Wednesday, December 11, 2013

5 Ways to Survive Unemployment

Because handling it for 6 months makes me an expert, right? In any case, I didn’t plan to be (f)unemployed for most of 2013. I didn’t go into it financially, emotionally or mentally prepared. It just all unexpectedly exploded into my life, which I think a lot of jobless people can relate to.


But whether you plan to take that risky leap or it suddenly sneaks up on you, navigating the situation can be tough. Flexible and with more time for sleep/laundry/Netflix than normal, yes. But also still tough. So, here’s me pretending I’m wise about the business of changing careers, dishing out advice and whatnot.

5 Ways to Survive Unemployment
1. Have a Plan
If there’s one common theme throughout my unemployment adventures, it’s that very few things are reliable. Jobs that seem like they’re going to pan out, sometimes don’t. Jobs that do pan out, can just as easily fall through. But regardless of setbacks (and more setbacks) (and still more setbacks), it’s so so important to have a plan. Know what kind of job you want. Know what skills you need to make that happen. Know where you want to apply. Even if your plans will inevitably change a few times along the way, just having a plan is important in and of itself. You gotta have a prize to keep your eye on or you’ll end up wallowing in directionless despair.

2. Set Daily Goals
Look, I don’t care if your daily goal is simply to get out of bed and take a shower. I probably don’t even care if you shower, actually. But pick something...several things, if you’re up to it...every day, and get them done. Fold your laundry. Write cover letters for 3 jobs. Take yourself on a picnic. Ride your bicycle around the neighborhood and listen to a podcast. Reach out to someone who works in your desired field and ask to meet them for coffee. Whatever it is, write it down on a sticky note and cross it off at the end of the day. Unemployment has a nasty way of making you feel like a worthless human being -- so allow yourself to feel accomplished, even in a small way, every single day.

3. Get Out 
I can’t stress this one enough: You need to leave the house. I had a couple wake-up calls during the last few months when I’d realize I hadn’t left the house in 48+ hours. Yikes. I’d been productive on my computer, I’d done things around the apartment, but I hadn’t gotten dressed (in anything besides fresh pajamas, anyway) and actually walked out the front door. Make plans! Get some fresh air. Clearing your head can work wonders for adding enthusiasm to the next cover letter you have to write. If anything, new scenery is distracting and can lift your mood.

4. Ask for Help
I chronically avoid asking anyone to do anything for me that I think will even mildly inconvenience them. Also, it takes swallowing some pride to admit that you need help. But if no one is responding to your dozens of resume submissions, maybe you need a business-savvy friend to look it over and make some suggestions. If your cover letters aren’t catching anyone’s eye, there could be some issues with your spelling and grammar -- ask someone with editing experience to take a look. And, maybe you just need someone to vent to now and again. It can be tough to unload negativity onto someone else -- but that’s one thing friends are there for. Call someone you trust and let it all out.

5. Take Risks
Look, I applied to all kinds of jobs in the last few months. I honestly couldn’t even tell you how many, or what they all were, or the number of random industries they spanned. If it looked interesting and my gut said it was worth going after, I went after it. I could have spent time dragging my feet and thinking, “I’m not qualified for that,” or “They won’t like me,” or “Why bother,” but I simply chose not to. I just applied anyway. When it seemed like a company wanted someone with personality and pizzazz, I pushed the limits a little in my cover letter. I guess my approach was along the lines of “go big or go home.” Too many people tell me they don’t apply to jobs they really want because of something small like “3-5 years of experience” when they only have 1 or 2. So what? You’re everything else they say they want. Apply anyway. Accept rejection when you need to, and move on to the next leap of faith. You never know.

So there you have it, for whatever it’s worth. Anyone else had a bout of unemployment and have advice to add?

6 comments:

Autumn @ The Unreal Life said...

This continues with the lines of "push yourself." Just because you're unemployed, doesn't mean you should stop learning. Look for free classes/seminars relevant to what you want to do at local libraries, universities, etc. Reach out and make coffee/lunch dates with people who DO have the job you want. I heard that tip from a conference I went to and even though it's intimidating, I want to push myself more to do it. The speaker made a great point--if you do one lunch date per week for a whole year, that's 52 people in the field you now know who you didn't before!

Unemployment is hard because so often we stop pushing ourselves. It takes a lot of courage and gumption to make that time something valuable.

Hailey. said...

Thank you for this!! I'm not unemployed, thankfully, but I actually think this still applies to many more aspects of our lives. It's easy to get in a rut in anything we do and I definitely think these steps are important to make into habits! Thanks!

Alicia Hanley said...

I was unemployed for seven months. I can't tell you how many hours I wasted on Netflix. But seriously, taking a shower everyday was a huge step. I much rather lay in my pajamas all day.

Camille Millecam Whiting said...

I think it's the hardest trial out there- and you handled it like a champ!

Lauren said...

If you ever want to get out of the house with me, I am around! Hang in there, being unemployed in no fun:(

Alli @ Allena Mistral said...

The scheduling idea is great! I do that even while in grad school. It helps me feel like I'm getting things done and know what I need to get done rather than thinking I have nothing on my plate.