strives to cover all of the aspects of benefits, appeals, job hunting, networking, governmental programs, and more.
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How Much Money To Expect On Unemployment
This is always the first question that individuals that are recently employed ask; “How much money will I receive”? There is no easy way or magic formula to determine how much you can expect to receive on unemployment. Unemployment compensation amounts are based on a variety of factors including the cost of living for the area in which you were unemployed and your position and salary. Typically it is a fraction of what you earned on your last job; do not expect your unemployment benefits to cover your entire salary, it simply does not. In some parts of the country unemployed individuals can receive as little as $175 per week while in other parts of the country individuals can receive as much as $875 per week. While it may be tempting to consider a relocation to an area that pays higher, your unemployment benefits will be calculated for the region in which you were last employed; not where you live now (if that has changed).
The Length Of Time You Can Receive Unemployment Benefits
The number of weeks that you are eligible to receive unemployment compensation also varies from state to state. Check with your local state unemployment office for information on the amount you can expect and for the number of weeks, it is typically around 26 weeks. With the Federal extension of unemployment benefits in some areas of the country, this can change rapidly. EUC or Emergency Unemployment Compensation only kicks in after you have exhausted all of your state unemployment benefits. In areas with high unemployment rates, this may extend your benefits up to a total of 99 weeks; however, not all areas of the country, and not all applicants will be approved for EUC benefits. It is important to note that the extension is based on the rate of unemployment both nationally, and at the state level. Many states have information on the extension eligibility on their website; when you file for your benefits read any information that is published there.
Applying For Unemployment
Unemployment insurance compensation benefits are designed to help individuals that have joined the ranks of the unemployed due to no fault of their own with compensation payments. Unemployment benefits are not intended as a permanent replacement of income; the length of time that you are eligible to receive compensation varies from state to state, depending on the unemployment rate nationally, and at the local level. As soon as you are officially unemployed, you need to file for your unemployment benefits. The process can take anywhere from two weeks to eight weeks depending on where you live. Most states allow individuals to file for their unemployment online, while a few still require individuals to file in person. Unemployment benefits are managed at the state level, so regardless if you are filing online or in person, you will have to go through your local state agency that manages the program. You can easily locate the closest office by clicking here.
Before you start the application, you need to be prepared to provide a significant amount of information and details. Any information requested through the application form that you leave off your application may result in a denial of benefits, or a significant delay. It is best to prepare and have all of the information below prior to applying for your unemployment compensation.
- Your personal data including SSN, date of birth, mailing address, phone number, email address, and driver’s license number.
- Last employer’s contact information including name, address, phone number, Federal ID number. If you worked for your last employer for less than two years, you will have to provide all of this information for previous employer as well.
- Information on your job position including the dates of employment, title/position, salary or hourly wage, letter of separation, details on compensation paid at separation, amount of unused vacation pay, wages still owed, and the reason given for your separation.
The Appeals Process If You Have Been Denied Unemployment
If you were denied unemployment benefits there is an appeals process. In most cases, the reason for the denial was that your claim was contested by your last employer, or you simply did not provide the requested information necessary to make a decision in your favor. Each state has different guidelines and rules for appealing the denial, but typically it requires you to submit additional information as requested and possibly you will be required to appear at an official hearing. When you receive a notice of denial of benefits, it will come with the necessary information that is pertinent to your state’s appeal process. Follow the directions exactly and provide all of the information requested as soon as you can. Many states have limited time that you can file an appeal so it is essential that you make the appeals process, however daunting it may be, your first priority.
Job Hunting When You Are Unemployed
While you are unemployed, your fulltime job is to find a new fulltime job! It is important to remain hopeful and diligent in your job hunting. It is important that you create and stick to your job hunting schedule; you need to dedicate a minimum of 3 hours a day to job hunting and most people find that 5 to 6 hours a day is better. In the first couple of weeks that you are unemployed, you will likely need to put in significantly more hours than that. Here is a list of priorities to take care of during the first couple of weeks:
- Update your resume
- Draft several cover letters
- Create and review a database of your contacts
- Register with your local unemployment office’s job services group
- Contact friends, family and colleagues and tell them you are actively looking for a job
- Create a schedule for your job hunting including:
- a. Networking
- b. Online job hunting
- c. Local job hunting
- d. Research of companies and positions you are applying for
- e. Cover letter customization
- f. Participation in job fairs and other events
Resumes And Cover Letters
Resumes and cover letters are what get you into an interview and give you a chance of securing a new job. It is essential that they be professional and sells you to potential employers, nearly instantly. Your resume needs to quickly attract the attention of all that read it; the top portion of the resume must sell you and convince readers to keep reading. The headline and summary is essential; it tells them what you are looking for and why you are qualified for the position in which you are applying. This is followed by your skills, work experience, professional experience, and education. There are two basic formats for resumes, the chronological and the functional. The chronological resume highlights your employment history, starting with your last job. The functional resume instead focuses on your skills and highlights what you are capable of. This is the choice for many professionals looking to change careers or industries. Write one of each and ask business contacts and friends to review it, focusing on the following considerations:
- Does this resume sell me and my accomplishments?
