9 Truths I Learned From Unemployment
For the past six months, I was unemployed. Without job. No steady income. No health insurance. No daily routine (not really, anyway). I would say "you can only imagine," but quite honestly, unless you've gone through the hell of unemployment firsthand, you can't imagine what it's like. Of course, there were some lighter moments: freelance jobs, being able to spend almost every waking second with my dog, and working out at the gym during off hours, making it feel like your very own personal training center. But those lighter moments barely outweighed the dark, foggy, confusing, terrifying moments.
Have I scared you shitless yet? I don't mean to, but it's just the brutal reality of an impossibly harsh situation. However, I can't help but be completely cliche and say I wouldn't take any of it back because it was what it was, and I came out (kind of) alive with some golden nuggets of thought. Which are:
1. Rely on no one but yourself.
The best boss I ever had who I still remain in touch with today once told me, "Never rely on anyone else to get your shit done. You have to do it yourself if you want it done" and my god, was she right. People will feel sorry for you and pity you and make you big promises of reaching out to all their contacts, but read me when I write: it's safer and easier to not put even an ounce of stock into this. They mean well, but humans only give a rat's ass about themselves at the end of the day. It's our nature. Unless there's something directly in it for them, your unemployment needs are almost instantaneously put on the back burner. They say it's "all about who you know," but in these situations, it's mainly about luck and timing. Try not to hold it against these friends and acquaintances who promised you amazing connects and introductions and either didn't deliver or blatantly forgot about your needs. You can follow-up, but when it's a friend or acquaintance, these follow-ups can quickly turn awkward and result in self-labeling as the desperate, pathetic friend.
2. Apply to everything.
Remain within your general field and passions, but know that beggars can't be choosers. It's not a numbers game - that's bullshit. It's a "who is as desperate to hire as you are to be hired?" game. Go for the big, sexy jobs, but don't knock the big fish in a small pond jobs because it's best to spread your employment seed wherever the hell you possibly can. Be a job application slut.
3. No one is in a hurry. Just you.
Just because a website lists a job doesn't mean they're ready to hire, like, yesterday. In fact, it might mean they'll maybe be ready to hire weeks or months from now. And it's the most frustrating thing you may ever experience. You may spend hours perfecting the most impressive, witty cover letter of all time, positive that this company will be blown away with your skills and ready to hire you on the spot. How can they resist?! But you could be wrong and you probably are. Unless the job description says "LOOKING TO HIRE IMMEDIATELY," the safe bet is to not get up even 1/4 of a hope.
4. Your unemployment story can be anything you want to make it.
No one needs to know why or how or what brought you into your current situation. Own it and be it.
5. Try to create a schedule for yourself, but know it probably won't stick.
As logical as it seems, being unemployed but creating a daily routine for yourself as to not fall completely out of the 9-5 habit is NOT that simple. Knowing that you're waking up to a day full of applying for jobs and sitting around isn't the best motivator. Some days, you may feel it absolutely necessary to sleep in to an embarrassing hour and only spend a handful of time doing anything productive - this is acceptable. Every once in a blue moon, you'll have an actual interview to wake up for and get to, which will make the whole day worthwhile. But, most days during unemployment are filled with fill-in-the-blank job apps and long moments of thoughtful silence in which you ponder what else you can apply for today. You'll eat breakfast at 11, lunch at 2, workout at 3, and have dinner at 9 for some unbeknownst reason. It's messy and it's ugly.
6. You will have really bad days.
You'll cry. Sob. Then feel numb. You'll question how you ever got a job in the first place, why you didn't stay in school for 10 more years. Your self confidence and security in whatever talent you used to claim as your own will waiver, hardcore. You will feel small, insecure, and not good enough. You'll wonder if you should just give up and work retail. You'll shutdown and shut out friends because you are sick of complaining about the same shit over and over and know that no one knows what to say and no one can give you the answers you need. You'll lose weight from not eating due to stress, and you'll gain it all back from stress-eating way too much. I don't even have a "but, for all those horrible days, there are good ones" end sentence for this. It just is what it is.
7. You will perfect your coffee-making skills.
When you are waking up and working out of your house day after day, you can rely on no one but yourself for your morning sustenance. There's no free but gasoline-flavored office coffee or on-the-way-to-work Starbuck stops. You will learn to love and look forward to your very own coffee because lord knows you're not putting on pants or a bra if you don't absolutely need to. After a while, you'll actually prefer your homemade stuff to the overpriced stuff. Especially if you sprinkle cinnamon into the grounds (just sayin').
8. It's all incredibly frustrating.
Employers will say "we're not hiring right now." They'll say "we may have some freelance coming down the pike in a few months." Or, worst yet, they'll determine that you don't have enough experience for a certain position. Experience is a bitch; you need it to get a great job, but you need great jobs to garner the experience that gets you hired. So, essentially, it's a lose-lose a lot of the time. You may want to throw your laptop across the room some days, but don't - you don't have the means to buy a new one or get it repaired, idiot.
9. You will make it out alive.
Whether you do end up having to work retail or something completely disconnected from what you've been doing, you will find work again and survive this horrible, terrible, depressing, seemingly never-ending dilemma. Just try (keyword: try) to not get too down, but also allow yourself days to pity yourself to no end because, trust me, they will be necessary. And, most importantly and the best piece of advice I can give you, DON'T GET FIRED AND DON'T QUIT BEFORE YOU HAVE ANOTHER JOB LINED UP.