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#PINNED: A guide on how to deal with unemployment in the time of a pandemic

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To help you successfully navigate through this rough patch in your life, here’s a comprehensive guide and with some helpful tips on how to deal with u

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Losing your job in the middle of a pandemic is probably one of the most anxiety-inducing situations that you could find yourself in, besides getting the virus. Being unemployed all of a sudden or finding an increasingly competitive job market after you’ve graduated online can be really stressful. Which is something that should be avoided now, if we can help it. Stress seriously weakens the immune system, the one thing that helps us keep coronavirus at bay.

To help you successfully navigate through this rough patch in your life, here’s a comprehensive guide and with some helpful tips on how to deal with unemployment in the time of COVID-19 pandemic.


You’re not alone

Business photo created by yanalya -
Photo created by yanalya -

One of the first things that you should keep in mind when dealing with unemployment in the middle of a pandemic is that yes, there might be people that are more qualified than you but that is not the only reason why you can’t seem to land a job these days.

Basically, the job market is more competitive these days due to the large number of unemployed people. Even though you might be more experienced or more willing to work for a lower salary, those two alone aren’t enough reasons to land you a job.

  • Unemployment in the Philippines

According to a news article on GMA News, the unemployment rate in the country has decreased from 8.8% in February 2021 to 7.1% in March of the same year. While it has decreased, it is still higher than the pre-pandemic unemployment rate in the Philippines at 4.59% during the fourth quarter of 2019.

Fortunately, the National Economic Development Authority’s outlook is positive for the rest of the year as the country continues with its mass vaccination drive and loosening of restrictions to businesses.

  • Effects of the pandemic on the Filipino economy and workforce

While predictions for the rest of the year are rosy enough, the Filipino economy is still in for a rough 2021. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 4.2% in the first quarter of 2021. This is the fifth consecutive time that the country’s GDP has contracted since last year.

As for the workforce, a hybrid working arrangement awaits them, particularly those who are now working from home. This can result in some employees working shifts at the office while a portion telecommutes. While working from home has resulted in an increase in productivity for most, it has also increased burnout and turnover rates among employees.


Evaluate your emergency fund

Business photo created by schantalao -
Photo created by schantalao -

The novel coronavirus totally changed the way we budget while unemployed. While interviews and exams can be done online, there are some employers who prefer face-to-face interviews and even exams for prospective candidates. Adding to the usual bills and application budget that a job seeker has to prepare for are health concerns, too.

Safety from the virus is of the utmost importance so allocations for health and wellness should always be considered when budgeting. This is why it’s very important for you to prepare an emergency fund beforehand.

An emergency fund is a very crucial resource that is available at your disposal now that you’re unemployed. Well, assuming you have one. This will help you go through a hopefully short stint of unemployment.

  • What is an emergency fund?

To put it simply, an emergency fund is a source of funding that you draw funds from in the event of sudden financial problems, such as unemployment. Ideally, this should cover six months’ worth of expenses. These expenses should cover your rent, food, supplies, bills, and the money you would need for the miscellaneous expenses of job hunting such as printed resumes, cab fare or gas money for interviews, etc.

Having your own emergency fund ensures that you will have enough money to cover for the duration of your unemployment without accumulating debt.

  • What is the difference between an emergency fund and savings account?

While an emergency fund is something that you should always be ready to spend, a savings account is a fund source for your future self when you eventually retire. While every working Filipino is assured a pension upon retirement, you’re not sure if the amount that you’ll receive from the government can cover your day-to-day expenses and the occasional trip to the doctor.

Other than for retirement, your savings account can also be for something that you’re saving up for, like a new car or your very own place.

  • What if I have no emergency fund?

Chances are if you have no idea what an emergency fund is, you probably don’t have any. Your options are thus very limited. If you have scheduled payments for loans, you can try talking to your bank or financial institution for some sort of deferred payment. You can also evaluate your assets now and pawn some of them to get you the funds you need now.

If those are not available to you, there’s really no shame in asking help from your family and friends. Just remember to repay them back once you’re back on your feet again.


Make a detailed list of all your liabilities and bills

Business photo created by mindandi -
Photo created by mindandi -

After you’re done evaluating your emergency fund, the next thing you need to do is to make a detailed list of your liabilities, specifically the stream of bills that will come your way every month. It is important to keep track of your bills so that you can avoid late payment fees and being blacklisted by your creditors. Or, you know, getting your electric supply cut due to unpaid bills.

  • These tools will help you assess your assets and liabilities

To help you be more organized and motivated with your finances, you can take a look at the following apps.

