THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Coping with long-term unemployment

Many people are out of work - and staying unemployed for longer periods of time. Don't let it get you down.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

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For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- We're just getting the latest figures on unemployment. But it's not just about the number of people out of work, at issue is also how long people are out of work.

It's taking people about 22 weeks on average to find new employment. That's the highest ever on record according to the government. And that figure doesn't even count people who have stopped looking for work.

In 2006 people were out of work for about 4 months ... but the number of weeks has been creeping up steadily upward.

Here's how to cope if you've been unemployed a while:

Call your state's unemployment office. There's some good news here. Unemployment benefits have been extended dramatically. In most states you can get from 72 to 79 weeks of unemployment. Plus, you'll also get an extra $25 per week in your paycheck and the first $2,400 of benefits won't be subject to income tax. To find out what you're eligible for, you'll need to call and ask.

Get work. Even if you are picking up a job at Starbucks, the reality is that if you aren't doing anything the perception of employers can be that you are growing stale or worse, lazy says Bradley Richardson, the author of "Career Comeback." It's not fair, but it's true.

Seek out part-time or contract work to keep those skills sharp. Bottom line: get out and do something even if it isn't in your chosen field. Don't wait to hit the home run -- a full-time job with full benefits. Volunteer work is acceptable too.

Give yourself a break. Understand that the nature of employment has changed in the last five to seven years. A rollercoaster career path is not unusual because we have had wild swings in employment due to the booms and busts of the last few years. Employers understand this, so if your resume looks a little uneven it won't be surprising to HR professionals.

Find some staffing firms that are active in your field. It's critical to understand that these firms specialize -- some are high-end boutique firms that find jobs for CEOs, others staff temp positions, others do part time work. Find the right staffing firms to pitch and get them working for you. Give them lists of the people you want to meet; copies of the magazine articles that illuminate changes in your field, lists of the companies you want to work for.

Develop structure to your daily schedule. You're not having it imposed by your employer, so you'll have to put it together yourself. Schedule time to work the social networking sites and research jobs. Having a schedule you can rely on will help keep you from going insane.

Got a financial dilemma? Go to CNNMoney.com/helpdesk to submit questions, read the Help Desk articles and check out new Help Desk videos. And tune in to CNN's Newsroom Tuesdays and Fridays, when Gerri Willis and other experts answer your questions.  To top of page

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