This is not a topic I thought I would ever be an expert in, but here I am almost two years without full time employment, having lost my political job in January, 2009. It has been a long road, and it is isn’t over yet. But what I have learned may help you as you maneuver your job search.
It hasn’t been all bad; in fact, it has been a learning experience. But you need to have a plan.
Be good to yourself While it may seem counterintuitive, I took a cruise with an unemployed girlfriend. We found a great price at the last minute and had a fantastic, memorable trip to the Scandinavian and Baltic countries and kicked off unemployment in a big way. Our Mothers never understood our lack of judgment and thought us foolish; I never regretted it until I got my credit card bills – but even then it was only for a minute. Once home, my spirits lifted, I buckled down and worked hard at job hunting.
If you are like me and slough off exercise and eat comfort foods when you are depressed, snap out of it. Find a buddy to help you, work out with a friend or go to a support group but DON’T take it out on your body. The mental anguish of unemployment is hard enough. If you aren’t caring for yourself, you won’t look or feel your best and it will only get worse. Believe me, I know. I gained 20 pounds the first year of unemployment and I am still kicking myself because it is so hard getting it off.
Looking for a job is your job The best advice I received – and still try to stick to – is to treat every weekday like a work day. Get up at the same time (don’t allow yourself to sleep in), make your schedule for the next day before you go to bed at night, and build in time for exercise. The more normal and familiar your schedule is, the better your day-to-day life will be.
Plan time to network, meet with former colleagues and ask others for help. Follow up on your leads, write lots of thank you letters, and set up as many meetings as you can. Staying busy and focused is critical to your sanity!
Some work is better than no work. I got my LLC as a consultant but didn’t realize that getting clients is exceptionally hard in a bad economy. It is not my intention to work full time as a consultant; I am looking for a job with a company or a nonprofit. But in the meantime I have part time consulting on grant writing and other writing and editing. It definitely helps to stay busy and a little income is nice, too.
Use this time to explore opportunities. Unemployment has given me a chance to redefine what I want to do with my career and how I want to spend my free time. I have volunteered in various capacities and developed new hobbies such as raising bonsai.
I began writing a blog that led to other writing opportunities; it gave me exposure and confidence. I added a new lens to my camera and took photography classes and began thinking of myself as a photojournalist, a job I have always coveted.
Do you have a community college nearby? I am planning to take HTML classes so I can design websites. What do you want to learn to do?
Earn a little, save a little. Try some of these money makers. I have done them all:
Work a temporary job. Sign up with temp agencies. Offer to help in friends’ businesses.
Write articles for an online newspaper.
Sell collectibles on Ebay. It is a good time to clean house and closets.
Buy at yard sales, sell on Ebay. There are bargains out there.
Sell used books on Amazon. Clean off your shelves and make some cash from your old books.
Take paid surveys online (Surveysavvy.com; MySurvey.com; e-rewards.net; and American Consumer Opinion). Some pay cash; some give points you can redeem for gift cards such as Amazon.
Consign clothing. If you aren’t wearing them, someone else may give you cash for them.
Make and sell craft items (I sell note cards with my photographs). Use your creative skills.
Find companies such as estate sales companies that use part time temporary help (so you still have time for interviews and networking).
If you are a writer – write. Tell your story.
Work the registration desk for conferences. Check with your city’s convention center for upcoming meetings.
Consign to an antiques shop. Discarded treasures may be collectibles.
Work special events for a fundraising company. Staff booths at health fairs.
Tell your friends you are looking for temporary work.
Host international students and guests through a home-stay program such as Just Like Home. You will receive a stipend in return for room and board. It’s the next best thing to traveling.
Save your pennies where you can. I shop at thrift stores. I cut back on expenses by eliminating lots of little things including unnecessary shopping, subscriptions, home improvements, cell phone charges (I renegotiated and saved a lot), entertainment, restaurant meals, and non-staple grocery items. I turned the heat down in the winter and left the windows open well into the summer. Every little thing helps.
You will change for the better. How am I different on the inside? I am less judgmental; “There but for the grace of God go I” goes through my head on a regular basis. I am more grateful for what I have; I count my pennies and spend them wisely and appreciate every little thing. My compassion for others is greater; I recognize that some things are just not under our control and people get into trouble and need help. My love of nature is greatly enhanced; I spend more time outside and enjoying the free things in our national parks and nature centers and I have the time to appreciate it. My patience for wasting time is greatly reduced; I want to make every minute of every day count for something. My optimism has increased; in order to survive this period, I have to stay optimistic and positive. My creative side has been unleashed; I have done more writing and gotten more into photography than any other time in my life and I love it more than ever.
You can do it. Buckle down and make your plan, be flexible, spend with people who are positive and helpful (avoid the negative ones) and most of all be good to you. Good luck!