THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Unemployment survival guide

There are no two ways about it, being laid off isn't easy. Here are some tips to help you maintain your quality of life.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

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

NEW YORK ( -- Unemployment hit 9.5 % today. Since the beginning of the year, almost 3 and a half million people have lost their jobs. And it's not just about losing a paycheck, it's also a way of life.

1. Reach out

If you're unemployed, you're certainly not alone. Reach out to other people in the same boat.

Check out meet. This site will have information on local groups of unemployed people who meet to exchange feedback on resumes, cover letters and interviews.

You can also check out layoff - a community of people who have lost their jobs. Even if it's just to vent your frustrations, it's important to have people willing to listen AND understand. And don't be afraid to tell your colleagues, customers and friends that you're unemployed. Be up front.

2. Get on a schedule

One of the hardest things to get used to when you don't have a job, is having an entire day with no structure. So, treat your job search project as you would a regular full-time job.

Get out of the PS and put on something you would wear to work at your old job. If you can, do some volunteer work or take on a part-time job.

3. Explore going back to school

Going back to school to further your education IS an option. But, you really should consider if it will pay off.

If getting a degree will significantly give you an advantage and you'll reap the rewards with higher pay down the road, by all means, explore this path. You can save a bundle by going to community college or taking some classes online.

But don't go back to school just because you need something to do. That's an expensive lesson.

4. Help for veterans

Veterans have been hit particularly hard. The jobless rate for vets serving between September 2001 through today is 9.3%.

Now, there are some things that are being done. For one, as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery act, businesses that hire vets are eligible for a $2,400 tax credit.

So, if you're a veteran, or you know someone who is a veteran looking for work, the Labor Department has a special Web site that focuses specifically on helping Vets find work. That Web site is On this site you can get a list of military friendly employers, get the latest info on career fairs or access resume writing tips for vets.

-- CNN's Jens Haley contributed to this article.

Got a financial dilemma? Go to 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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