Last week’s announcement of a federal hiring freeze may not have been a surprise, but it did cause the stress of uncertainty. Regardless of your political affiliation, or how the freeze ultimately plays out, now is the time for you to prepare how you move forward.
Preparation is important in times of crisis, or during many crises: it provides the clarity and the control necessary to propel positive forward movement. And there are few situations where preparation is more important than the specter of being unemployed. Initially it will seem daunting … even overwhelming, but the key is to plan and not allow yourself to be paralyzed by fear.
Denial is dangerous—don’t live in denial: accept that losing your job is a real possibility and process your feelings about it. Any kind of loss requires accepting you will go through the stages of grief: 1. denial 2. anger, 3. bargaining, 4. depression and 5. acceptance. Understand that every stage is real, necessary, and important for moving forward.
Talk to your spouse/partner—sharing how you feel about the possibility of losing your job with your spouse/partner is crucial. Many people feel angry, isolated, frustrated, and alone; keeping those feelings to yourself is unhealthy. Emphasize to your spouse/partner that you’re not looking to them to solve the problem (not that they can), but that you simply want to share how you feel and know that you have their support.
Talk to your children—this is a discussion that people frequently overlook or try to avoid altogether, either because they don’t want to worry their children, or they don’t want to involve them in “adult issues.” Just as children are aware when their parents’ are unhappy, they also pick up on stress, even if they don’t know or understand why. Obviously, you have to tailor the conversation to the age of the child, but it is important they understand how this change will affect the entire family, not just the adults. Reassure them that regardless of what happens, you will get through things together.
Critically review your expenses—this is about realistically looking at what you spend your money on, and deciding what are necessities and what are luxuries. For example, in today’s society, having a cell phone is a necessity. However, look closely at your bill: are you paying for services, or data that you aren’t using (for example, are you paying for 6 gigs when you typically use only 3 or 4)? Are there any bills you can pay in advance (tuition (either for your children, or for yourself), or summer camp expenses, for example)? Saving money is one of the key components in relieving anxiety over how you will survive.
Purge—look around your house (including your closets, basement, and attic) and get rid of anything you no longer use. If your kids have clothes they’ve outgrown, give them away. If you have a waffle maker that you only use for Christmas morning breakfast, donate it. Now is the time to simplify, pare down, and eliminate anything you don’t use on a daily or weekly basis. Having less stuff means you will have less stuff to think/worry about.
Update your résumé—here is where you’ll have to decide how skilled you are in talking about yourself. If you know you’re going to spend hours struggling with your résumé and cover letter, then this is when you’ll need to place a higher value on time rather than money. Résumé writing services’ costs vary, but a good rule of thumb is to choose a seasoned professional who can provide copies of previous work. Make sure you have a clear objective (focus) for your résumé, and a cover letter you can tailor to the specific fields in which you plan to apply.
Job search—while your résumé and cover letter are being polished (by you or someone else), review your net income and begin looking at jobs in your field of expertise. Depending on where you are in your federal career, you may have to take a (substantial) pay cut. This is the time for tough love and hard questions: how much money can you bring home and still be able to live? Will making less money require you to downsize your life (home, car, etc.)? Will you need to consider more than one job? None of these are pleasant considerations, but they are important questions to have answers for as you prepare for the future.
The prospect of losing your job is something no one wants to think about: it’s sad, frustrating, stressful, and can lead to many sleepless nights. But if you prepare and plan your next steps before the possibility becomes a reality, hopefully you’ll have fewer of them.
Kim Martin-Haynes is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.