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From Fearful to Fearless: How to Handle Long-Term Unemployment

September 3, 2018 in Career - 36 Comments

You did it! I commend you on doing something I have always been too afraid to try myself – quitting a  job without a back up plan. That takes guts so a mega KUDOS to you for taking a step into the unknown to pursue what makes you truly happy.

And I know it can be daunting when things don’t go as planned. Constantly applying for jobs and not getting call backs, realizing you are running really low on funds can be discouraging and downright scary.

Should you find yourself in this position, take a moment and breathe because all your efforts will pay off. During this stressful time, here’s how to go from fearful to fearless when facing long-term unemployment.

How To Handle Long Term Unemployment

Learn a new skill.

While the constant worry about “when will I get a job?” can be draining, I ask you to think of this question instead: if you had all the time in the world, what would you do? Working a 9 to 5, tight deadlines, never-ending to-do lists and long hours can make anyone feel too tired and too unmotivated to do much else than binge watch Netflix or head straight for bed.

The plus side to not having a job is now having ample time to learn a new skill which you can add to your resume so you can broaden your job search. This works in your favor because a topic that might come up when you land an interview is to explain your gap in employment. Being able to explain how you were productive while unemployed can go a long way.

From coding to Excel, there are many free, inexpensive and short term courses online that you can do in your downtime. Here’s a list of 25 sites for free online education to get started.


80% of jobs are never posted so why not start making genuine connections? And I said connections, not contacts, for a reason.

Networking allows a space to connect with like-minded individuals and to learn from the best professionals and mentors who can provide real world advice and direction. If one of your connections is willing to refer you, that’s less time wondering if your resume passed the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) when you apply online versus when your resume has made its way directly into the hands of the hiring manager.

If you find the idea of walking into a room full of strangers ready to exchange business cards cringe worthy, start with who you know. Ask friends and family if they know about any job openings or if they can introduce you to their friend who works at “X.” You can also try apps like Bumble and their newest Bumble Bizz feature along with Shapr designed specifically for networking which can help remove some of that awkwardness.

At the end of the day people are willing to help. The worst thing that can happen when you asking for an introduction or advice (yes, there are tactful ways to ask and here are  some tips) is someone simply not replying than receiving a flat out “no.” You have nothing to lose and everything to gain when you simply start asking for help.

Volunteer and/or intern.

While it would be great to be compensated, volunteer work and intern work is still work experience you can add to your resume. Volunteering can combat depression and relieve stress you might be experiencing. Interning (no,  you don’t have to be in college to intern) can give you the opportunity to explore a new career field while gaining value transferable skills. Sometimes those opportunities can turn into paid ones.

Have you experienced long-term unemployment? How did you make the best of your situation? Share your story with me in the comments below!

Along Came Katrina Signature

Katrina H.

Katrina is a 20-year-old something goal-digging career girl with a passion for helping millennials navigate the career world and helping entrepreneurs grow their business through digital story telling.

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  • Flossie McCowald September 3, 2018 at 10:48 am

    Yes, these are all crucial tips! I’ve been unemployed for various stretches of time, and everything you said is exactly what I did each time – and also, you just have to keep applying/never give up – BUT if you keep applying and aren’t getting anywhere, it’s also time to start consider doing something different, reinventing yourself for a different field where the employment prospects might be better (which is what I eventually did!).

    • Katrina H. September 4, 2018 at 10:44 pm

      You bring up a good point Flossie. I often tell people it’s not what you’re passionate about (sadly). Sometimes you really have to consider what you are good at and see where the road takes you

  • Kim September 3, 2018 at 11:38 am

    These are some good pointers. It is risky to quit without preparing. I would say save up an emergency fund for 6 or more months before quitting as well.

    • Katrina H. September 4, 2018 at 10:44 pm

      Oh totally! It’s super important to have an emergency fund for those rainy days. Thanks for the tip!

  • Yota Chelf Dortlouk September 3, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    volunteering is actually a brilliant idea! You feel needed and useful, you feel productive. You are doing good, you give back to those in need! Until the right job comes along you are building your network while offering at the same time!

    • Katrina H. September 4, 2018 at 10:45 pm

      Anyone would appropriate free help and more times than not, can become a paid job eventually!

  • Stephanie September 3, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    My husband went about 5 months without a job. He had some freelance jobs through that time but got his next job by networking. He still does a lot of networking because it’s so important.

    • Katrina H. September 4, 2018 at 10:47 pm

      I found some really great sites for freelance work which are not only great when you need the money but also good for when you need the flexibility.I’m really trying to network more. My issue is the follow up! But once you step outside your comfort zone, those connections are worth it. Glad your husband got his job!

  • Lois Alter Mark September 3, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    These are all good tips. It can be very challenging and scary to be out of work and not see a light at the end of the tunnel. I bet this advice will help people caught in that situation.

    • Katrina H. September 4, 2018 at 10:41 pm

      Thanks for your kind words! Sometimes it’s a leap of faith is all we need but in be mean time, these tips will make any passing time be worth while

  • Ria Parikh September 3, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    Unemployment can feel very overwhelming and challenging. However, the points you mentioned are so important to reiterate and share. It’s a good period to learn things about yourself. I am sure these tips can help people who are going through this.

