Unemployment in Sweden often makes headlines in the news, either during election campaigns or when large companies lay off a large number of employees. The truth is that unemployment can affect all branches, all ages, and anyone. It can be devastating and worrisome, but its effects can also be mitigated if you are prepared for it. This article is not only for those at risk of being unemployed but everyone with a job can make use of it.
Is unemployment in sight? Do not panic!
Firstly, remember becoming unemployed is not the end of the world. According to a report from the Swedish National Bank, 25% of unemployed people find a new job in less than 4 weeks and 70% do it in less than 6 months. And who knows, you might even find a better workplace than the one you had before. Fingers crossed or as the Swedes say “I’ll hold my thumbs for you”.
Make saving a priority
Having a savings account for emergencies is a lifesaver during a layoff. Ash Exantus, a financial educator, recommends setting aside 10% to 30% of our paycheck into such an account. Keep it in a separate account in your bank, to make sure you won’t dig into your savings unless you really need it. You can set it up at your home banking or ask for help at the bank if needed.
This way within a year you will have enough saved to live without an income for a few months. If you end up not becoming unemployed and not using the money, you can save it for other emergencies or put it into your retirement fund.
Extra tip: keep yourself motivated by calling your account something inspiring, like “Financial Freedom Fund” (as recommended by Ash Exantus).
Double-check that you have the right to unemployment benefits.
Having unemployment insurance, the so-called A-kassa, is highly recommended and about 80% of the Swedish working population has it. Hopefully, you are one of them, as receiving some unemployment money will help you economically until you find a new job. Besides checking that you are registered with A-kassa, you should also check how much financial help you would get if becoming unemployed today.
Extra tip: you can increase unemployment benefits by being a union member as well. This Newbie article explains it all.
Review your budget and analyze your costs
How much of your income do you spend every month? If you replace your current income with unemployment benefits, will you still be able to cover all your costs? Which costs could you possibly cut?
These are some of the questions that you should be asking yourself. Start by writing down all of your costs, with the help of your bank statement to make sure you won’t forget anything. Compare the total spending with the total earnings, both when employed and unemployed. This will give you an idea of how much you will have to cut on your costs or how much you will have to use from your savings account.
Extra tip: Looking into cutting costs? Food is often an area where we can reduce our spending. Read here for some tips.
Think and plan for new forms of income
What could you do to get some extra income? Perhaps you have a special talent for something and can freelance for a while. Or maybe you need to get rid of some clothes or furniture that you can sell online. Any extra earnings will help keep your finances afloat while giving you enough time to search for work.
If free-lancing, make sure you report all of your earnings, especially if you are also receiving unemployment benefits. Some freelance work now and then might not affect your benefits, but a part-time job will certainly do it. Consider all of your options and weigh their pros and cons before you make a decision.
Extra tip: try free-lancing on a small scale while you are still employed (if possible). That will give you good feedback on time demands and possible earnings so that you know what to count on.
Grow your network strategically
A lot of job positions are only advertised internally, so having good personal contacts in your branch will give you an advantage. Sure, having a good-looking and updated LinkedIn account helps but it’s not enough. Having a thousand contacts in your profile is not of much help if they don’t even remember who you are. Now, I’m not saying you should keep in touch with everyone on your account but keep good relations with some key people. Making long-life professional relations might be more easily said than done, but try to identify people in your network, who you think would be helpful in the future. Focus on people who have had a positive influence on your career.
Extra tip: if you do get unemployed make sure your key contacts know that you are looking for a job. Email or send private messages letting them know you are on the hunt for a job.
Keep educating yourself
The job market is in constant change and new skills are always a plus. A few decades ago, everyone wrote their computer skills on the CV, and being able to work with Word and Excel was a big deal. Nowadays, those are basic skills and it’s a given that everyone has them. Times change and we must keep up with them.
Nothing can guarantee that you won’t be laid off, but learning new skills and keeping yourself updated in your field will make you as valuable as possible in your branch.
Extra tip: check if your company offers some courses or educational programs. Many do, as it benefits the company if the employees are on top of the latest advances in the field.
Get inside information on CVs and interview skills
If you do get unemployed, you will need an updated CV and good interview skills. While you still have a job you have access to precious inside information on these. What are your employees looking for when hiring someone new? Why did they choose one candidate over the other one? Even if your company is not hiring right now, which is likely if there are rumors about layoffs, you can still talk to HR or other colleagues and get information on this.
Extra tip: this makes a good fika or lunchtime topic. A relaxed conversation might provide more useful information than a more formal meeting.
Keep your CV updated
Keeping your CV updated and on hand is good even if you are not thinking of changing job. You never know when a great opportunity shows up or even if someone unexpectedly headhunts you. In those cases, it is better to have a well-thought-through CV ready on hand, instead of writing one down in a hurry.
And don’t forget to update your CV according to what you have learned within your current company, as suggested by point number 8.
Extra tip: Happy with the text of your CV but not so much with its looks? Google CV templates and get inspired.
Consider a bigger change
Have you ever considered changing fields? Many dream of working with something else, but leaving the safety of decent employment is too scary. Whether you took a wrong turn when you took the job, or you were forced to take it when you moved country, or any other reason is valid. At times, unemployment is a blessing in disguise and is the push we need to step outside of our bubble and finally try working on that area we have always wanted to.
Consider it. If you got unemployed today and had the chance to do anything else, what would that be?
Some branches might be more susceptible to a constant change of staff while others are steadier. No matter what, and in the current financial crisis, no job is 100% safe and it’s good to be prepared no matter how secure you think your job is. I’m not saying we should worry for no reason. No thank you, modern life is stressful as it is already. However, it won’t hurt having that savings account we talked about or keeping an eye on the job market and its demands for your profession.
It’s like being a scout – always be prepared. It’s just common sense.