You've seen gas prices escalate lately, and have half-listened to pundits decrying the state of the lackluster American economy. Aside from paying $62 for a tank of gas that cost you $40 two years ago, you fee like the economic downturn hasn't overwhelmingly affected you so long as you have your 50-hour, $550/week job keeping you (barely) solvent. Then you get a call from the HR coordinator, who requests a meeting with you at your earliest convenience. Although your performance has been good but not perfect, you also haven't triggered a series of cataclysmic events which causes the company you work for to lose either valuable clients or millions of dollars in revenue. You go into HR's office, and there is a packet of documents waiting for you with the top page featuring the words, “COBRA Coverage”.
The HR coordinator has a bit of a pained expression on her face as she asks you to come in and have a seat. As soon as she moves to close the door, you only now realize that this conversation will not end well. After spending the first minute talking about how well-liked you are by the rest of the support staff and what a difficult decision this was, you are then informed that some staffing changes will be made, and that your work at XYZ company will “conclude” at the end of that business day.
Once you feel your head suddenly getting very warm with a singular bead of perspiration trickling down the side of your face, it now hits you that your life is about to change. Dramatically. The initial shock of getting let go/laid off is a similar feeling to being told you look fat in your favorite outfit as you discover your best friend has been shtooping your lover. It's quite the lousy feeling, but rest assured, you'll deal - as long as you follow these important guidelines:
1. Log onto Employment Development Department's website STAT!!! The sooner you file, the sooner you'll start collecting gub'ment cheese, er, benefits. Unemployment Insurance can take 2-3 weeks to kick in, and if you aren't fortunate to get canned without either some sort of severance or vacation time payout, you'll need this money sooner than later.
2. Get the UTA joblist – if you work in entertainment, there's usually someone who knows someone who can get the list. Once you get your hands on the list, use it to send as many resumes out as possible for positions you're right for. Companies who post openings on this site are typically looking to fill their vacant position ASAP, so you may have but a momentary hitch in your career if you find something you like and want. Even if you see a position that you're right for, but don't necessarily want, then send a resume anyway. It's important to practice interviewing so that you're in mid-season form with your shpiel down once you interview for your supposed dream job. Your shpiel should consist of your most recent positions, who you worked for, important projects your past departments worked on, and why you were attracted to this position (hint: don't say “I need another job NOW!”). If you don't have any way of getting the joblist, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll hook you up.
3. If you're looking to stay in entertainment, find other websites which contain job postings catering to this particular field, and the sum of several of these websites should form a decent resource for jobseekers. Entertainmentcareers.net is a good start (even without getting a membership), as is Variety Careers (on variety.com) and our very own IndustryNexus, to name but a few. Some of the generic sites like careerbuilder.com and monster.com have few openings in entertainment, so I probably wouldn't recommend these unless you're leaving entertainment.
4. If you are planning on departing from show business and aren't quite certain of your next move, then go to a relaxing place (be it a park, beach, hilltop, or Coffee Bean/what-have-you) with a pen and notepad, and write down all of your interests. Whether it's shopping, sports, music, politics, video games, S&M activities or food, think about how your interests can be applied to a career. Then look for jobs in those particular fields by going to different websites or talking to people with a career you want, and ask them for advice and/or a recommendation. If you need to go back to school, then start thinking about what is needed for the next step. If you need to prepare for an entrance exam, then buy a prep/study guide on Amazon or Ebay (trust me, it's cheaper than a bookstore), and think about where you would like to attend class.
5. Tell your “friends” on Facebook/Myspace/whichever social networking sites you're on that you're now looking for a job. Being unemployed in the internet age is a lot less depressing when you've got dozens to hundreds of online buddies who either sympathize with you and/or can help you land a new gig instantly. I know it requires a great deal of pride to announce to cyberspace, “I'M LOOKING!”, but asking for assistance can only help you.
