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You Got Furloughed, Now What?

Before the pandemic, getting furloughed wasn’t exactly a familiar situation. It still isn’t. There’s a lot of confusion about what being furloughed actually means. Do I still have a job? Can I pay my bills? Being furloughed requires a mental readjustment and willingness to embrace the unknown. This can be scary.

But the good news is that it can actually open up your mind to new opportunities. You’ve been given time to think about what you want out of your career and personal life. This time doesn’t have to feel like a rut. Here are five tips on what to do if you’ve been furloughed:

Don’t Panic

Furloughs exist in a gray area. This is tough to manage mentally. You haven’t been laid off but you’re also not getting paid (or your pay has been cut). It’s easy to slip into panic mode when faced with uncertainty. How long will the pandemic—and by extension furlough—last? Will I even be hired back? But don’t spiral down those rabbit holes. Instead, think of your furlough as gifted time. Your job is on pause, not gone. And you likely still have health insurance. This opens the door for you to figure out your next move while you still have some benefits. Take advantage.

Use Your Time Wisely

In addition to bingeing on “Tiger King” and baking sourdough, use this newfound time to your financial and career gain. Of course, self-care is still important—and please do give yourself an at-home facial—but don’t waste hours scrolling through Instagram. Instead use your down time to reassess your career. Perhaps you felt too comfortable in your old job or didn’t see any upward mobility. Maybe you weren’t working in the industry of your dreams. Poke around on LinkedIn, Indeed, and other newer job boards like Candor.co and Levels.fyi. Reach out to your network. You might actually find something more aligned with your goals. Now is the time to address those aspirations.

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

If you’ve been furloughed, chances are your paycheck has been frozen. While you peruse job sites for other long-term opportunities, also look for a temporary way to make money. You can certainly apply for unemployment while furloughed, but with millions of Americans now without work, it’s smarter to go outside and ask who needs an extra hand. This doesn’t have to be a big stressor or require a long, drawn-out application process. Pop into small businesses that might be overwhelmed, such as local grocery stores, pharmacies, or boutiques making masks. There’s probably someone in your neighborhood who would welcome a helping hand.

Lean on Me

As I mentioned before, being furloughed is an unfamiliar and nerve-wracking circumstance, which may lead to anxiety or depression. Turn to your spouse, friends, relatives or other supporting people in your life. If you are feeling alone, maybe now is the time to do some therapist shopping. And don’t be embarrassed to tell mentors or other people in your business network that you’ve been furloughed. They might be able to help you find work, introduce you to hiring managers, or connect you with other people who have been furloughed. It seems counter intuitive to broadcast your problems, but in fact, people who share their layoffs on social media are in a better position to land their next job than those who keep quiet.

Stay Connected

Remember that your job isn’t gone. This isn’t a layoff. Though there’s no guarantee your old position will be waiting for you at the end of this, you should stay in touch with your boss and colleagues. You likely weren’t the only one on the team who was furloughed and it’s smart to band together. You never know whose help you might want in the future. And staying in contact with your boss will keep you top of mind. Try not to talk shop during this time, though. Connect on a more personal level and let your colleagues see you as more than an office mate.

Just like you never regret a workout, you won’t regret pouncing into action during tough times. Both are hard to start but you’ll never regret it when you’re done. This is new territory for millions of Americans, so remember you aren’t alone. Over the course of one week in April, hundreds of thousands of retail workers were furloughed. There’s oddly some comfort in that knowledge. We’re in this together.

Just like you never regret a workout, you won’t regret pouncing into action during tough times. Both are hard to start but you’ll never regret it when you’re done. Click To Tweet

A version of this article was originally published on Forbes.

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