Today, I went back to work. Thus, ending my period of unemployment.
And now that I’m officially transitioning back to a normal schedule, I wanted to write honestly about my experience in unemployment.
Because unemployment sucks. Job searching, sucks. And after talking with female friends who went through similar situations, I realized that I wasn’t alone in how I felt, and that made me feel better. So, I thought I would write about it here in hopes that others find comfort in it too.
Remember, this is my experience as a female who was unemployed for a period of time. Not all of this may be relevant to you, but, if you know someone in the same situation, it may be helpful to them.
Unemployment is awful. Especially if you’re unemployed for an extended period of time.
Unemployment was the closest I’ve been to a serious depression in a few years. There were days where I wanted to scream and yell in frustration because I was trying and putting myself out there, and many times, I got nowhere.
Unemployment breaks down your confidence, emotional stability and motivation. It also can make you a bit of a recluse and slightly unhappy person.
Unemployment makes you wonder if you’re a fraud, and question if you are actually qualified to do anything. It builds you up, and breaks you down at the same time, chipping away a little each day.
Unemployment will humble you, and change your perspective on your everyday life, as well as your friendships.
So what was my experience and also my advice looking back? Well, let’s dig in.
During your period of unemployment, you need strong, supportive people around you. Those who love you for you, who build you up and listen to you when you ramble or just vent about how shitty your search may be going. And who don’t judge you when you are just in a funk or pissed off about your situation. Friends who root for you when you go on interviews and who volunteer unselfishly to help and actually follow through. Those are the people who will get you through this. And, some of your friends will disappoint you. That doesn’t mean they aren’t actually your friends, but, you have to decide if they are the best people to be around when you are having a bad day.
You will also have to find a way to deal with inevitable jealousy and anger that will come up. Jealousy toward friends who advance in their careers while…you’re floundering. Or those who move on to awesome jobs or career moves that you’re supportive of, but also jealous of because…why can’t that happen to you? Sometimes, that means putting a little distance between you, just for now. Because sometimes, when it all converges and everyone is bragging about how awesome their lives are, you are going to feel like shit. Because you’re life isn’t maybe so awesome and you have no work talk to contribute to. Know when those situations are happening, and excuse yourself from it, or talk about Game of Thrones or whatever. Trust me, it’s for the best.
You never know how long it can take to get a job (seriously, it can take months). So, put yourself on a budget. Not knowing how long my period of unemployment would last, I put myself on a serious weekly budget, covering my bills but also allowing for a little money to go out, shop and get groceries. Sticking to it is tough. Especially when you’re out with friends and they can drop $50 on dinner and drinks and you’re like, shit that’s half of my going out budget gone in one night. Watching them spend money while you pinch pennies, can be tough. Trust me. A few months ago, a friend came to town for the weekend and I had to tell her before dinner that I couldn’t split the bill among those going out, that I could only cover myself. She was supportive and understood, but I hated having to say it out loud to her.
Unemployment is also humbling. Reaching out to friends or former colleagues to network and not only catch up, but also ask if they could keep you in mind for jobs, or talk about what happened and why you’re looking. Some will be helpful, some will not. Some will dig to get gossip and then not return texts or emails. Some will send you links and promise to introduce you to people, and then don’t. There isn’t any way to make that easier, all you can do is roll with it, and not hold it against them.
And then we get to the most painful part of unemployment (worse than any of the above), which is job searching.
Job searching is like dating, in the worst way possible.
Because when you need a job and others have it, you are not in control.
You find jobs that are exactly made for you, you apply, and hear nothing. Or you do a screener call with a recruiter/HR person who has NO idea what you do so they don’t understand your answers or even how to explain the current job that’s open. And that’s if you get to talk to them. Many times they take the easy way out and just don’t reply to calls or voicemails, a symbol they have moved on, but just without the courtesy of telling you that. Seriously, I’m not a mind reader. Just fucking break up with me. Or, they relist the job immediately after talking to you. I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!
You need to have thick skin, but goddamn it is tough. Because unemployment wears that skin down quickly. Soon, jobs that seemed perfect for you a month ago, maybe aren’t because your confidence takes a hit. You don’t know what you should apply to? Maybe? And when you do interview, the more you do it, a nagging voice develops in the back of your head, saying, can you really do that? What if I’m a total fraud?
The inevitable conversation about why you’re no longer with your former company will come up. And it’s a mixed bag of how it goes. Some empathize and some don’t. Or they dig for gossip and then move on. I had one woman laugh at me when I told her (it wasn’t funny). Apparently she found it hilarious. I guess.
The worst example was from a corporate job interview where the woman looked at my resume and said smugly, “so, you just decided to up and quit your job, and then take time off to travel, and now you’re sitting here interviewing for this job, how can I take you seriously?”
Yeah, that upset me. A lot. But, in my post-Asia zen, I laughed and nicely (but pointedly) corrected her. Leaving her stammering and saying, “oh, I was wrong.”
So, that’s what I have to say about my unemployment experience. If you want to chat more about this offline or share your experiences, feel free to do so in the comments, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trust me, you need support while you’re going through unemployment. And those of us who have made it through, or are going through it, should stick together.
Oh, and I’m sure some people reading this will be like, WTF WHY ARE YOU SHARING SO MUCH. I refer then to my statement at the beginning of this post. Knowing others felt the way I did during unemployment helped me a lot. I felt less alone. So, I hope this will help others who feel the same, but may not have someone to talk about it with.
That’s all I have for now!