Options and Resources if You’re Out of (or Low on) Work

By Alessandra Calderin

If you’re finding yourself feeling restless and with more time on your hands, you are not alone. In the past three weeks, more than 33 million people have filed for unemployment benefits. While it may be tempting to fill your time with what feels like work — sending out job applications or refreshing your inbox (which is what I do when I feel anxious about job security) — here are some ideas and resources to help you get through this time of little certainty.

If you have more time, use it wisely.

Everyone has a hot take about whether this time should be for rest or productivity, but why do we have to choose? With less work coming in, the thoughtless mind might cling to bingeing TV, scrolling Instagram, obsessively checking the news, or constantly applying for new opportunities, but there are other ways to tune out and rest.

Media may help you escape or give you a (false) sense of control but won’t contribute to your long-term well-being. Instead, if you’re trying to take a break from work, actually rest. Take a nap. Go for a walk if that’s an option. Look out the window. Read a book, or try one of these other ways or even these other ways to check in and give your mind and body meaningful rest.

As for work time, instead of flinging resumes into the void, you can try one of the other points on this list.

Broaden + deepen your network.

Take this time to reconnect with friends, colleagues, and old coworkers. Maybe there are opportunities to help each other, or maybe those opportunities will pop up when things start moving again. Humans are social creatures, so don’t be afraid to reach out and check in just for the sake of it.

I’ve started a lunch date initiative where I schedule two video lunch dates per week and then introduce each of those people to other folks whom I think they might like to speak with (and they do the same for me). I welcome you to start your own, or email me to join mine.

Work on your resume/story/portfolio.

What differentiates you? What are you doing this all for? If the answer is “to pay my bills” I feel that, but that won’t make people want to hire you (unless being super straightforward is part of your vibe and you have the track record to back up your drive). But for the rest of us, what drives you beneath that? What is the intersection of expertise that will help you stand out?

Humans love stories. The better you can frame your story through a website, resume, portfolio, or cover letter, the more likely a potential client or employer is to root for you. Maybe this is an opportunity to bring a passion project to life and showcase the kind of work you want to be doing. Maybe you can pivot, add something new that tailors to the present moment. Can you give yourself the space to be creative with what might be possible?

Learn new skills or enhance old ones.

Gazing at the stock market, the news, and your inbox will slowly erode your sanity. Instead, you could take up drawing or hone those writing skills. You can use the list below for free and discounted classes to get those creative juices flowing.

Or if you’ve got an old instrument lying around, you could try getting back at it. Challenging the mind keeps it healthy, so pick something that really makes you think. (I’m currently trying to teach myself the Sweetwater Theme from Westworld. It’s not going well, but it’s kind of fun.)

Take a look at the big picture.

If you don’t regularly check in with what you actually want and are working towards, you may not be optimizing yourself for happiness. Maybe the global pandemic is confronting you with those deep big picture questions. Instead of ignoring the feeling of discomfort again, what if you sat with it?

There are plenty of ways to tackle that. You can try journaling, creating mood boards, talking to people in and out of your field, reading books by people you admire, or even envisioning your perfect future self (a very helpful Buddhist practice). Sometimes we need help with that so if therapy, coaching, or other counseling is an option, and if you have the funds, that might be something to explore.

Do your taxes.

I know they’re not actually due until July 15, but getting your 2019 taxes done, especially if it was a better year than 2018 for you, can be helpful when you apply for the CARES Act backed SBA loans (or any other assistance you may have access to as the SBA funds have been quickly depleted). Plus, you can file them now, and not pay anything you may owe until July.

Additionally, here is a list of free and discounted tools to get you through the stay at home orders.

Tools + Resources

Adobe is offering extended free trials and sharing options. They are also sharing the Adobe Summit presentations digitally.

Internet Essentials provides high-speed internet to low income households and is offering two months free for eligible customers.

For those new to working from home, LinkedIn has organized a video series of best practices for remote working and productivity.

Flex Jobs has a free guide on how to find and land remote jobs.

Humu is providing nudges — what they typically share with clients as highly-specialized science-backed recommendations — to anyone who needs them.

Job Fair X is hosting a virtual job fair on July 20 for New Yorkers.

Listen on Repeat is a free tool that lets you listen to the same song on repeat through YouTube. I like using video game music, but you can choose your own adventure.

If you’re looking for a side hustle to get your through tough times, here is a list of currently open positions via Indeed and another one via LinkedIn.

This Medium post contains a resource directory along with tools specifically for freelance designers.

inc.com has put together a MASSIVE collection of financial resources for small businesses.

Continuing Education

Sackett Street Writer’s Workshop is offering discounted online classes, a free video series, and weekly “write ins.”

The Daily Frolic has made a creative writing series free.

Aaron Blaise is offering free and discounted virtual drawing and animation classes.

Disney has a how to draw series posted for free on YouTube.

Nikon is offering select online classes for free.

Code Wizards is offering free and reduced pricing for kid’s coding classes.

Prodigy has a list of resources for families to entertain and teach children.

Netflix has released a handful of documentaries to YouTube.

A range of grant writing courses (from $30 – $200+) are available for virtual sign up through Eventbrite.

JSTOR has expanded its free read-online access from 6 to 100 articles per month.

Project Muse has opened up journals to the public through participating publishers (most participating publishers have agreed to open access through the end of May or June.)

Health + Wellness

Mental Health America has compiled a list of resources for everyone from caregivers to domestic violence survivors to veterans.

Headspace is offering free meditations in a series called “weathering the storm.”

305 Fitness has free at home dance workouts.*

Core Power Yoga has free online classes.

Three Jewels has discounted online classes, meditations, and dharma classes.*

We Are Body Language has live classes on Instagram*

Monterey Bay Aquarium has a few live cams set up accompanied by relaxing tunes. The jellyfish are my favorites.

Media + Entertainment

Scribd has opened up their library for 30 days. This is not your typical free trial. You won’t be asked to input your credit card here.

Amazon is adding free perks to Prime and Kindle packages for existing and new users.

Audible has launched Stories where children’s stories are available to stream for free in a range of languages.

The San Diego Zoo has live cams set ups for pandas, orangutans, polar bears, giraffes, penguins, and more.

The Bronx Zoo is on that live cam game, too, with lemurs, turtles, sea lions, and the aquarium.

Australian Reptile Park is posting videos of animal tales and live streams of koalas, crocodiles, dingoes, and live feedings.

Taronga Zoo in Sydney is also offering live streams for otters, elephants, tigers, meerkats, and more.

*Writer’s note: I used to teach at Three Jewels and personally know the folks of 305 Fitness and We Are Body Language, and have included them because they’re amazing. I do not get a kick back for this promo.


About the author.
Alessandra is the mentor, educator, and writer behind Boneseed, a private practice devoted to deep self-inquiry through a range of physical, energetic, and mental modalities. She has over 500 hours of yoga, mentorship, and facilitation training and can be found slinging knowledge on her website, newsletter, and @bone.seed.