Tips for a Sudden Job Loss

SC&C Money-Saving Tips during UnemploymentWe’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again (and again, and again) until we get the message through: Right now, while you’re still employed, start building your emergency fund. But just this once we won’t belabor the point, and assume that you’re actually in trouble because you don’t have an emergency fund, and you’ve been abruptly let go.

First Steps

Insurance

Don’t panic! Apply for unemployment insurance, today. Check to see what Medicaid benefits are available for you, today. Explain clearly if you need a prescription refilled within a couple of days. They are much more likely to be understanding and expedite the whole process.

Recommendation Letter

A couple of days later, certainly within a week, contact your former manager to ask about a letter of recommendation. Surprisingly, irrespective of the circumstances under which you left, they are often willing to supply such a letter.

HR Department

In addition, contact the HR department and determine how long your benefits (medical plan, dental plan, life insurance, etc.) will carry over. This is often three months, but most people fail to inquire or take advantage of any benefits.

Creditors

Contact your creditors and apprise them of the situation. You’ll be amazed how many of them are willing to accept simple interest payments for a few months, until you are back on your feet, rather than forcing a default. They want to get their money back, not to engage in expensive collections, so you’ll find that they’re willing to work with you. Not keeping them informed is the worst thing you can do.

Second Steps

SC&C Money-Saving Tips during UnemploymentCut Expenses

Proceed calmly to immediately cut all your expenses down to the bare bones. Suspend your housekeeping service, your gardener, your pool cleaner, if you have such luxuries, but don’t hide the situation from your family out of pride. Tell them they can no longer spend $300 a month per person on instant messaging and unlimited data on their telephones. Tell them “allowances” are suspended.

Reduce Cable and Phone Extras

Call your cable company and reduce your bazillion TV channel package to the basics (which doesn’t inspire service-cancellation fees). It will still provide entertainment for the family, but at a trivial cost compared to dinners out, or movies in theaters. It might even be more economical to do away with the cable TV Service entirely and rely strictly on broadband data and Wi-Fi for your entertainment. Much of our entertainment is now mobile available.

Adjust Thermostat

Adjusting your household thermostat by 5° in the “wrong” direction could conceivably save you $100 a month, at the cost of shedding or donning a sweater. Decreasing the temperature on the hot water tank by 10 or 20° could save you even more, and everybody should be further restricted to military-like showers to minimize use.

Thrift Stores for Clothes

Tell the kids that you’re “going retro” and take a family trip to shop for unique clothing items at the local thrift stores. It can be a fun excursion instead of a painful or embarrassing “emergency measure.” Finding a kitschy sweater for $5.00, and a cool hat for $1.00 can actually be a fun and exciting adventure. And quite surprisingly, there are number of really good suits that can be worn to job interviews!

Of course, there are all sorts of job-search strategies out there so we won’t go into that. But there are ways to save money during that search.

Third Steps

Job-Search Savings

Don’t go to Kinko’s and get 100 copies of your résumé printed. Get a couple to use for reference while filling out application forms (consistency is important) and to use at an interview, if your interviewer asks.

Tangible copies are generally passé and essentially, a waste of time. On the whole, to potential employers, they’re actually more work to process, and some won’t even be bothered. Employers want electronic copies that can be processed by their ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) programs and sending résumés electronically costs you nothing.

SC&C Money-Saving tips during unemploymentNext, consider how you’re going to get to your job interview. Taking your car, including the expense of gas and parking, could cost between $20 and $50 when a roundtrip bus fare might be had for under $5. A couple of interviews by car in different places might mean not eating that night, or living on rice for a week.

Don’t use the job interview as an excuse to go to a fast food restaurant. Stick a couple of sandwiches and a thermos of soup in your briefcase (and a toothbrush so you don’t have any lettuce stuck in your teeth).

Network

Reach out to friends and relatives for support. You may think you’re doing fine when suddenly it hits you that you’re unemployed, and your situation is overwhelming. Burying yourself in your job search is one technique. Meeting a friend for a coffee is another and can have a really stabilizing effect.

Call 2-1-1

If you don’t have 2-1-1 Service in your area, go to the 2-1-1 website. They can help you locate community resources to help you find employment, food pantries, training, care for an aging parent, and all sorts of other ways to help control your expenses while you are looking for a new job.

