Millennials know that finding a full-time job after graduation isn’t easy. You send out hundreds of resumes, go on rounds and rounds of interviews, and receive countless rejection letters. When you finally land a full-time job that pays decently AND is in your field, you feel like you’ve hit the jackpot. So what happens when a few months down the road, you get laid off or fired from your job?
Baby boomers may say condescending things like “At least you don’t have a mortgage to pay for or a family to support.” It is true that some millennials don’t own homes or have children. But millennials also face unique challenges that prior generations have not faced – massive student loan debt and a weak job market.
In addition, younger members of the workforce often do not have a stable job history. A baby boomer who has been in his field for 30 years before being laid off can point to 30 years with the same company. He may also be able to explain that his entire department was eliminated as part of a corporate restructuring. This shows that he is loyal and that the layoff had nothing to do with him. A millennial with minimal job history will have a harder time demonstrating that he is a loyal employee and a hard worker, even if the layoff had nothing to do with his job performance.
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Millennials face unique challenges when they are confronted with job loss. Here are 5 tips for coping with job loss as a millennial.
Don’t beat yourself up too hard. Learn from your mistakes and move on, so you can focus on finding a better opportunity.
Being fired can cause a whole lot of negative emotions: frustration, anger, regret, shame, disappointment, embarrassment, and deflated self-esteem. These feelings are valid and understandable, but wallowing in them will not help you. Give yourself a brief time to feel sorry for yourself, and then move on. This job wasn’t the right place for you, but now you have time to focus on finding a job that will be a great fit.
Try not to panic.
You know how difficult it is to find a job in the current job market, and the thought of defaulting on your student loans or not making your rent probably terrifies you. It is tough, but you did find a job before – and you will again. Instead of focusing on your fears, spend your time preparing as much as you can. Have multiple people review your resume and help you improve it, work on your cover letter, and practice interviewing as much as you can. Consider applying for a few jobs you aren’t even really interested in – this will give you the chance to practice your interviewing skills without so much pressure.
As desperate as you are to find a new job, you can’t prepare 24/7 – at a certain point, preparation becomes counterproductive. Spend your free time doing things that help you to relax and de-stress, like exercising, yoga, going for walks, doing something creative, listening to music, or chatting with friends. Avoid using alcohol or any other unhealthy outlets that may do more harm than good.
Consider switching to income-based repayment on your student loans (temporarily).
I wouldn’t typically recommend income-based repayment (IBR), but if you’ve lost your only source of income and you’re going to run out of money, it may be your only option. Temporarily switching to IBR is certainly better than defaulting on your loans. If you are unemployed, your income will be zero which will make your monthly payments zero (under IBR) as well. (Caveat: if you’re married and you file your taxes jointly, your spouse’s income will be used to calculate your monthly payment). Once you find a new job, switch back to the standard 10-year repayment plan. This will reduce the amount you pay in interest over the life of the loan.
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Consider taking on part-time, temporary, contract, or freelance work during your job search.
All of the millennials I know have worked contract jobs at some point. Temporary employees are less expensive to hire, and employers are typically less selective when hiring temps – they are more concerned with hiring someone quickly. If you’re having trouble finding a permanent, full-time job because of being fired or laid off, you may find it easier to land a temp job. You can continue looking for a perm job while you temp.
Focus on any long-term positions you’ve held.
Don’t leave a retail job or volunteer gig off your resume if you held that position for a long time. Younger workers typically don’t have much job history in their chosen field. If you worked for six years at the same ice cream shop, this is worth mentioning. It demonstrates that you are a loyal and dedicated employee. Turnover in retail and food service is extraordinarily high, so sticking with the same service job for several years makes you stand out.