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Being unintentionally out of work is not fun. For some, it’s the loss of income; for others, being out of work means losing a sense of pride and belonging.
No matter the feeling, it’s important to put together a strategy to keep your finances in check, while giving you a plan to get back into work.
The first step – and it’s easy to write this – is to not panic.
If you’ve been made redundant, you need to check you have received the correct redundancy pay. The Money Advice Service has a redundancy pay calculator that will, hopefully, confirm the pay-off is correct; payments have to be made according to a statutory formula. It’s worth checking your employment contract to see whether you’re entitled to more.
Next, you need to see what state benefits you are entitled to.
The most obvious benefit is Jobseeker’s Allowance, which is paid to those actively seeking work (you will have to demonstrate this).
The two elements of the payment are based on contributions and income. The latter is to be replaced with Universal Credit, a single monthly payment including a standard allowance, plus other elements – such as payments for housing or children – and has been designed to replace a number of benefits with a single payment.
Do you have children younger than 16? Do you have a partner and incomes below certain amounts? If so, you may be eligible for child tax credit or working tax credit, monies that will be paid directly to you. There’s more information at www.gov.uk/claim-tax-credits to help you determine if you’re eligible.
Don’t forget housing benefit, which, depending on your income and savings, could help with rent and mortgage payments. It’s worth pointing out you should also be able get help with council tax bills. For more details, visit the Money Advice Service website.
It’s possible you may not be able to claim benefits, but a function of checking and registering as out of work means your National Insurance record will be maintained while you look for a position. This will, eventually, trickle down to your basic state pension in later years.
Following job loss, you need to retrench – and this may mean an awkward conversation with your landlord or mortgage lender. Housing benefit, as aforementioned, may help and, if you’re a homeowner, your mortgage lender may be able to lower your payments or give you a payment holiday. It’s a case of “don’t ask, don’t get”.
In times of plenty, it’s easy to spend what you have – and more – because a pay day is always close to hand. However, in times of famine, you need to be more circumspect and, to do this, you need to draw up a budget and prioritise.
Immediately cut out any fat – for example, lose television subscriptions, drop to a lower broadband tariff and drop the gym membership. Prioritise payments on essential things, such as home and utilities. Contact others less essential that you may have obligations to. They’ll be more accommodating before the bills rack up.
Part of this process means setting a budget to keep costs down. Some people are put off by the idea of budgeting, but it is simpler than it sounds – it’s just a list of your income and outgoings to help you work out where you can cut back.
For advice on budgeting, visit the Money Saving Expert website.
If you need financial advice from a debt advisor, StepChange Debt Charity has a useful page at www.stepchange.org – the advice will be free and could be local.
Update your CV
Finding a new position requires either good luck, a campaign or a combination of both. Dust down your CV and look at updating and improving it. Plenty of guidance can be found in the Vet Times Job archives.
Make your job hunt a job. Get up in the morning and dress for work. Set manageable targets – by this, break down tasks into bite-sized chunks that don’t seem too daunting.
Aim to research two or three practices a morning, which you contact with a well-crafted CV and covering letter. Make sure you follow up and look both eager and positive.
It's good to talk
Stand to make any calls – you’ll get more air into your lungs and will be more alert (it’s a favourite trick of cold-calling salesmen).
Be honest and upfront if you find yourself looking for longer than you wish and explain the reasons if asked. Employers understand CV gaps and your explanation immediately transforms you from being a statistic into a human with a personal story. Most employers are happy to give a good person a chance.
Don’t use the scattergun approach. It’s time-consuming, wasteful and destructive. Your efforts will not necessarily yield results and will create an air of despondency.
Lastly, don’t suffer in silence. Seek out others who are either out of work, or out of the workforce, for a chat. Remember the adage “a problem shared is a problem halved” – a lunchtime drink or chat will offer stability and an alternative point of view.