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How to Navigate Unemployment

August 31, 2020 4:08 pm

COVID-19 has taken a dramatic impact on many people’s lives and livelihoods. Not only are individuals faced with fear and uncertainty as continued health concerns rise surrounding the novel coronavirus, but workers around the world have been placed in unfamiliar financial situations and many left jobless through the wide-reaching effects of this pandemic. According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, unemployment in Montana remains higher than pre-pandemic levels, with about 18,000 fewer jobs.

Navigating these new circumstances can be overwhelming and is certainly no easy feat—all of us at Montana’s Credit Unions are here to help alleviate some of the stress and get you in the best possible position to maneuver unemployment and come out on top. Follow our tips below to start tackling this new reality and don’t forget to reach out to your local credit union for financial guidance and assistance during these unprecedented times.


Step 1: Take time for self-care

The sudden (or even expected) loss of a job can take a toll on an individual’s mental health, and though your first instinct may be to “right the ship” and secure a new opportunity, allowing time and space for self-care is crucial. It’s common to feel anxiety, stress, grief, or worry while processing your new situation. Take a moment to breathe, reflect, and analyze what happened. Looking after your mental health amidst a crisis will help you stay calm and think rationally as you approach the next steps and the situation at hand.

PRO TIP: Providing self-care during an emergency will help your long-term healing. Check out the CDC’s guide and resources for taking care of your emotional health during a crisis.


Step 2: File for unemployment

This step should be done as quickly as possible to get a new source of income during this transition period. When you file for unemployment you are seeking unemployment insurance, which is funding provided to individuals who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Once you are approved, you will receive monetary payments for a designated period or until you can secure a new job. Filing for unemployment immediately following the loss of employment is critical as there can be a delay in getting approved depending on current unemployment rates in the state.

To combat the rise of unemployment due to the impact of COVID-19, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation is now available which provides 13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits, if needed, to individuals who have exhausted their previous claim. Additionally, Montana is a participating state in the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program which provides a weekly payment of up to $400 for eligible individuals who are unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. This payment would be in addition to a claimant’s weekly benefit amount.

You can check your eligibility, apply for unemployment, and access additional resources through Montana Works.


Step 3: Organize your finances

Once you have filed for unemployment, your next step is to sort out your finances and outline a budget to make sure you are covering your monthly expenses. You will likely need to adapt your current spending plan to account for your new form of cash flow (severance or unemployment insurance) and cut out any unnecessary spending. Through budgeting, you will be able to determine if you are going to come up short on any expenses.

Freeing up additional cash will help your money work harder for you during this time. Review your current monthly subscriptions, memberships, and reoccurring fees. Canceling gym memberships, streaming services, and other non-essential items will give you more funds to work with. Another way to improve cash flow is to contact your creditors and lenders to see what relief they might be offering.

From housing assistance, student loan updates, and other helpful tips for organizing your finances, check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s resource guide.


Step 4: Look to the future

It is time to prepare for a new and hopeful future. But first things first, if you lost your job due to COVID-19 reach out to your employer to see if they have any plans for reopening, restructuring, or bringing anyone back on. If the door is closed for good on that employment chapter, it would be beneficial to ask your previous employer if they would serve as a reference for you moving forward.

Now to start your job hunt! Begin by outlining what you are looking for within your next position. Is there a company you have been longing to work for, a skill you have been eager to build, or a new industry you want to explore? Answering these questions and outlining your career goals will help you narrow your search to find the ideal opportunity for you. And remember, you can even look beyond your community or usual suspects. The past six months have opened up new online and remote employment opportunities that may be perfect for you. There are also many work-from-home side gigs that might be a good fit while you search for a full-time opportunity.

Once you have an idea of what you are looking for, you will need to spend some time polishing your resume to reflect your expertise and experience. A successful resume doesn’t simply showcase your work; it also needs to be scannable, clear, concise, and highlight why you are the perfect fit for the role you are applying for. Getting back out into the workforce can feel intimidating but with an updated resume and a strategic plan, you will be on the right path to an exciting new opportunity.

PRO TIP: Learn what makes for the most successful resumes here.


Tackling unemployment might seem overwhelming, but by following these steps, putting in hard work, and seeking help from a financial advisor, you will be well on your way to securing a new career opportunity and achieving your financial goals.


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