The loss of a steady income can be a major source of stress as you look for work. But if you follow these job-search strategies, you may be able to keep your head above water, financially.

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The loss of a job can be devastating on many levels; it can shake up one’s sense of identity, potentially derail a carefully constructed career path and be a source of personal embarrassment. But mostly, the immediate worry is all about dollars and cents: How am I going to pay the mortgage now?

While it’s easy to panic in these situations, there are a number of ways you can get past these career hiccups. Here are a few tried-and-true tactics to make sure you can keep your head above water.

Settle in for the long haul. Hiring trends have been more positive over the last two years, but a new job is not likely to just fall into your lap. It can still take six months to a year to find new work after a layoff. If you haven’t done so already, customize that resume for each job lead you find and alert your network on social media that you are now looking.

Get the benefits you deserve. Those who accept their fate and take quick action to find new work are often the most successful at doing so. Your first step ought to be a visit to the state’s Employment Security Department (ESD) website to find out if you’re eligible for unemployment insurance. You can also visit your local WorkSource office for free help with your skills assessments and job search activities. Remember: This is not just a handout, it’s your money that you paid into via payroll taxes. Don’t let it go to waste.

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Separate wants from needs. Obviously, if your income is reduced — Washington’s unemployment system only pays a weekly benefit of between $151 and $637 — there may be some belt tightening required. The low-hanging fruit in you budget is easy: Don’t eat out as often, postpone any nonessential trips, curb the shopping habit, etc. But you may want to look a little more closely at your lifestyle choices. Do you need to buy that latte every morning? Can you live without cable TV? Perhaps it’s time to get rid of that second car?

Leave retirement accounts alone. It may be tempting to consider tapping into your nest egg that’s just lounging around in your 401(k) or IRA accounts. But unless every other option is completely exhausted, stay away from these accounts. Dipping into them prematurely can come with a 10 percent penalty and will make that income taxable, meaning you may end up paying 40 percent of your total withdrawal back to IRS. Yuck!

Learn from your experience. Be prepared with enough savings to last you through six months without a salary. If you’ve already been laid off, this horse has already left the barn. But for those who have just found work again, do your best to put some money away — not just for retirement but also into a savings or money market account that you can access without penalty.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at