While the unwelcome impact of the pandemic has the entire nation transitioning into a new reality, many of us are facing circumstances we never imagined. The economic impact is hitting quickly, and one of the first things companies have done to preserve their budgets is cutting employees from their payroll. In March, an estimated 10 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits and The New York Times estimates that the current national unemployment rate has risen to nearly 13%. So, if you’re among the droves of Americans facing unexpected layoffs due to COVID-19, you’re not alone.

During this unprecedented time, it’s easy to start feeling empty-handed when thinking about what to do next; but we want to remind you that while you may be down, you’re not out. Like all things — this too, shall pass, and in the meantime we want to offer our support and let you know that you do have options. But where to start? Take a breath, regroup, and consider these steps for moving your career forward.

1. Know Your Benefits

The Federal Department of Labor recently released new guidelines to afford states greater flexibility for unemployment benefits to those whose jobs were impacted by the pandemic. If you’ve lost your job due to COVID-19, start applying for unemployment insurance right now.

Each state has different guidelines for how they approve and disburse payments, so make sure to read up on your state’s requirements before applying. It’s worth submitting an app, even if you don’t think you’ll qualify, as federal unemployment requirements have been made more lax in to offer assistance to as many people as possible right now. So, even if your company is just closed temporarily or you intend on returning to work after quarantine, you may still qualify for supplemental income from the government.

2. Take Advantage of Available Resources

Apart from federal financial assistance, there are tons of independent organizations, mutual aid programs, and crowdfunded campaigns providing extra help to those who have been affected. Many of these relief programs are geared toward impacted industries such as entertainment, hospitality, travel, and service workers. Here are some of the top resources we found providing aid right now:

Kickstarter put together this huge list of resources for impacted writers, performers, musicians, and artists including:

We also found tons of independent funds for assistance by industry; here are a few:

For Service Industry/Tipped Workers:

For Domestic Workers:

For Small Businesses:

For Freelancers:

It might feel a little bit strange reaching out to any one (or multiple) of these organizations for assistance, especially if you’ve never been in this situation before. But remember, these funds have been established for a reason! If you’re having trouble planning financially right now, taking advantage of these resources can relieve a lot of major anxieties; so it’s a good idea to apply to all of the relief programs that you might qualify for.

3. Reach out to your network

If there’s one thing we’ve learned during this pandemic, it’s that we’re better off when we all stick together. Now is a great time to connect with people in your network that you haven’t touched base with in a while. It’s likely that they’re experiencing a similar situation and are also looking for their next best options. More importantly, they’ve likely got their finger on the pulse where you don’t, and can provide an in to potential opportunities and connections you might not be privy to on your own.

Having strong career connections on your side is always a plus, but especially now in a time where we’re heavily relying on one another to weather the storm. When you’re ready to reach out, scrape your LinkedIn contacts and set up a virtual meeting for coffee or drinks — you might just find a great career mentor or new colleague amid all of this craziness.

4. Prioritize your Mental Well-being

Speaking of anxieties, widespread job loss is contributing to mental and emotional stress as much as financial stress. With so much urgency and uncertainty all around us, it’s becoming harder than ever before to just … relax. However, in order to pull through and start moving forward, taking care of yourself must be a top priority.

If you’re wondering, 'How am I supposed to focus on my mental health right now?' Well, it’s going to take a little bit of effort to calm your mind and force yourself to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Luckily, though, there are hundreds of organizations bumping up free access to their mental health platforms for those who need support.

For starters, we really love this toolkit from Virus Anxiety — they put together this self-care action plan and resource kit complete with meditations, expert health advice, isolation sanity tips, and more. The CDC website also recommends several tips for managing COVID-related stress including:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body — take deep breaths, stretch, and meditate.
  • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Thousands of people have turned to apps that promote mindfulness and meditation for refuge. Many of these apps are offering extended trials and free access to their libraries during this time. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Ten Percent is offering free memberships to healthcare workers and Coronavirus first-responders. They even have a dedicated section for managing COVID-related anxieties
  • Calm not only curated a dedicated page of resources for support; their app also includes free mindfulness practices as well as guided stretching exercises and calming resources for kids, as well.
  • Headspace is also giving free premium-level memberships to those in healthcare fields as well as an expanded free section for everyone else.

Apart from meditation and taking long, sunny walks, we all can find a little bit of mental respite by moving our bodies and consuming some lighthearted entertainment. Whether that means scrolling through memes, taking a dance break, playing games, or watching uplifting videos and TV shows, you should take this time to do whatever you need to do to unwind. It doesn’t hurt that tons of streaming services and gaming hubs have opened up their memberships for free to encourage everyone to stay at home. Here are some of the lovely internet-things that have kept us moving and made us smile when we don’t feel like smilin’.

