We live in strange times. Over 40 million Americans are unemployed amid the COVID-19 pandemic—a number not seen since the Great Depression. But as much as there is to fear, you can take solace in one topic: online employment has soared.
Offering work-life balance and flexibility, telecommuting jobs are the next evolutionary step in how we work. If you’re unemployed while looking for a remote job, make sure you soak up these tips for your adventure into virtual employment.
Dress Up That Resume if You’re Unemployed While Looking for a Remote Job
While the federal COVID-19 stimulus package lightened the blow of unemployment for many individuals, you may not feel motivated in such an uncertain atmosphere. When you’re questioning where your next paycheck will come from, fear can graduate to a lack of motivation. Moreso, this scenario can be exacerbated if you haven’t heard anything back from jobs after you’ve applied.
Finding a new job is a daunting task, but in your idle time, you should consider an update to your resume and other parts of your online presence. Put in your most recent experience on your resume, tweak your LinkedIn profile, and tidy up your personal social media. While completing these tasks won’t net you a job immediately, doing so will surely heighten your chances of employment in the future.
Federal and State Benefits for the Unemployed
If you’re unemployed and qualify for unemployment benefits, don’t forget all the tools afforded to you. Both federal and state governments provide resources and monetary compensation while you’re unemployed looking for a remote job. Some ideas to consider include:
- State unemployment benefits range from $190 (Puerto Rico) to $790 (Washington State) per week.
- Most states allow you to collect unemployment for up to 26 weeks. However, nine states have unemployment benefits from only 12 to 20 weeks.
- The CARES Act provides you with an additional $600 per week through July 31, 2020.
- State unemployment offices also have many temporary employment opportunities through their various networks.
Regardless of whether or not you’re eligible for benefits, you should use every resource possible to find a new income stream. The sooner you apply after being unemployed and looking for a remote job, the sooner you’ll beat the other 40 million unemployed Americans to the opportunity.
If you aren’t eligible for benefits—although more people qualify for unemployment now than ever—think again. In many states, people didn’t know they were eligible for unemployment, especially self-employed workers. Exhaust all avenues of communication with your state’s unemployment office to ensure you get what’s yours.
Before You Pull Money Out of the Retirement Plan…
Some people still aren’t eligible for unemployment. That’s a frightening fact. As a result, panic has set in and many have turned to their retirement fund for temporary financial relief. But if you have a retirement plan, don’t tap into those funds just yet. Several negative aspects should deter you, including:
- Penalties for early withdrawal (10%)
- Income tax considerations (10% to 37%)
- Removing from your retirement fund/starting over
Remember that you can avoid spending your retirement fund if you make a few resignations:
- Don’t dine out (or carry-out in COVID-19) as much
- Cut your cable/satellite and get Netflix or Hulu
- Find sales and discounts
- Use coupons
- Experiment with cheaper forms of food
Taking from Your Retirement Fund: The Basics
If you’re unemployed while looking for a remote job, you may have to eventually take money from retirement, but just make sure to take into account the following:
- Early withdrawal (before age 59-½) incurs a 10% penalty (IRAs and 401(k)s).
- You must pay income tax on these withdrawals except for a Roth IRA.
- The federal government allows you to break up any retirement plan withdrawals into three different years on income. For example, if you withdrew $15,000 for your retirement account this year, you’d put $5,000 of taxable income on your tax return for 2020, 2021, and 2022.
- Thanks to the CARES Act, you can borrow against your 401(k) up to the full amount.
The idea is to think hard about how this will impact your taxes this year and in the coming years.
Pro Tip: The government won’t take the 10% tax out of your retirement plan distribution. Nor will they take the (minimum) 10% tax out of your unemployment check. Therefore, you should take this out of each check and put it in a separate account. You may have to give this money back to Uncle Sam, but at least you’ll earn some interest before 2020 taxes are due.
Your Time Is Valuable! Even If You’re Not Getting Paid for It
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” – Leo Tolstoy, “War and Peace”
Don’t equate your idle time to a loss in income. When you’re unemployed while looking for remote work, remember that all productive time can have its rewards. You may feel a sense of accomplishment for updating your resume or writing a unique cover letter. And you should.
