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Furloughed Q+A with Ally Barton

Ally Barton is a corporate recruiter with a multi billion dollar hospitality organization who has hired over 1.3K people and interviewed over 11K candidates—and and right now, like hundreds of thousands of other employees across the US, she’s on furlough. With a huge spike in furloughs and job loss in the past two months, a lot of are going through unemployment for the first time. Ally is answering some of our most pressing questions to help us understand what it’s like to be furloughed—and what you might expect in a similar situation. You can follow Ally on Instagram at @allyhires.

Q: What’s the difference between furlough and unemployment?
A furlough means that you are no longer working and in most cases in the US unpaid (other countries vary), but your employer intends to return you to your former role and pay. A layoff means that your role has been eliminated and you’ve been let go from your job permanently (please note, that doesn’t mean you were fired – being fired means there were performance issues and the company terminated you). You can be furloughed and on unemployment (as I am right now). Unemployed simply means you aren’t working or being paid. 

Q: I’m not furloughed yet, but I’m expecting it to happen this fall. How should I prepare?
A: If you’re anticipating a furlough or a lay off, it’s smart to think ahead. Start budgeting and cutting back on unneeded expenses (especially those subscription services you’ve been meaning to cancel). Take the time to update your resume and LinkedIn now – and turn on the “Open to Opportunities” a month before you anticipate being furloughed. Look into unemployment benefits in your state ahead of time. When the time comes, you’ll be prepared!

Q: What was the process of applying for benefits like?
A: Tedious! Have your past W2s and pay stubs as they need financial information dating back rather far – and your employer’s state & federal EIN numbers (usually on your pay stubs). If possible, have your employer HR line handy – even I had to call once for help! Once you are approved, you have to certify every two weeks that you looked for employment (or have a return to work date) to get reimbursed. They aren’t automatic.

Q: How long does it take for your first benefits check to come?
A: Depending on your state, you might get a card instead of check. In California, it took 23 days for the card to arrive with the money loaded. Another 2 days for the money to transfer from the card to my bank account.

Q: Has your family been supportive?
A: Absolutely. My family has been encouraging & sympathetic. They also haven’t pressured me to look for another job as I would rather wait and return to my current employer.

Q: Do you know when you’re going back to work?
A: I don’t know when I’m going back to work and that ambiguity can be the most difficult. In the beginning it bothered me more, but I was able to get rather zen about it by week 3. 

Q: What would you tell someone worried about going on unemployment?
This is likely the best time to be on unemployment due to the extra $600 from stimulus. The best thing you can do is jump on your state’s unemployment website ahead of time to find out how much you can expect, when to apply, and the information you’ll need to have on hand.

Q: What should I do with my time on unemployment?
Anything AND everything your heart desires. Really. Everyone is going to say to take classes (there are so many free learning resources out there!) but honestly, use this time to do the things you’ve wished you had time for in the past. Teach your grandma how to video chat. Make fresh pasta from scratch. Dye your hair a color you could never have at work. Use that gift card or gift certificate that’s been lingering around.

Q: What are you doing with your time right now?
A: I launched a Career Pivot Guide for HR & Recruiters, consulting with small businesses looking to develop their hiring processes, and speaking on summits + podcasts. Next, I’m putting out a free online masterclass regarding tech + apps to simplify your professional life (productivity, balancing multiple priorities, and developing a personal brand on social media).

Q: How are you feeling about it all?
A: Optimistic. It was scary at first and the first month I found myself crying at least once a week. But after about a month, I started realizing this is a gift of time I may never get again. I’m grateful I’ll be returning back to work at some point, grateful I had saved six months living expenses, and grateful for the opportunity to recharge. 

To learn more about unemployment during COVID-19, visit this ZipRecruiter link that breaks down changes in benefits and what you can expect state by state.

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