Tips for the unemployed to stay sane during the next two weeks

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Unemployment isn't a disease that needs a 12-step program, but let's face it, being broke and trying to feel festive around the holidays don't exactly go hand-in-hand. Which is why a California business coach got my attention.

Deborah Gallant normally commands big bucks for telling people what they need to do to start up a business or grow the one they already have. She has first-hand experience dealing with professionals who got the axe in the recession during the past year: Her husband was laid off from his big-deal job in finance 16 months ago and is still looking. She also coaches people who are frustrated with their job search. And she does that for free. Heck, she's even helped me for free.

Gallant runs a free group hug every Tuesday morning called the Conejo Jewish Support, held at Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks, CA. You don't have to be Jewish to attend and nobody expects you to actually cry or bare your soul. She arranges free speakers about different aspects of the job search, serves free coffee and has one rule: When you get a job (notice, she says "when" not "if") donate a few bucks from your first paycheck to the coffee kitty. The woman is Santa with a New York accent.
So far, Gallant said, the group has worked with more than 300 people this past year. Most weeks, about 50 job seekers attend and the group has gotten a grant from the Jewish Federation to support its work.

Tuesday's meeting at 8:30 a.m. is specifically on getting through the holidays. For those who can't make the meeting, here's what Gallant advises.

1. Acknowledge that you're not in a great place. Pretending you are happy won't make the pain of unemployment go away. But you can decide this is a temporary situation and you'll be on the other side of it sometime in the near future. So come up with a line that summarizes where you're at: "Yes, Cousin Frank, I am still looking for a new job; thank you for your concern. But that won't stop me from enjoying this holiday season."

2. Use those holiday contacts as networking opportunities. Who knows what contacts Cousin Frank has that he never thought about sharing with you?If you have a clearly identifiable set of job-hunting targets, then it is perfectly okay to say something like:"Do you know anyone in the securities industry I should talk to?"

3. Use this respite to reflect and do some planning for the new year. It is hard to find decision-makers at the hiring firms during the holidays, so why waste your time? No one is doing much hiring right now, so give yourself a break and look at how you are doing the work of job-hunting.

And yes, it is work! So give yourself a break and look at how you are doing with the work of job-hunting.Can you make some plans for how you'll hit the ground running in January?Can you create some target lists of different companies, do the research, begin online networking to locate decision makers?Can you organize your job search in a different way that might be more effective?This block of time is ideal for regrouping.

4. Remember you still have much to be thankful for. OK, so this one is hard to do. Make a list of those things:your family, your friends, your home, your health.At least it keeps this temporary "I don't have a job" thing in perspective.Pretty soon this miserable period of unemployment will be in your rear-view mirror.

5) Have a little fun. Really. You don't have a job to go to, no competing pressures for end-of-the-year reports or attending corporate holiday parties with jerks you didn't like anyway.Have some neighbors over for hot chocolate and Christmas carols.Take the kids ice-skating or bowling.Movies before 4 p.m. are usually a bargain, so enjoy yourself on the cheap.
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