Probably the most well-known personal finance app on both Android and iOS, Mint can help you visualize where your money actually goes. This app can help you track your spending and create a budget for you, considering the amount of debt you have to pay and the money that you still have. Mint can also help you track your investments and provide access to your credit score for free. The only caveat of this app is the presence of in-app ads.

Get Mint for iOS here

Get Mint for Android here

While creating spreadsheets for your expenses and bills might be less appealing than using an app specifically designed for personal finance, it is completely free and doesn’t need an Internet connection if you use LibreOffice on desktop or Collabora Office on mobile. Using spreadsheets can also make you more focused on the task at hand. And, to be fair, mastering spreadsheet commands and tricks can be very useful when you’re employed once again.

Get LibreOffice for Mac or PC here

Get Collabora Office for iOS here

Get Collabora Office for Android here

Any personal finance app list isn’t complete without You Need a Budget (YNAB). However, despite its awesome features, using this app isn’t really recommended for unemployed people. There is a free 34-day trial but that’s it, beyond that, you need to shell out USD 84 a year or USD 11.99 a month to use it.


Cut back on all non-essential spending

Business photo created by tirachardz -
Photo created by tirachardz -

This part calls for utter ruthlessness on your part. Deep inside, you most likely already have an idea which expenses are non-essential. This section will help you define those more clearly and prevent yourself from trying to rationalize retaining those non-essential expenses. The essentials are generally just food, water, and shelter. Everything else is up for debate.

  • Evaluate your credit cards, if you have any

First question to ask yourself is “Do I really need this?” When you’re anxious and stressed out, it’s so easy just to swipe/buy things online with a credit card. This can be a coping mechanism but sooner or later, you’ll discover that this coping has also given you loads of credit card debt.

If you have a couple of credit cards, it would be wise to cancel the rest and just stick with one for the time being. You should also strive to pay the full amount every billing cycle since this will cut back on the interest payments. Check the monthly expenses that you charge to your credit card. Do you really need two streaming services? Or music apps? Don’t fret over the content that you won’t get to watch or listen to at this time. You can always consume them later when you’re much more stable financially.

  • Here’s how to downgrade your lifestyle

The most important aspect of cutting back on non-essential spending is the downgrading of one’s lifestyle. To put it simply, this is merely lifestyle adjustment to reflect the present reality, that is, of your unemployment. There are things that you regularly do or expenses that you normally incur when you were employed that would be incompatible now that you’re earning nil.

The first thing that you can do when downgrading your lifestyle is to cut back on non-essential items such as cafe coffee, gym memberships, and leisure trips. If you cannot survive without your daily caffeine fix, start making your own or try being content with instant coffee. Many gyms are still closed anyway so there wouldn’t be much harm in you cancelling your membership for the time being. You can do your reps at home or do laps outside your building or within your village. If you own a car, only use it for emergencies or supplies run. If your friends or family members would want a ride, you can ask them for gas money, too.

Second thing that you can do is to declutter your home. Look for items that you can sell online to friends and family. These can include old clothes that you don’t wear anymore, hobby items that are just accumulating dust in your cabinet, and old books that you’ve already read.

Next on the list is cooking or preparing your own meals. While eating out or delivering food is much more convenient and accessible, it is much cheaper to buy the ingredients yourself and prepare your own food. There’s also the added bonus of being able to serve healthy meals since vegetables and fruits are generally cheaper than meat or other protein.

One last thing that you can do is move into a smaller space if you’re living in a large house or rent out a room to bedspacers. Either will be a positive for you since moving to a smaller apartment or sharing the one you have now with other renters will free up some of your remaining money for your emergency fund.


Don’t be discouraged by rejection

Photo created by ijeab -
Photo created by ijeab -

Due to the current competitiveness of the job market, chances are you won’t be hired right away. But don’t fret! Job hunting is a numbers game, sooner than later, you’ll definitely find an employer that’s a good fit with your skills.

  • What are the things in job-hunting that you might be doing wrong

While searching for a job in the time of a pandemic is mostly limited to sending out resumes and hoping for the best, there are still several things that might be preventing your application from progressing to the next step.

The first thing to look out for is that you probably have too much information in your resume. Ideally, your resume should be a one-pager file filled with your work experience and some relevant information about yourself.

Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid a long cover letter. The only thing that the recruiter would want to see in your cover letter is how fit you are for the job posting. Make sure to create a cover letter for each application, make it targeted so that the hiring manager would know that you took the time to read the qualifications posted and that you’re a good fit for them.

When you get past the first level and get scheduled for an interview, remember to still dress appropriately, even if the interview is online. Ensure that your background is appropriate for the interview, as well. Take advantage of the advanced features of video conferencing software such as Zoom and Google Meet to place a professional-looking background for your interview.