  • Jennifer September 3, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    These are really useful tips. I’m currently unemployed and going back to school. I had every intention of working full-time after my youngest but he had a lot of health issues so now I stay home. When we move to our new duty station it will be almost 2 years of unemployment. I’m nervous to get back out there but your tips will help me!

    • Katrina H. September 4, 2018 at 10:48 pm

      You got this girlie! And employeers definitely understand the need to take time off for school or family raising. Good luck on your journey!

  • Joline September 3, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    It’s a real brave thing to follow your heart and quit your job without a back up plan. It’s personally not for me (I’m a scaredy-cat) but I bet once it pays off it’s really rewarding. These are really helpful tips.

  • Angela Tolsma September 4, 2018 at 5:22 am

    I’ve been unemployed for three years this month due to circumstances and I am about to step back in and feel completely lost. It’s hard and so scary to take a step away when you need to. I have never thought about an internship and I think that’s a direction I’ll be checking out.

    • Katrina H. September 4, 2018 at 10:42 pm

      Taking time off is totally fine! As for feeling lost, your support system got your back 🙂 and of course, happy to help!

  • Jessa September 5, 2018 at 5:08 am

    I did not know that 80% of jobs are never posted. That is super interesting. I quit working in a traditional job for about 6 months, but I went back, working one day a week so that I could keep my skills and diversify my income and have something to fall back on, just in case.

    • Katrina H. September 17, 2018 at 9:50 pm

      Hi Jessa,
      Crazy right? I learned the hard way that the “spray and pray,” (aka applying for everything and hoping for a bite) is actually very ineffective. And in some cases, when there is no opportunity available, it takes making one for yourself 😉

  • Thành Đạt September 5, 2018 at 9:10 am

    I may be unemployed even after graduation. It is terrible if I do not have a solution for long-term unemployment. Your tips are very useful. Thanks for sharing!

    • Katrina H. September 17, 2018 at 9:49 pm

      Hi Thanh! Don’t give up. Start applying now and reaching out to people so you have a better chance at a job after graduation. Best idea is to take an internship before graduation which can easily turn into a full time position.

  • Holly September 5, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    It is definitely important to keep your skills sharp. That helps during these periods.

  • Stephanie September 5, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    These are definitely what I’m following right now as I try to prepare myself for my cafeer. Networking is a big one because u never really know who knows who and u might just land your dream job just by putting yourself out there.

    • Katrina H. September 17, 2018 at 9:47 pm

      Hi Stephanie! What career are you looking into? I suggest you also try BumbleBizz for networking and BumbleBFF for even friends who might share similar career interests as you 🙂

  • Jazmin Williams September 6, 2018 at 6:51 am

    Thank you so much for this! Because of my health, I am unable to work at the moment but I hate the gap in the middle. I’m hoping to do some small voluntary jobs just for a little while that I can handle. This has really inspired me.

    • Katrina H. September 17, 2018 at 9:46 pm

      Hi Jazmin! I hope you are well. Volunteering has really helped me find some joy in times of stress and I hope you found some volunteer work as well 🙂

  • Kristina Iennaco September 7, 2018 at 5:26 am

    These are all great tips- even if you are employed! I think it’s a really great idea to learn new skills- especially if you can bring them into the work place, you’re never to old to learn something new! Volunteering is such a great way to feel fulfilled & to meet new people too! Great ideas!

  • Kate Loves Travel September 7, 2018 at 5:51 am

    These are really helpful tips! Volunteering/doing an internship and learning new skills could open so many doors…

  • George September 7, 2018 at 11:30 am

    I can agree with all of the above who had to either reinvent themselves or learn new skills. Sometimes changing your career thoughts in the opposite direction will surprise you with the results. Myself went from Technical production position to sales and marketing. Loved it for 9 years. Just never stop trying and learning.

    • Katrina H. September 17, 2018 at 9:44 pm

      George, you bring up a great point about reinventing yourself and even changing careers. Often it comes down to what you’re good at, not always what you are passionate about, to find new doors to open. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Nessy September 7, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    I agree with everything that you mentioned here. I think being unemployed is a great time to upgrade one’s skills by learning new skills. Plus it’s also a great way to meet new people- and it can lead to possible networking. 🙂

  • Dr. K. Lee Banks September 8, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    Excellent post! I can relate, because I also left a full time job “out there” back in early 2008 and “came home” to work. I’ve now been a freelance consultant for over a decade. I’ve also earned my master’s degree in education and doctor of education degree during this time, which has opened up many new doors of opportunity. It helps to be a lifelong learner and be persistent!

    • Katrina H. September 17, 2018 at 9:43 pm

      How awesome are you!I am constantly challenging myself to try and learn a new skill every six months. Right now trying to master Excel Pivot tables!

  • Jessa September 9, 2018 at 6:22 am

    It’s crazy how many jobs are not posted! It’s all about who you know. Get out there and market yourself!

  • Crystal Mendez September 9, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    I was unemployed for about 6 months after the school I worked at closed down abruptly. It was difficult because I LOVED my job but it wasn’t too rough because we made it work with my husbands income. I wish I would have spent those 6 months working on my blog more!

    • Katrina H. September 17, 2018 at 9:41 pm

      I am so sorry to hear about that Crystal but happy to hear that you had someone there for you 🙂 I hope you get to work on your blog more now!

  • Becca Wilson September 10, 2018 at 11:18 am

    This can definitely be so scary. i know that finding a new venture can definitely help!

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