If you need additional support, we also recommend this masterlist of resources for at-home mental healthcare where you’ll find links to fact sheets, crisis hotlines, teletherapy resources, support groups, family resources, entertainment suggestions, and more.

5. Fill in your skills gaps

With a little extra time on your hands, you have a great opportunity to really enrich yourself as a star job candidate by revamping your skill set, especially if you’re hoping to take your career in another direction after all of this.

Take a look at your skills and decide which gaps you’d like to fill in. Are you ‘pretty okay’ at Photoshop, but would really love to pivot your career to graphic design? Now is a great time to dive into Youtube tutorials and brush up on your skills. Who knows, you might just come out the other end of quarantine with a new passion or expertise. There are dozens of platforms vamping up their free class library where you can take courses on almost any topic you want to learn about:

However, be careful not to put too much pressure on yourself to master a new skill during quarantine. If you spend an hour or two a week practicing Javascript while you binge a docu-series, that’s enough! Even if you do decide to dive into a new skill during this time, make sure you’re still able to enjoy yourself.

6. Position yourself to stand out

After losing your job, the first thing on your mind is likely, “I gotta get a new job, now!” But before you get back out on the job market, it’s important to make sure that you’re putting your absolute best foot forward. With so much job loss recently, you’re going to have a lot of competition — so it’s important to get both your resume and interview approach in tip-top shape before getting back out there.

Revisit your Resume

If you haven’t been on the job market in awhile, your resume is likely due for a refresh anyway — so take an hour or so to figure out how you want your resume to represent you and make a few tweaks. After all, your resume is what makes the first impression on potential employers and can definitely be a make-or-break. Sure, you want to get right out there and apply, but many people forget just how important this step is. Check to make sure you’ve included all relevant accomplishments from your last job, regardless of how the job ended. Don’t be afraid to reformat your resume, prioritize former positions that you think will do you the most good in your search, or make different versions of your resume based on the job you’re applying to. Our team here at Planted spends a lot of time looking at resumes, so to help you get started, here are some of our expert tips & resources for revamping that resume:

Get Interview-Ready

When you finally land your first interview after rejoining the hiring market, it feels like a huge day. When the stakes are high, it can be easy to psych yourself out; but the best way to diminish those jitters and feel confident going into an interview is by preparation. It truly is key to portraying your best self in an interview.

During the few days leading up to your interview, set aside a couple of hours each day to prepare answers to common questions, go over your strengths and recent accomplishments, and reflect on your past interviews to see if you can identify opportunities for improvement. Don’t spend hours agonizing over carefully-rehearsed sound bites you might like to insert because you’ll likely just end up sounding rehearsed. It’s important to be prepared, but make sure you’re still being yourself — because it will be easy to tell if you’re not. Here are some of our favorite resources to help you get interview-ready:

7. Go where the jobs are

While we know you’d rather your next position be a stepping stone for your career, in order to fulfill financial security, many people are having to look for employment where they can get it. While several industries like hospitality, tourism, fitness, and retail are experiencing major slow-downs in business, certain sectors are actually ramping up their business due to necessity.

Logistics, childcare, online learning, and food supply are just a few industries that are seeing increased demand during this time. While these industries are looking for all-hands-on-deck, it may be a good idea to pivot your search to an area where jobs are available, even if it’s not your ideal industry. For example, companies like Amazon, Walmart, Safeway, Slack, and Outschool that have promised to bring on hundreds of thousands of team members in the coming months. If you’ve got an affinity for childcare, offering flexible options to working parents you know is also a great option for snagging a temporary gig to secure financial security.

We’d also be remiss not to mention that there are dozens of Planted partners actively looking to hire right now, so make sure to log into Planted, check that your profile preferences are up to date, and review your newest company matches.

8. Keep your head up

Losing your job due to no fault of your own feels nothing short of soul-crushing. While we’re all dealing with circumstances we didn’t ask for, it’s important to remember just that — we didn’t ask for this, and it’s not our fault.

It’s a total cliche, but we have to remind ourselves constantly that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and not all hope is lost. While we figure out our game plans and lean on each other for support, it’s crucial to keep in mind that at the end of the day (or the pandemic), we’re still valuable members of the workforce with unique perspectives and worthwhile experiences. Keep that in mind while you figure out next steps and don’t lose sight of how much you still have to offer.

Life & work are different now, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. And while things may look pretty dark right now, it’s important to remember your potential and make a plan to realize it — at your own pace of course. Take a deep breath, go wash your hands, do something nice for yourself, and let’s get back in the game. And if you’re wondering where to find companies that are still hiring during this pandemic, we’ve got dozens of partners who are still looking for top talent on Planted — so make sure to sign up now if you haven’t already.