Once you’re being interviewed, keep in mind to never badmouth your previous employers. Yes, those might be the kind of companies that employees should steer clear of, however, it still leaves a bad impression if you start complaining about them to the interviewer. They will think that you will do the same to them when you decide to leave the company.

Lastly, don’t forget to follow up your application. Don’t forget to follow up on the status of your application, at least one week after the interview. This will indicate to the hiring manager that you’re still interested in the job posting.

  • Create a great resume by following these tips

The first thing to keep in mind is that you should avoid using the same resume for all of your applications. Your resume should show the recruiter how fit you are for the position, creating a cookie-cutter resume that every other applicant has can hinder your chances of even being noticed by the hiring manager.

Next is to determine what type of resume you are going to create. If you’re targeting a graphic design position, a resume that showcases your skills is the way to go. The same with professions that deal with numbers or words, the resume that you should send the prospective employer should clearly show why you’re the best candidate for the job.

Once you’ve determined the resume type that you’ll be making, the next step is to provide some personal information. This includes your name, email address, and phone number. You can also include your LinkedIn profile or a link to your portfolio in this section.

When you’re in the work experience section, remember to clearly state your responsibilities and the skills you’ve earned during your employment. Also remember to provide bullet points of your accomplishment during your stay in that company. These can be great talking points when you’re being interviewed, too.

Don’t forget your education history when creating your resume. Fresh graduates can indicate their general weighted average (GWA), honors and awards received, and also their thesis. However, if you already have a couple of work experiences, those aren’t necessary. If they are relevant, you can include the online courses or training that you’ve undergone in this section too.

Lastly, unless the job posting indicates this, never put your picture in your resume. Your physical appearance might ignite certain biases from recruiters. While the chances of that are low, it’s better to err on the side of caution.


Do some freelance work on the side

Photo created by tirachardz -
Photo created by tirachardz -

While you’re waiting for HR to call, you can augment your income by doing some freelance work. There are tons of available freelance jobs online ranging from data entry to web design and copywriting that you can get into, provided you have the skills

  • Here’s how you can start being a freelancer

Before you start freelancing, you need a working laptop (or desktop) and an Internet connection. All freelancing jobs are online and all communication with your future clients will happen through online channels like chat or email.

The next step is to create a portfolio of your best works. If you’re a graphic designer, you can create a Behance account to showcase your works. Additionally, you can use Adobe Portfolio and Coroflot as well. Once you have a portfolio, you can now start looking for clients.

  • Find freelance jobs on these websites

While finding a client by word of mouth is very much possible, the easiest way to get them is through the following websites which lists freelance jobs:

Additionally, you can check out Reddit for freelancing subreddits for commissions or tips.


Bonus tip: Upskill whenever you can

Photo created by freepik -
Photo created by freepik -

Basically upskilling is corporate-speak for learning a new skill that can help you get a promotion or negotiate a higher salary. Even while unemployed, this is something that you can still do, provided you have the energy for it. Keep in mind that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and you’re unemployed at that. The first priority is getting you out of this situation, everything else follows.

  • These sites offer free lessons on different topics

Udemy has everything from free lessons taught by experts to paid ones with extensive learning resources. You can easily access the free ones as well as the paid courses. For the latter, Udemy usually offers frequent discounts and class specials. Additionally, you can link the certifications that you earn on Udemy to your LinkedIn profile.

If you’re looking for actual college courses, Coursera is the way to go. You can access thousands of courses on this website in a variety of fields, ranging from business to philosophy. The universities offering free courses on Coursera are no slouch either, these include Yale, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and many other prestigious educational institutions.

Like Coursera, you can also take free college courses on edX. This website was founded in 2012 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard and is purely non-profit. You can also get a master’s degree here from some of their partner universities.

  • Take advantage of free online seminars

Lastly, many companies and brands are offering free online seminars these days. You should definitely take advantage of them, especially if they are in your field. You can pick valuable insights from speakers who will most likely be industry experts. Furthermore, you can expand your professional network just by being part of these free events.


Take heart, all will be well

Photo created by wayhomestudio -
Photo created by wayhomestudio -

It’s natural for you to despair about your prospects and to feel anxious and stressed out. Your feelings are valid and to be fair to everyone, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. There will be off days and you will probably receive rejections from everywhere. Things will probably turn worse before they get better. But it doesn’t matter.

You’re skilled, resilient, and determined. You got this. Take comfort in the knowledge that this too shall pass. You’ll get a new job and will be on your feet again. We believe in you.

Stay safe and good luck!

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