How To Survive (and Thrive) Through Unemployment

image by helga weber

Stephanie was generous enough to write a 3-part story on her recent experience with being laid-off, how she’s managing to stay within a budget, and how she’s learning to thrive in her new unemployed status.

Stephanie Morillo is a musician and writer from New York City. While she has recently been displaced in the 9-5 sense, she has recently shown a knack for web programming and has been performing regularly in NYC. Stephanie can be found on her website and on Twitter @radiomorillo.

How I’m Surviving Through My Unemployment…

In this series, I will be explaining the different tactics I’ve been using to guide me through being a displaced worker from health, to finance, to lifestyle. In this post, I will discuss what I did my last two weeks at work and how my mindset enabled me to take action.

This past March, I was laid off from my job at an advertising agency due to lack of work. I had almost made it to one year with this company and had gone through multiple organizational changes within that short time period including a lateral move from one agency to another within only three months of being there, and a new supervisor in my department. Something had to give and that something was me.

That day I wrote in my journal, “God sometimes disguises blessings as their polar opposite”.

Everyone handles the news differently, and I was calm and collected (at work – it hit me when I got home, and I definitely cried more than my fair share). I was given two weeks to finish any outstanding projects and to start applying for new jobs, which I did. In the end, I sent out a thank you email to many of my contacts throughout the company, many of whom did not know I was being laid off. Those I did tell were concerned for me and very helpful. I even had interviews with another company (in a completely unrelated field) but ultimately lost out to a candidate who had more relevant experience. It didn’t bother me too much, however. I decided that I needed to take advantage of the one thing I was being given: TIME.

I’m not delusional or overly optimistic; I know what money can buy. Money pays the bills. Money puts food on the table. Money offers us security, it sends the kids to college, it pays for ridiculous hospital bills. But no amount of money can buy us time, and time is what I was wishing I had more of. I can turn time into money but not the other way around.

So I was laid off…now what? 

image by helga weber

My fiancé was the first person I called to tell the bad news. It was extremely reassuring to hear him say he wasn’t worried, for had he been so would I. My father was also very calm about the situation, and having the two most important people in my life be understanding really enabled me to look past the urge to dwell in a big pool of self-pity and start the process of taking action.

My last two weeks at work, I had to get things done quickly. I ordered up to three months of a prescription I needed and went to the doctor for a final appointment before my insurance would end. I contacted friends inquiring about job opportunities and scheduled an appointment to see my career counselor to discuss any job openings she had heard of. I updated my resume and sent it along to three or four different companies. I even had interviews.

During those two weeks, I pulled some of my colleagues aside to let them know that I would no longer be working at the company. They were all very gracious in their response and those that I wasn’t able to see face-to-face with (like some of my colleagues abroad, for example), I sent an email on my last day, letting them know that it was my last day and I was honored to work with them. I invited them to continue the conversation by writing me at my personal email address, and those who wrote me back I told them that I got laid off. Without any hate, just the facts.

I immediately filed a claim for unemployment insurance, making a point to painstakingly go through my claim to be sure everything was correct.

Using part of my tax return, I applied for and started a 10-week German course at a university in New York. One of my friends happens to be a web programmer, and I started taking lessons with him once a week in the hopes that I too will switch careers and become a junior-level web programmer.

Importance of Time

For me, those last two weeks at my job were critical. Even if I wasn’t given two weeks’ notice, my attitude during that time would determine how I would face the indeterminate period of being a displaced worker that now faced me. I realized that I wasn’t the only one in my situation, I had supportive people around me, and I recognized that time was the new currency I was dealing in. How I used it would ultimately be the deciding factor in what my next steps will be.

In those two weeks I made a list of priorities, all of which required time:

  • Spending more time with family and friends.
  • Taking German courses.
  • Studying web programming.
  • Performing live and working more heavily on my music.


Have you lost your job? What did you do your last two weeks at work and the first two weeks after you lost your job? What are your time-based priorities? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

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4 thoughts on “How To Survive (and Thrive) Through Unemployment

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  1. Bridget

    At this point I'm lucky because I've never experienced unemployment. I'm not in a good place for it either — my student loan debt is too heavy, it would be majorly uncomfortable to lose my main income. I think what you're doing is perfect. It's important to take advantage of this time. You won't be unemployed forever!

  2. Afra

    I recently lost my job, and although I am fine financially (I have no debt!!), this is a great way to think about things. I have time now!

  3. rich

    I was laid off three years ago. Oddly enough, it wasn't all that scary for me. OK, I admit I got three months severance pay. Even so, I am generally a positive, glass is half full kind of person. I felt confident that I would find a job somewhere. And in a weird way, the thought of shedding the weight of possessions, downsizing and starting over held some appeal.

    The one thing I do remember very clearly was the feeling if having time for the first time in a very long time. Becasue I was home, we pulled the kids out of daycare. We had a blast without even spending a lot of money. We went hiking. Bike riding. We made sandwhiches and went to the local airport, sat along the runway and watched planes take off and land. It was really fun and I miss having that sort of time.

    I did find a new job after 2 1/2 months, so my story has a happy ending. I may feel very differently if was unemployed for a long period of time. Somehow though, I don't think so.

  4. Shannon

    Thank you for this post! I was just laid off last week with 2 weeks’ notice. This is my second lay-off just this year, and I admit I’m much calmer this time around. While it’s difficult to be in the office knowing I won’t see some of the results of my efforts, I have found that current coworkers and previous coworkers are being gems and already sending me links to opportunities. It is certainly a challenge and an emotional roller coaster, but it’s also kind of a lovely time for reflection and community-building.


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