If you are on unemployment and doing contracting for temp work, you need to know this…
Honesty is always the best policy. Sometimes being honest can hurt you financially in the short-term, but being dishonest can certainly hurt you worse in the long-term. Learn from my experience.
I have received unemployment benefits from two states throughout my career, in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. My first career was in radio, and I tried to make a go at a full-time career, but also needed to afford living on my own. I discovered that a better financial decision was to work long-term temp assignments full-time while working nights and weekends in radio.
A company that I had worked at for 10 months was reorganizing and laying off people, and I was relieved from my assignment. It was usually no more than two weeks in between long-term temp assignments, but this particular gap was longer than normal. I had no idea that I could receive partial unemployment benefits until a co-worker at the radio station informed me.
So, I filed for partial unemployment, which enabled me to pay my bills. I picked up extra hours at the radio station doing voiceover projects, and continued to lobby for a full-time position there while pursuing other full-time jobs in broadcasting, sales and marketing both in New Jersey and back home in Pennsylvania.
The temp agency was fully aware of my intentions to find a full-time, permanent position, but that I was willing to work another long-term assignment. After all, it was really a great way to test out different companies, different industries, and different roles. This is how I discovered recruiting and decided to pursue it eventually. The assignment they offered me, however, were one to two week stints. There was also a critical need for augmented staff and because of that, I would not have been permitted to take any time off to have an interview for a full-time position, so I turned it down. That’s when I realized that unemployment is not easy money.
The temp agency reported I had turned down work to the state of New Jersey. I received notification that, not only would my unemployment benefits halt immediately, but they were billing me for all of the unemployment benefits I had already received– the money I had already spent on bills.
Thankfully, there were a couple of opportunities that were in progress. One was door-to-door sales, which was very outside of my comfort zone, but I knew I would gain great training and skills that I would apply to my eventual recruiting career. It was commission only, and was back in Pennsylvania, so I had to move. The other opportunity was advertising sales for a newspaper, and it required that I work six days a week including holidays, and didn’t pay as well as most of the temp jobs that I had worked. Additionally, it offered very little room for growth (I doubt if this newspaper is even still around).
While I relocated myself back home to live with my bachelor father, I complied with the appeals process for the state of New Jersey. If you have ever moved you know how chaotic that time can be. Imagine the additional administrative burden of dealing with state government, learning and starting a new job where income is only earned if you make a sale, and I was wrapping up a nearly two-year relationship that had gone south.
I am so thankful that I kept great records of every company to which I applied and every follow-up action that I took, because I was attempting to prove to the state that I was only denying short-term work because it inhibited my ability to look for long-term work. Being able to show the state all of my efforts proved my case.
I was about a month into my new job already when a trial-by-phone with a judge finally occurred. I was very straightforward. “Yes, I did deny work with X Staffing Company.” I was able to show them that I had an interview already scheduled with an employer for a full-time permanent position. I empathized with the judge, stating that I know many people take advantage of the system. However, I had taken on extra hours at the radio station whenever possible, had documented very well how actively I was seeking full-time permanent positions, and had eventually landed so that I was no longer a burden to the system. I was no longer dependent on unemployment benefits. The judge found in my favor. I was not required to pay back the unemployment compensation.
Fast forward years later, I was recruiting for an IT consulting firm. Consultants in between assignments sometimes filed for unemployment compensation, and we kept records of when a consultant receiving benefits “on us” turned down “reasonable” work.
What I have learned from both this experience and two other experiences with unemployment, is that not only is honesty the best policy, but also keep great records of all of your activities (we offer our Epic Careering Tool Kit for just this purpose) and make sure you do not have to rely on unemployment benefits for very long.
I know a lot of out of work job seekers perceive that investing in services like ours is like spending money that might be needed to pay bills. In reality, and all too often, the investment isn’t made, and money runs out because a job is not landed, and I hear, “I should’ve engaged you last year.” I literally heard these very words twice this month.
I will not let you invest your money in our branding services if it is not going to pay off in a job; it is why we offer free consultations. You get to try us out, but we also make sure that the challenges that you have are ones we can help you overcome. Download, complete and send us your needs assessment and résumé to receive an invitation to schedule yours.