It seems like no matter where you look or what you read, you can’t avoid it- Covid-19. While countless people have hunkered down and fallen into a routine of Zoom happy hours, figuring out how to balance working from home and family and social distancing, millions have also suffered job loss. With businesses shuttering and employees being furloughed until further notice, over 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment.

No one wants to have to file for unemployment benefits, but if you are one of the millions of Americans hit with job loss you may not know what to do next. While the current state of the economy and workforce is still uncertain, keeping yourself safe and secure is the most important step you can take.

Taking the Next Step

If you have lost your job, you’re not alone. With millions of Americans facing temporary unemployment, shuttered businesses or potential long term job closure, unemployment claims are at an all time high.

The absolute first step that you need to take is to file for unemployment from the state you live in. The CARES Act, Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, has been implemented to give those impacted by job loss greater benefits. The current unemployment benefits now include:

  • Unemployed workers receive an additional $600 per week for up to a six month period
  • Additional 13 weeks of benefits beyond what your state currently gives
  • Benefits for those that are self employed/do gig work
  • Stimulus checks of $1,200 for individuals within the government’s eligibility guidelines

Filing for unemployment benefits can be scary, stressful and anxiety-inducing for anyone faced with job uncertainty. It can be even more nerve wracking if you have a family to take care of as well. Unemployment benefits are here for a reason, and by filing you can free your time up to prepare for upcoming months.

Preparing for the Future

While many businesses have closed their doors temporarily, many don’t know if those doors will be opening any time soon. Covid-19 has completely altered how businesses are running, such as people working remotely, contact free interactions and virtual appointments.

But no matter how well some businesses have been able to transition to the “new norm”, many businesses cannot maintain profitability in a time of social distancing and decreased business. While many of these businesses plan on reopening as Covid-19 fears begin to diminish, countless are faced with uncertainty as well.

If you have been furloughed with the prospect of returning after quarantine, let go with no promise of return or haven’t been able to receive work for your gig-based job, you should be taking steps to re-enter the workforce now.

Cleaning House

Even if your employer claims they will reopen, the current economic state is ever-changing and no one truly knows what to expect. No matter your unemployment status, you have an opportunity to prepare yourself for future employment. Some smart steps include:

  • Updating your resume, LinkedIn and other professional profiles. Utilizing a professional resume service can be incredibly helpful for those who have not had to job hunt for many years and do not know what to do next.
  • Stay in touch with your previous employers and coworkers. Whether they have promised future employment or not, you are all in the same position right now. Check in on them and maintain professional relationships with as many people you can.
  • Work on your professional skills. If you are faced with extra free-time, take a few hours out of your day to work on some professional skills that could be attractive to future employers.
  • Start searching now. While many businesses have halted or severely limited hiring, many are hiring and investing in new employees now. If you don’t know if you will still have a job in the upcoming months, begin reaching out now (and work on your interviewing skills).

Take Care of Yourself

It’s easy to feel uneasy in a world filled with so much uncertainty. Covid-19 has impacted everyone across the globe, and it feels like no one truly knows what to do next.

If you’ve lost your job, you may feel like you’re not being productive, useful or wasting your time sitting inside social distancing. But it’s important to remember that you’re doing your part by keeping yourself and others safe free from possible infection. It may be difficult to transition from working everyday to having seemingly endless free time.

Keeping yourself busy, engaged and activated is the best thing you can do to keep yourself healthy and sane. Some great activities to keep you busy and productive include:

  • Read that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand for the last few months. If you’re not sure what to read, here’s a list of books to encourage happiness and positivity.
  • Stay active and moving. If you can go outside while maintaining proper social distancing (at least 6 feet), go for a walk.
  • Watch a professional webinar and heighten your skills. This is a great way to continue learning and have something new to introduce to future employers.
  • Connect with friends, family and colleagues. Now is the best time to reach out and stay in touch. Learn a new skill. By conquering something new, you can feel accomplished and productive. This is a great time to pursue a passion you may have not had the time to before.
  • Eat healthy and keep to your routine. It can be very easy to overeat while staying at home, so taking some extra measures to be mindful of what you consume can help avoid food guilt.

Staying active and productive is crucial in a time of social distancing and mandatory stay-at-home. While the future looks uncertain for many, the best thing you can do is to focus on the present. Stay safe everyone!

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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