It’s not hopeless. It never is. There are systems, social structures, and individuals who are willing to help. It may only take a trivial amount of research, but that is only useful if you know that the resources are out there. And now you do.

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Learning a Company’s Culture

What is culture?

SC&C Company cultureA company’s culture comes into existence when the company does, being comprised of the values of the founder (or founders). People embellish it by ascribing symbols, assumptions, and beliefs to it, but it all comes down to the original reason for creating the company in the first place.

Employees do not create the culture of the company. Founders hire people that they think will complement their dreams and ambitions, which in turn reaffirms the culture of the company. The bigger the company gets the less likely an individual employee is going to affect the culture.

“There’s no such thing as a good or bad culture, it’s either a strong or weak culture. And a good culture for somebody else may not be a good culture for you.” – Brian Chesky

Like any culture it may evolve over time, but generally speaking, the fundamentals don’t change. Remember, Henry Ford founded a car-building company to provide consistent quality with easily replaceable parts, cheaply enough that most people could eventually afford one. And what is the culture of Ford Motor Company® today? It still provides a durable vehicle with easily changeable parts that most people should eventually be able to afford.

A more creative company like Google®, with its offices full of open workspaces, art on the walls, slides between levels, company social functions, free food, office hammocks and so on, remains largely unchanged from its original values. They provide a creative environment where creative people can do their best work.

Where do you fit?

It’s important to assess the culture of a company before you make plans to join it. Some of that research might be as simple as looking at their offices through images on their website. It’s pretty clear that the company culture of Google is laissez-faire when it comes to typical office formality.

You will have to dig a little deeper elsewhere by reading the company blog, which even if they don’t say directly, often intimates expectations for employees. Additionally, there are websites that you can visit where employees give candid opinions about their company, much the same way that people review popular restaurants.

SC&C Holiday ScheduleThere you can learn about employer expectations, such as holiday schedules, overtime, frequency (and adequacy) of reviews. You can assess the requirements for promotions, and even how well HR deals with employee requests, including additional education, on-going training, and so on.

The first step toward determining whether you will be a good match for a prospective employer is by figuring out what you want from a company’s culture. Do you want a family-friendly company? A social as well as professional outlet? An emphasis on work-life balance —Brandon Spruth, Xolia.com

Find Internal Contacts

Don’t forget about visiting LinkedIn to find employees that work in your target company. Pay particular attention to people in your own field, or that hold a position that you are interested in. By cultivating a relationship you can learn a great deal about the company. Make a friend and it can even become part of your job application; internal recommendations carry a great deal of weight.

Read up on the C-suite executives, particularly the CEO, to see if the direction they are steering the company gives you confidence. Are they heading down a progressive path that is going to keep the company in business? Remember how slowly Kodak converted from photographs to digital imaging and the consequences of that.

Do Employees Feel Valued?

All the mission statements in the world are meaningless if the employees don’t embrace them. Assess employees’ opinions where possible. Does the company have low turnover rates and lots of employees who have been with the company for years?

Is there evidence that the employees think they’re making a difference in the world—that they’re contributing to the community—that their efforts are meaningful? Are they participatory? Do they take ownership of problems and work on solutions?

Conduct a Preliminary Interview

A preliminary interview can tell you a great deal about the company, too. Are the people upbeat and happy to be there? Are the interviewers enthusiastic and glad to meet you? Throughout the office what you are looking for are genuine smiles, and people with a bounce in their step; what you don’t want to see is desks stacked with old-looking papers, and employees with glassy-eyed stares.

SC&C Getting to know a company's cultureAnd if you see an old-fashioned employee bulletin board (they still exist in surprising numbers) take some time to look it over. It can be extraordinarily revealing. If there is a photograph of a couple of dogs and a note that says “I have to be in London from the 4th until the 7th. Who wants to watch Vince and Julius for me?” then you know you’ve found a great place where employees are involved with each other.

Assess your needs. Do you require a thoroughly structured environment with complete predictability in order to be at your best? Is a little bit of chaos good for you? Would you be willing to accept marketing innovations from unlikely sources, such as an insightful janitor? If you understand where you are mentally, and what you deem to be “acceptable,” you will have a much better idea of where you fit. There has never been a more appropriate showcase for the old adage “Know thyself.”