- Does it show my strengths and experience?
- Is it written concisely?
- Are the keywords used appropriate and descriptive?
- Is it easy to read?
- Is the information presented logically?
Cover letters are used to generate interest and provide as a personal introduction of yourself to a potential employer. Cover letters MUST BE PERSONALIZED for each job that you apply to. Take the time to research the position you are applying to, the hiring manager, and the company and then tailor the cover letter to highlight why you are best for the job.
Finding Positions Available
When hunting for a job, it is essential that you use not only the internet, but also local job sites. While the large online job boards including Career Builder and Monster can provide you with some leads, it is better to target niche job boards either in your physical area, your industry, or for particular job disciplines. Some of the most active online niche sites include:
Great! You scored an interview. Now it is time to prepare. Remember that there may be several levels of the interview process, starting with a telephone screening right through to a peer group meeting prior to being awarded the position. Have patience throughout the process, and always be prepared. Here are some tried and true interview tips:
- Know your resume back and forth and be able to answer any questions asked.
- Show your strengths, your willingness to work and your flexibility.
- Highlight your leadership skills.
- Give examples of your contributions to past employers.
- Prepare questions to ask during the interview including:
- What are day-to-day responsibilities?
- How is performance measured and by whom?
- What is the organization/department goal/plan for next 1 year, 5 year?
- Bring extra copies of resumes, references, letters of recommendations, and your portfolio.
- Arrive 15 minutes early.
- Dress professionally.
- Turn off your cell phone.
- Maintain eye contact.
- Listen carefully and thoughtfully.
- Ask when a decision will be made.
- If you want the job – tell them!
Networking Tips For The Unemployed
Nearly 80% of all jobs today are found through networking, not through online job sites or local job hunting. Networking has never been more important than when you are unemployed. If in your previous position you were a member of organized networking groups, continue to participate and let everyone know that you are actively seeking a new position. In addition, keep in contact with colleagues, vendors and clients from your previous jobs and remind them you are looking for a new job opportunity and ask them regularly for referrals.
- Maintain your contacts and network with them regularly. This database should include friends, family, neighbors, professors, past supervisors and managers, clients, vendors, and referrals from other contacts.
- Send individuals in your network articles of interest, keep in touch through email, snail mail, and by picking up the phone to chat.
- Hone your “elevator pitch” that highlights your skills in 1 minute or less.
- Ask businesses for informational interviews.
- All contact with your network should be professional; get a fresh email address that is your name so that you are easily identifiable.
- Network online! But, be careful. Do a quick search to see what information comes up about you online and be prepared to handle any photos, videos, comments, etc that may give your network (and potential employer) concern about hiring or recommending you. Only use professional networking sites and use Facebook and Twitter with extreme caution. You may want to focus your job hunting and networking through LinkedIn and even Google+ being careful who you choose to be attached to in the online world.
- Volunteer. Spend time with others that share your passion. Try to secure a volunteer position that is closely related to your job field; not only can you add this to your resume, but you will likely make terrific contacts that can lead to a job.
Once you have found your new job, continue to nurture and maintain your network. Let everyone know that you have found a new job, tell them about it and thank them for their help and support.
Staying Motivated In The Job Search
Job hunting can be tedious and frustrating and filled with repetitive tasks. It is a challenge to stay focused and motivated. Keep your eyes, and hopes moving forward. Focus on securing the job of your dreams, even in this challenging economy. Step outside your comfort zone sometimes and apply for jobs that might be out of your industry, but that you think could be fun. Use all available resources to optimize your chances and stay connected with your support and networking groups. Every once in a while, you must step outside for a change of scenery; do your online job hunting or research from a library or a café.
Ways To Make Money While Unemployed
Since unemployment insurance benefits do not replace your entire income, it can become vital that you find additional sources of income to offset your expenses. The first, and most obvious solution, is to find a part-time job. It is important to note however that there is a maximum amount of money that you can earn while drawing unemployment benefits; make sure that you check with your unemployment office to determine that figure as anything more than the set guideline can result in the negation of your unemployment benefits.
If you live in Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York or Oregon, you may qualify for a program called “Self-Employment Assistance”. This program allows you to spend your time not job hunting, but building a small business from the ground up. The program provides the same levels of income as standard unemployment benefits however you do not have to apply for jobs each week to keep benefits. For more information visit: http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/self.asp.
In addition to working part-time or starting a business, you can raise money in the following ways:
- Develop freelancing career.
- Tutor students in your area.
- Run errands, shop for others.
- Sell collectibles, antiques or artwork that you have in your basement or attic.
- Hold a garage sale to get rid of unused or unwanted household items and clothing.
- Sell your car and get a beater (an old car you can pay cash for). Toyota and Honda are realiable and last forever.
Government Assistant Programs
In addition to unemployment compensation benefits, there are a number of governmental programs that you may be eligible for while unemployed. Below are some highlights of programs available. Also contact local and state agencies to learn more about programs in your area.
