Unemployment is never easy, but it can be especially hard when you have kids—not only on a financial level, but also an emotional one.
Four percent of parents faced unemployment in 2015, according to data released by KIDS COUNT, and 16 percent of single mothers were unemployed in 2014, according to Demos, a public policy organization.
It’s not uncommon for adults to face unemployment at one point during their career. For parents in particular, taking quick action to boost the chances of a quick return to the workforce is critical.
What are the first steps parents should take when facing unemployment? Experts share these five tips.
Tell your kids
Often when parents face a job loss, “their first instinct is to lie about it to their kids to spare their children from worry,” says Ron Lieber, “Your Money” columnist for The New York Times and author of The Opposite of Spoiled. “That’s totally natural, and it’s a loving instinct, but it often backfires, because sooner or later, the child figures it out.” When that happens, the trust you’ve worked hard to build with your child dissipates, Lieber says.
A better approach is to explain to your children that a job loss is normal and to provide reassurance that family members and friends will help, if needed. “Try to present a brave face,” Lieber says.
Share the news with family and friends
It’s natural to want to keep to yourself after experiencing the loss of a job, which can be incredibly painful no matter the cause. But the fewer people you tell, the less chance you have of drawing upon your network of family and friends as you search for your next opportunity or of finding temporary or freelance work to fill the gap. Family and friends also can provide much-needed moral support—if you let them.
Maintain a professional social media presence
It’s OK to share that you’re looking for another opportunity. But don’t post news of every interview or the hurdles you’ve faced in securing a new position, and try to limit references to the financial difficulties you’re facing except when you are truly in need of help. You risk alienating those close to you if you continually post cries of despair or requests for assistance.
Set job alerts for the types of positions you are interested in
Those who apply for positions within 48 hours after they are posted are more likely to get their desired position, according to Margaret Mangarelli, managing editor for Monster. When you do apply, send a personalized cover letter detailing why you’d like the specific position. Ninety-nine percent of the cover letters Mangarelli receives don’t even mention Monster, she said in a recent Twitter chat (@mmagnatelli). The upside: “Savvy job seekers have a better shot than they realize!”
Be prepared to hustle
Reach out to professional contacts quickly—within a week of becoming unemployed—to inquire about freelance or temporary work opportunities. Volunteer for professional associations, community service agencies or your child’s school. Assess where your skills fall short in a changing marketplace and take a course to make yourself more marketable. These activities have the dual payoff of boosting your confidence while demonstrating to future employers that you’ve made the most of your time off—and are ready to hit the ground running.