July 20, 2012
No simple solutions when unemployment benefits run out
When Rick Goral was laid off from an art director position, he didn’t expect to rely on unemployment insurance benefits for long. But after months of looking for work in a field with low turnover, he realized he needed to do more than apply for openings.
“Sometimes, just waiting for things to get better really isn’t going to work,” Goral says.
So, with the expiration of his unemployment benefits looming, he started his own business — a small screen-printing production that he ran out of a shed-sized workshop outside his house. Over the next two years, demand for his custom shirts and posters increased; he garnered clients such as Microsoft and Adobe. Eventually, Goral and a business partner opened a shop, Row Boat Press, in Seattle.
Goral’s story may serve as inspiration to the thousands whose benefits expire this year. Currently, those who qualify for unemployment benefits in Washington state receive 73 weeks of income — 26 weeks of regular benefits and 47 weeks of emergency benefits, as an extension of regular benefits.
As of June 30, more than 101,000 people in Washington have run out of all unemployment since July 2008. Research last fall showed that only about one-third of people who had run out of benefits since November 2009 found work, according to the state Employment Security Department (ESD).
When someone has been out of work for a long time, there often is an underlying issue, says Sheryl Hutchison of the ESD.
Where to go next
“We see resumes that have lots of typos or don’t showcase skills properly,” she says, and some people may not be dressing appropriately for interviews. “WorkSource can help you run a better job search.”
WorkSource, a partnership of social services and governmental organizations, offers free employment-skills training and workshops out of centers throughout the state, and can help with resume, interview, networking and job-search strategies. Those wanting one-on-one advice can request a sit-down meeting with a WorkSource adviser, says Marléna Sessions, CEO of the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County.
“Some people are trying to work on finding a job all by themselves, but they can really benefit from coming in to WorkSource,” she says.
Last year, several pilot projects around the state aimed at reaching out to benefit exhaustees. One such program, administered by the Workforce Development Council, offered job-placement services for long-term unemployment insurance claimants. The program, Back2Work Now, taught claimants how to use social media (such as LinkedIn) to network, conducted mock interviews and ran employer panels. By the end of the project, 60 percent of participants found jobs.
Of course, some careers are more challenging than others. Those ready to try an entrepreneurial tack may wish to start their own businesses, as Goral did.
The Small Business Administration also offers resources, and many universities and colleges provide advice for alumni seeking entrepreneurial opportunities, says Julie Jansen, author of the book “I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work.”
And while working from home can be appealing, it’s important to distinguish valid work-at-home opportunities from scams, Jansen says. She recommends the book “Will Work from Home: Earn the Cash -- Without the Commute,” by Tory Johnson and Robyn Freedman Spizman, for a clear-eyed assessment of opportunities.
Some people turn to a patchwork of part-time jobs. One startup, TaskRabbit, hires individuals as contractors after an interview and training process; the contractors then bid on tasks and small jobs for clients posting requests on the TaskRabbit website. Job seekers also may look for potential earnings via sites such as NWjobs.com and Craigslist.
“Everybody can do something,” Goral says. “Figure out what that is and start doing it for money.”
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