Success doesn’t happen overnight, especially when so many other people are looking to overcome the exact same situation. But remember this mathematical formula:
“T ≠ M,” where T=time and M=money
That’s right. Time doesn’t equal money. The age-old adage doesn’t fit every scenario. It’s the little battles—the daily battles—that strengthen your resolve. No time is wasted building your confidence a day at a time. Even if you need a day off, don’t feel guilty. Just keep chipping away at your goals and your forward progress.
Perseverance Is Crucial
Baked into the pricelessness of time is perseverance. Every setback in life—no matter how big or how small—requires perseverance. If you’re unemployed while looking for a remote job, you’ll feel periods where you feel like you’re being overcome and overwhelmed.
This is only temporary.
The idea is that perseverance is a strong characteristic in all humans. Call it the will of a higher being or natural selection, but humans will subconsciously do what they need to do to survive.
Trust your instincts. Trust your skills. Perseverance is the reason you’ll come out of this just as you planned: going from unemployed and looking for a remote job to actually having one.
Invest in Your Education
Little is known about the economic future of the country. As job growth stagnates, the stock market jumps. The price of oil falls, but Jeff Bezos teeters on the brink of becoming the world’s first trillionaire. Therefore, maybe the best investment you can make is in your own education.
Education is the gift that gives back.
“No knowledge is ever wasted.” – Romans 8:28 (and repeated by many celebrities over time)
If you truly believe that—and you should—taking college courses, gaining certification, or going to continuing education classes are a no-brainer. Every bit of information you can absorb during your unemployment makes you a more attractive remote job candidate in the future.
What to Study
You might feel unsure of where to start. And that makes sense. But if you’re at a loss, find the remote job you’ve always wanted. Then, take a look at the job description and requirements. If you see something the employer requires that you don’t have, use that as a goal.
For example, if you’re a social media marketer that wants to move to management, look at the job descriptions posted by employers. You might need a few skills in your repertoire to garner consideration for employment. So, get a certification in Hootsuite, learn how to caption social media posts, or gain some knowledge on Facebook ads. The more you learn, the better your chances to get back to work.
Ask someone what their greatest fear is, and you’ll probably hear three things:
- Public Speaking
Two of these you can’t avoid. While you can’t outwit death, failure is something that can make you a better person. If you need some motivation, just soak in this story of a former #1 draft pick who’s making his MLB comeback at age 37.
Sure, not everyone has that level of resolve. But the more you accept failure as an inevitability, the more likely you are to succeed. When you’re unemployed while looking for remote work, relax, meditate, and accept that setbacks happen. You’ll be better in the long run, and hopefully, end up with a new remote job.
Don’t Stop Networking
Restaurants, bars, conventions, and social events might be temporarily shut down, but that doesn’t mean you have to become a hermit. Instead, use this time to reach out to close friends, family, formerly close friends, acquaintances, and colleagues to find employment connections.
But be patient.
The longer COVID-19 has a hold on day-to-day lives, the more likely pop-up video-chat networking will become a regular activity. If you feel comfortable, invite the aforementioned people to a chat.
Talk about life. Talk about family. And talk about anything other than work…at first. You just might find a connection to a job. In the meantime, don’t forget to check Virtual Vocations’s job boards. Updated daily, this list can help you narrow your search or who to contact for the perfect remote job.
Consider Alternative Work Arrangements
Becoming an employee has its perks. You can get a retirement plan, health insurance, and paid time off. But if you need to weather the storm as you’re unemployed and looking for remote work, don’t balk at freelancing or contract work.
You may not get the benefits package you want or a salaried position. But you can get invaluable experience to stave off gaps in your resume and make some new connections. Basically, you have little to no downside to working for yourself.
Whether you’ve been furloughed, you’re anticipating a move to the remote workforce, or any other reason, unemployment is not the end of the line. If you’re unemployed while looking for a remote job, you can succeed. With a little help from Virtual Vocations, you can turn a temporary setback into the next successful chapter of your life.
iStock Image: Srisakorn
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