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Out of Unemployment and in Need of Income

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Early in 2002, Congress approved a temporary, 13-week extension of unemployment insurance benefits for workers who had used up their 26 weeks of coverage.

That extension expired on Dec. 28.

Another extension was approved on January 8, but it's highly unlikely that benefits will continue to be extended indefinitely.

Whether you're about to lose your unemployment or already have, you need a plan for how you'll meet expenses. The first step is to take a hard look at your finances and start cutting costs.

Pare down your living expenses to the minimum. Separate the items that you really need (like bard and utilities) from the ones that are nice to have but not absolutely necessary (like cable TV).

Create a budget. Calculate the total amount you can spend per month and designate a portion for each expense.

Prioritize your bills. Pay the secured debt (like your mortgage) before the unsecured debt (like your credit cards).

Call your creditors. Explain that you're unemployed and unable to meet all your financial obligations. Ask them if they can reduce your payments or help you work out a payment plan. Creditors are often willing to work with you: To them, a small payment is better than no payment at all.

If you have money set aside in savings, you may be able to live off that for the short-term. But, for long-term security, you need an income. Here are some tips on finding work fast.

A Temporary Solution to a Temporary Problem

Companies hired 2.2 million temporary and contract workers through staffing agencies in 2001, according to the American Staffing Association. That's about two percent of the entire U.S. workforce.

There's no reason why you can't be one of those temporary workers.

Temping sometimes gets a bad rap: Workers often think it means running off to a new job in a new place each day. While temporary jobs can be one-day gigs, more often they last longer. And "temp to perm" jobs even offer the possibility of permanent employment.

Temp jobs have lots of advantages. In addition to some fast cash, they allow you to learn new skills, try out different industries and make valuable contacts.

The easiest way to find a temp job is through a temporary staffing agency. Many agencies also post their jobs online. You can search temp opportunities posted on HotJobs here.

Be prepared to do more than talk if you are invited to interview with a temp agency. Usually, they ask candidates to take a small battery of tests gauging everything from computer literacy to typing speed.

Based on your skills and experience, the agency will try to match you to an available job. The more flexible you are about the type of work and length of assignment, the greater your chances of "being placed" in a job.

Finding a Part-Time Job

"Merriam-Webster's Dictionary" defines a job as "a piece of work."

It doesn't mention anything about 9 - 5 or Monday - Friday.

If you haven't found a full-time job and your unemployment is ending, it's time to look for part-time work. While a temp job is just that, temporary, it's often full-time. A part-time job, on the other hand, is usually for fewer than 32 hours a week.

To find a part-time job, first figure out when you'd be available to work. If you're free during weekdays, a clerical or banking job might be a good fit. If nights and weekends are more convenient, consider industries with expanded hours, like retail and bard service.

To apply for a part-time job, some employers request that you send a resume and cover letter. Others ask that you simply show up and fill out an application.

If you go to fill out an application, dress professionally. Along with your resume, bring all the information you'll need, such as:

Names and addresses of previous employers
Dates of previous employment
Names and phone numbers of references
Driver's license or other government-issued ID

When you meet with the hiring manager, make sure you confirm the hourly wage and the number of hours you'd be working per week.

A Job Search Is Always in Season

Timing is key to a job search. And that's never more true than when looking for a seasonal job.

Here's a calendar of sample seasonal jobs:

The holidays are the perfect time to look for a job at a retail store or even at a package delivery service. U.S. retailers will hire 400,000 to 500,000 holiday workers for the 2002 holiday season, predicts the National Retail Federation.

You may not need to file your taxes until April 15, but the tax-season hiring rush starts in January. Tax preparation companies hire seasonal workers to help prepare returns, and the Internal Revenue Service and state tax departments need extra employees to process them.

As summer approaches, hiring heats up in tourism. Theme parks, camps and hospitality companies staff up in anticipation of vacationers. Restaurants and retail stores often also hire seasonal help, especially in popular tourist destinations.

Though snow may seem far off in September, ski resorts and winter recreation areas start hiring in the fall. Political groups are also looking for workers to help with that final push before the November elections.

A cold job search can quickly heat up if you target seasonal jobs. You just need to know where to look, and when.

Working for Yourself

Why work for someone else when you can work for yourself?

At any point in time, about 10 million U.S. adults are starting a business, says a recent study.

"Starting a business" might sound intimidating, but you can always start small.

Lawn care, dog-walking and child care are entrepreneurial jobs that don't require a lot of time or money to get started. You may be surprised by the kinds of services you can charge for: At-home computer instructor, professional closet organizer, personal shopper and more.

If you're thinking of starting a business, first assess your skills: What are you good at? What do you like to do? And, most important, what service can you provide that people will pay for?

These sites have lots of useful information on small businesses:

Yahoo! Small Business
U.S. Small Business Administration

Once you've decided on a business, you need to spread the word. Tell everyone you know. Post flyers. (Get permission first.) Contact former colleagues and local businesses and organizations who might need your service. Get out there and market yourself!

A word of caution about home-based businesses: You may see ads saying you can earn millions of dollars from the comfort of your couch. While some of these jobs are legitimate, many are scams. Find out more about avoiding work-at-home scams here.
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