This year has been one of the most challenging we’ve experienced in our lifetime. Millions of people around the world have been affected by redundancy, losing their jobs, sources of income, or been furloughed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It may also be particularly hard for you as a blood cancer patient to face job insecurity now, as many patients already face financial hardship at some point following diagnosis. Many patients have to give up work during treatment or reduce their hours to cope with fatigue and side effects. You may have only recently decided it is time to return to work since your diagnosis, only to find the job market has changed significantly, or you’ve had to shield at home.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by uncertainty about when and how the economy will recover or whether you’ll be able to find work. You should not feel any blame or guilt for your situation, during this widespread crisis, but that may be of little comfort when you’re stressed about paying bills and putting food on the table. It is important to know that you’re not alone, many are facing the same insecurity at this time.
In this series of blogs, we have put together some advice for getting back to work, with a focus on the challenges that COVID-19 has created.
In this first blog, we’ve put together a shortlist of practical steps you can take right now, on how to deal with losing your job and also to look after yourself in the process. These should help you to feel in the right frame of mind to start finding a new job.
Step 1 – Allow yourself to grieve
It is a natural to mourn the loss of your job, as well as loss of income. You might feel this grief particularly strongly if you were relying on your job for socialising or working gave you a feeling of purpose or control after your diagnosis. Give yourself time to adjust and recognise that this is a difficult situation.
If you experience low mood, anxiety, depression or any other feelings that might indicate deteriorating mental health, reach out for support. This could be from your GP, any mental health professionals you already see following your cancer diagnosis or from a charity. Mind is one example of a charity dedicated to helping individuals who are experiencing poor mental health.
Step 2 – Take care of yourself
As well as giving yourself time to recognise the loss of a job, it is important to remember that looking for a job is hard work. Therefore, try to take some time for yourself before you begin the search, to be in the right frame of mind.
- Connect with other people by reaching out to friends, family and old colleagues, it really helps to have someone who will listen attentively. You might even want to expand your social networks by taking a class or joining a group.
- Maintain balance in your life and don’t let your search for a new job consume you. Make time for fun, rest and relaxation. Your search for a new job will be more effective if you are at your best mentally, emotionally and physically.
- Take regular exercise such as walking, running, swimming or yoga. Exercising releases powerful endorphins which improve mood and make us feel good. Spending time in nature is also a great stress reliever.
- Guided meditations apps, like Headspace and Calm, can be accessed for free and can be helpful in reducing anxiety, sleep troubles, or stress that you may be feeling. Yoga is also good for stress as well as exercise.
- Get plenty of sleep as this will enhance your focus throughout your job search. It is recommended you get between seven to eight hours each night.
- Eat well – it may seem that, when facing the stress of losing a job, that the last thing you want to do is to worry about what you eat. However, food and drink will change your mood and your energy levels. Try to minimise sugar, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, as these adversely affect your mood and energy levels.
Step 3 – Assess your finances
When it comes to losing a job, your finances usually take a hit. Being made redundant offers an opportunity to look at your finances in depth and may help reduce the stress or pressure to find a job urgently. With your money taken care of, even if only temporarily, you’ll have more time and energy to focus on picking yourself up and finding a new job.
Even if you have savings, you will need to look at how long this will last you. Consider how you can save money, even temporarily, to ensure any savings last as long as possible. You can do this by setting yourself a strict budget, claiming benefits or a combination of both.
The following are some suggestions for you if you need to cut back on spending:
- Most organisations you owe money to should be able to help you by reducing your payments, giving you more time to pay and ensure you stay connected to a service, even if you have a debt. It’s better to ask in advance than to rack up debts without communication.
- This includes your mortgage provider, utility providers and bank/credit card providers.
- Many industries (insurance providers, banks etc.) have been asked to be more flexible with customers during the pandemic until approximately October 2020. Take advantage of this if you need it.
- If you are private renting, let your landlord know if you think you’ll fall behind with your rent at any time. It’s best to be honest to avoid the risk of being evicted for non- payment of rent.
- Contact the council, as you may qualify for a council tax reduction, if your income has dropped and you have started claiming benefits.
- Look for ways to reduce your spending on non-essential items. Many of us forget to cancel subscriptions we don’t use, allow services to auto-renew instead of looking for a better deal or struggle to find time to make a budget; take advantage of the time to do this now. You might be surprised on the savings you can make.
If cutting back on spending is not enough, then you can look at other sources of income.
- Are you eligible for benefits? See the next step for more information.
- Do you have income protection insurance? If so, contact your insurance company immediately to find out if you can make a claim. You may have this included in another insurance policy (e.g. critical illness, life insurance), so do a review of all your options.
- Check if you can get help with living costs for essential items, such as clothes, food etc.
- Councils have hardship funds that may be able to help
- Some charities also provide grants for these items, although COVID-19 has increased demand.
- You may be able to cash in a pension, but this is best avoided unless absolutely necessary and make sure to get some professional advice first.
Step 4 – Claim benefits
If you lose your job, you could be entitled to claim for unemployment benefits, depending on your situation. It is best to start your claim asap, as it can take some time to process and the system is particularly busy at the moment.
- The main benefit for unemployment is new style jobseekers allowance (JSA).
- You may also be able to claim new style employment and support allowance (ESA) if you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work, but will depend on how long you were working for and your national insurance contributions.
- You may be also able to claim for Universal Credit, which provides income assistance to those who are unemployed or on low incomes. Additional money is given if you need support with housing, looking after children or have other caring responsibilities. If you are successful, you will receive your first payment around five weeks after applying online. If you don’t have enough money to live on while waiting for your first payment, you can ask for an advance payment.
Step 5 - Consider your next move
Once you have addressed the above, then you can start thinking about looking for a new job.
Start by considering where you want to be and what you want out of your next job. You could create a list of both what you liked/loved about your job, and things you didn’t like about it. This will provide you with insight into what your next move may be. It may be that you want something more enjoyable or more relaxing.
Whilst you are looking for a job, it is important to maintain a daily routine. Treat your job hunt as if it is a job in itself, with a start and finish time, set goals and taking regular breaks.
There are also things you could do in the meantime, if you think it might be some time before you are able to get a new job in your usual area:
- In some areas, COVID-19 has increased the need for jobs such as supermarkets, delivery services/mail couriers and warehouse workers. You will also pick up new skills and meet new people.
- Consider learning a new skill or improve an old one. COVID-19 has meant there are now many websites offering free or low-cost courses.
- Volunteering is a good way to get out of the house, meeting people and you could learn valuable skills or make contacts that lead to paid work.
- Doing a video interview can be an advantage as you can make notes, and stick them to the side of the computer, which you would not normally have in a face to face interview.
In our next blog we will be looking at how to update your CV, tips for writing a new one, writing job applications and interview tips in the digital era.
For support following redundancy, please contact our welfare officer using our online form, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following websites will take you to guided meditation – helpful to reduce stress and aid sleep:
Please see the following YouTube videos for yoga for beginners.