It's important that you're prepared for downtime. Remember all those hours you spent at your former job mulling over how you never get to do what you want: writing, reading, working out, going to the beach, watching movies, starting a side business, etc. because you're too busy working? Well, guess what? Aside from submitting resumes, scheduling interviews and filling out EDD paperwork, you'll now have all the time you want to pursue such activities! Make the most of this time before you land another job.
Periods of unemployment are prime opportunities to get back into physical shape. Not only are you broke and unlikely to be able to drop loads of cash on heavy meals at restaurants, but the extra time on your hands can be spent judiciously getting rid of your love handles/muffin top. I recommend a morning jog coupled with an early afternoon workout after lunch. If you don't have a gym membership, there are numerous inspiring workouts available without equipment if you type “home workout” on Google or Youtube.
I'm not much of an advocate for prescription anti-depressants, but I would recommend getting a bottle of St. John's Wort to help stave off feelings of depression and/or hopelessness that can occur during periods of unemployment. SJW is a flower that is available over the counter at pretty much any pharmacy and most supermarkets.
When you go out to run errands during the week, make an effort to dress nice even if you've got nowhere in particular to be. Walking around in sweats, while convenient and comfortable, can start to wear you down emotionally when you see everyone else dressed for success in their power suits and Manolos. Remember what the saleslady at JC Penny said: When you look good, you FEEL good!
Many of us are looking for additional revenue streams during periods of joblessness. Aside from selling your body to science for invasive if not lucrative procedures, I have some suggestions in case you need to get paid without getting probed:
1. Market research focus groups: These jobs can be sparse, but when you get called in, you can often make in the range of $150 under-the-table cash (no need to report to EDD) for two hours of work! Subjects may range from energy drinks to automotive design. You don't need to be an expert on the area of focus, but if you sound somewhat educated, you'll do just fine. Links to some of these companies are below:
http://www.awr-la.com/ (Adler-Weiner Research Company)
http://www.trotta.net/ (Trotta Associates Marketing Research)
Just call the number on the website, answer their questions to get into their database (you might want to stretch the truth about your income when they ask you), and you may get a call within a week or two.
2. Script coverage – Depending on how fast you can read, this may or may not be cost effective for you. If you can tear through a 100-page script and write a synopsis as well as a critical take in less than, say three hours, then you may benefit from reading and covering scripts. A word of caution, though: chances are you'll be reading scripts so bad, you'll be banging your head against the table. These companies are often looking for new readers, and with a backlog of scripts from the WGA Strike, there is probably a reader job for you, too. Just be prepared to submit examples from scripts you've covered in the past. Some examples of these companies are: Screenplayreaders.com , scriptapalooza.com , and sunsetscript.com.
3. California Cryobank – sorry ladies, this is for guys only. I won't go into detail what needs to be done to get paid at the Cryobank, but let's just say you've done it for free since the first time you stole your uncle's issue of Hustler in junior high (insert requisite “Eww!” here). For more info, log onto http://www.cryobank.com/. $75 per, um, visit can translate to $300-$900 per month. Not a bad living for Rosie Palms and her five little sisters!
4. If you've hit financial rock bottom and have to make rent, it's not the end of the world if you have to hit up family or friends for some dough. If they love you, they'll recognize that you're going through a tough time, and they'll do what they can to help you get to the next adventure in your life. Asking for money (which you promise you'll pay back once you land on your feet) is never the first option, but if you've got no other choices when your landlord is at your front door with his/her arms folded, your loved ones will be half-expecting some sort of request anyways.
It's important to remember that even the most loyal, determined employees get fired from their jobs. It may not necessarily be a reflection on you; you may just be a victim of corporate reshuffling. If you did get canned because you suck, just remember that it's a big world out there, and although they may say Hollywood is a small town, you don't really cement your reputation until you reach the executive level anyways. So don't think of yourself as a loser; instead, consider yourself a free agent who can enter into whatever field you desire. Education? Law Enforcement? Exotic Cabaret? The world is waiting for you to get off the couch and get on with the rest of your life, so start living!