Monday, January 9, 2012

Ends with Benefits

My first weekend as an unemployed person brought with it a couple of cool comparisons. Initially, I noticed an awesome feeling of TRUE weekend, not a rush of pressured action items to fit in to the 2-day period between Friday and Monday. It was time for husband and relaxing and home life and whatever. I knew I could scoot some chores and errands over by a couple days to be done during the week. Not sure it will always feel that good, but it was really nice for now so I want to acknowledge it. Me likey.

Also, something else that made it seem like a true weekend was not begrudging Sunday night. I’ve found that Sunday evenings are a problem with a lot of us working folks, even when you have a decent job and you like what you do and the people you work with. The problem is that every week on Sunday night something inside you knows you have to get up on Monday and go give your self to a company, which is exists outside your own true self, for the next five days. And as a company, it can’t relate with you personally. And it will cut you off if it has to. A company employs people, but lives and dies by numbers.

So when you work, you’re always on the short end of the giving stick in that way. For most people, it does make you less in love with the whole prospect of Monday mornings, on some level. Especially after a nice weekend with love, friends, family, pets, home, outdoors, travel or hobbies to compare it to. But, it’s not good to dwell on it, so suffice it to say, that’s probably what’s wrong with Sunday nights for working folks. And that’s what was nice about last night, for me. Soon, I’m sure I will rather have the underlying icky feeling back, in trade for knowing my bank account is good to start the week.

Yes, unemployment comes with feelings. And there’s plenty of both (unemployment and feelings) to go around right now. Does it help at all to know you are not alone? To learn about your state’s unemployment rate, and what if anything the federal government has to say about the state of the Unites States’ rates, check with the Bureau of Labor.

Feelings are fine, but we gotta focus on the facts. Like, if we recently lost our job, unemployment insurance might offer us some benefits. These come in the form of small, steady payments to help us get through tough times as we look for new jobs, and in some cases, counseling and resources to help connect us with potential employers.

You should apply, now, if you haven’t done so already. This is done through your state unemployment insurance office or department.

In Illinois, our department is called the Illinois Department of Employment Services, or IDES. I like this. It’s phrased in the positive. Not Unemployment services, but employment. Good start.

Each state varies with process steps and resources, but the general procedures are similar. Your state will tell you what you need to apply; if you’re eligible and when, or why not; and what you’ll need to do to get your payments going if you are. Make this your ToDo4Today.

  1. You’ll need documents and dates. Review the website first and have on hand what they tell you you’ll need. Best bet is to get out your exit papers and your start papers. What took me the longest with the Illinois application was counting the actual days and weeks I had worked in the base period. You don’t count paid holidays or sick days, so you literally have to look back at your calendar and count your working days one by one. I suppose if you don’t keep a daily OCD schedule as I do, you could come close enough and it would be okay. But I’m sure there’s a benefits formula in there and you don’t want to undershoot it by a couple days, either.               
  3.  In Illinois, we must also register for a job seekers service. I was happy to know this existed at first, but so far, my searches have come up completely empty. I actually have better results looking on craigslist for potential work than the IDES. But I won’t be quick to judge. Maybe I’ll come up with a job writing for the government, who knows. In Illinois, it seems we could use some PR at least. But I digress.
Finally, don’t feel bad for any reason. For example, you might make the mistake of thinking you’re somehow living on the lamb. Don’t get this mixed up with welfare. It’s called unemployment insurance. Employers must pay it as an insurance premium when they employ people, so the state can avoid having a bunch of welfare cases on their hands when businesses decide to downsize, close up shop, move, or otherwise eliminate positions. I presume you will use this insurance program is for good, not evil.

Also, because you’re unemployed, you might associate collecting unemployment with being somehow undesirable in a grown-up, bring-home-the-bacon sort of way. Don’t do it. As long as you haven’t hit snooze, and you’re able, willing and ready to work—this is why you qualify for unemployment benefits in the first place. Payments will help you transition into your new and better job because they help you keep food on your table, lights on in your home, and gas or bus tickets to transport you to interviews. This is the point: not be a stressor, but a stress reliever. Take the benefits without guilt or worry, but with gratitude and relief. For only as long as you need them.

Your last job is over but your new job is here—it’s working on you, right now. And you need to eat. Not a freezer full of crap, either. Go out and get some brightly color vegetables, decent grains and nice proteins. Eat a power lunch. Act with energy. After all…. it’s MONDAY!

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