The Energy Assistance program, or LEAP, is federally funded and designed to assist low-income individuals offset the expenses of heating during winter months. You will need to provide information on your unemployment benefits, copies of all heating fuel bills and your driver’s license with your application. COBRA insurance is available for some individuals and their families after a layoff from a job. It provides a continuation of health benefits for a limited period of time. Check with your unemployment office for more information.
- Food Stamps: Known now as SNAP visit: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach/map.htm
- Energy assistance programs help to offset heating expenses during winter months, look locally for information
- Employment Training
- Contact local American Job Center: http://www.servicelocator.org/OneStopCenters.asp
- Work Force Investment Act offers range of workforce activities through state and local organizations. Job training, skills training and more may be available in your area. Visit: http://www.servicelocator.org/program_search.asp?prgcat=1&officeType_1=0
- Apprenticeship Programs blend on-the-job training and classroom instruction. Visit: http://www.servicelocator.org/program_search.asp?prgcat=1&officeType_1=9
- Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) helps older unemployed individuals. Visit: http://www.servicelocator.org/program_search.asp?prgcat=1&officeType_1=14
- Dislocated Worker/Rapid Response provides career counseling and job search assistance. Resume preparation, interviewing skills, stress management workshops, benefits and more are provided at local offices. As unemployment office for more information.
- Healthcare, Mental Health & Insurance include both state and national resources such as COBRA Insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, the National Mental Health Information Center, and much more.
- Childcare resources may be available through the National Network for Child Care, the Childrens Bureau or by visiting: www.afterschool.gov
- Temporary Assistance For Needy Families each state has a TANF program that overseas food stamps, training and other programs. Find your local office and contact to see what benefits you are eligible for.
In addition to the many Federal assistant programs that are available to the unemployed and individuals with low income, there is a wide array of State and Local programs as well. It is impossible to list all of the programs available here, throughout the country. Check with your State’s official website and with your City’s website to see the programs that you can apply for. In addition, check into any nonprofits in your area that offer services as well. Many nonprofit organizations today have made changes and have updated their services to help our growing population of unemployed workers. Some host networking events, support groups, provide clothing for interviews and may even offer child care while you are interviewing for a new job. Your local unemployment office is a good place to start your search for local assistance programs and nonprofit organizations that will help you through this temporary period of unemployment.
Emotional Toll Of Unemployment
Unemployment is not just a financial crisis; it is an emotional crisis as well. Anytime that our lives are disrupted by a life-changing event such as divorce, death, or unemployment, we struggle emotionally as well as financially. When the daily routine goes from working fulltime where you are engaging with other professionals, problem-solving and succeeding to not working fulltime and searching for a job, it is tempting to give up. The role reversal is difficult, in the best of situations. Someone that has never before been unemployed or had any sort of a difficulty securing a new job can find this change demoralizing and depressing. Nearly 50% of unemployed individuals report that they feel significant to high stress because of their joblessness. Anxiety, stress and additional conflicts within the family are commonplace when you do not have a job and finances are at a premium. If you have been actively searching for a job for weeks or months, it is natural for self-confidence to wane. The longer this period of unemployment drags on, the more prone you are to depression. When you are depressed, it is difficult to stay motivated, you do not interview well, and this can harm your chances of getting a new job.
There are some things that you can do to stay on top of your game, even while battling the emotional toll that unemployment and job hunting can take on your psyche.
- Turn to friends, family and peers for support. Be honest and open in your struggles.
- Network with others that are unemployed. Share your feelings of despair and frustrations.
- Exercise daily. Burn off some of the frustration and depression; regular exercise is not only great for heart health, but also for mental health.
- Take this opportunity while you are not working to take your dogs for a walk in the middle of the day, ride your bike around your community. Get outside and breathe fresh air into your lungs.
- Learn something new. Have you always wanted to speak Italian or learn to knit? Whatever it is, the internet is loaded with free online trainings and tutorials.
- Meditate and rejuvenate your brain. Meditation can help to focus your energy and keep you focused, even under stress.
- Keep on your schedule for job hunting and networking. While a routine can become tedious, it forces you to stay on track.
- Visit with a counselor or a member of the clergy if depression becomes unmanageable.
Being unemployed is difficult. It simply is. Unemployment insurance benefits can help offset the expenses you have while you are searching for a new job. While it will not replace your entire income, it will help. It is important to understand that during this period your life will be changing. You will likely have to live under a new budget, your daily routine will be drastically different, and you will not be spending time with your peers each day. Do not become a recluse. Reach out for support. Network. Consult with government and nonprofit agencies in your area for assistance with food, housing, child care, health services, and other programs. Most of all, remind yourself that this is a temporary situation and you are not alone; there are tens of millions of people in the country that are facing the same challenges.
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What is an Unemployment Extension?
Congress sets the legislation that determines if there will be an unemployment extension. You must check with your state unemployment office for details on who can qualify and how much money you will receive.
How to file for unemployment insurance benefits?
If you have been layed off from your job from no fault of your own, you have a good chance of getting approved for receiving unemployment benefits. The amounts and details vary by state, so be sure to check with your state unemployment office.
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