career girl: being unemployed made me feel worthless
For the better part of 2012, I was unemployed. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse about myself.
I graduated from my undergraduate degree in 2011, and immediately applied for full-time jobs. I landed one almost straight away, and it was even in my field of interest. I started in January 2012, and for a while, I really enjoyed it.
After a few months though, I started to feel the pull towards more education, and applied for a bunch of post-grad courses in a new city. I was ready for a change, and I wanted to challenge myself by stepping out of my comfort zone.
When I resigned from my job, I don’t think I had any real idea of how difficult it would be to find work in my new city. I was cocky and naive, and I just assumed it would be like it had always been – I applied for things, or found things through friends, and employment was never a big issue. Sure, some of my friends who had moved were struggling somewhat to find jobs; ok, so the job market was looking especially terrible for entry-level positions. But I was so qualified, and so sure of myself, I didn’t really pause to consider those factors.
Boy, do I regret that arrogance now! It took me months to find any kind of steady employment – I ricocheted from freelance to impermanent retail, and landed back at my parent’s feet, begging for rent money. I couldn’t find anything in admin, let alone related to media and communications (my chosen fields).
By the time December rolled around, I was willing to work in almost anything as long as it paid. Things got so dire, I even applied to a job that made me submit a photo of myself with my CV.
Unemployment can be difficult to cope with beyond the obvious financial strain. I found myself becoming less confident and sure of myself with each week that passed with no job offers. I doubted my ability to work, my value as an employee. I wondered if I would ever be successful, if I even deserved it.
I found myself listening yearningly when friends talked about their latest work drama, feeling inwardly self-conscious at the fact that I hadn’t worked in months. Whenever I was praised for my other past-times (editing this mag being one of them), I shrugged off the compliments, convinced that I was a fraud.
Added to my sudden lack of self-esteem was my very real lack of money. I felt humiliated admitting that my parents were supporting me (even though I know how incredibly lucky I am to have their support). I mean, I’m a grown-up! They should have been using that money for their own things, for their freedom now that their youngest had flown the nest. I couldn’t buy anything, often had to miss out on outings with friends, and found myself spending more and more time at home, eating nachos and watching Gilmore Girls.
Being unemployed is hard – people who think it’s an extended holiday should try it for more than six months and see how they like it then. Luckily, this story does have a happy ending – I found employment, in the field that I’m interested in, and can finally stop refreshing Seek.com.
The experience did leave me with some newfound knowledge about job hunting though, so here are some of my tips to deal with unemployment:
Don’t take rejection personally. There are any number of reasons why you didn’t get that job – the number of applicants, the nature of the role, the exact skills required – don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s because you aren’t ‘good enough’. If you are striking out on job applications regularly, take some time to reevaluate your resume and cover letters, and make sure that you portray yourself in the best possible manner. Ask a friend to read over them to make doubly sure.
DON’T treat job hunting like a job. I can’t count the number of times people told me to do this, encouraged me to treat job hunting like a job in and of itself. Yes, you do need to be motivated about seeking employment, and it’s good to set yourself goals but don’t make your entire life about job hunting. I found that spending a bit of time doing cheap, fun activities (like hanging with my friends, having move nights, or going to free gallery exhibitions) refreshed my perspective and gave me new energy when it came to jobs. Be motivated, but not obsessive.
Be organised. Make a spreadsheet of the jobs you have applied for, when you applied, and if you have hear back. If you’re really interested in a position, call them to follow-up if you haven’t heard. It’s better to be too keen than not keen enough.
Stay positive. When I let myself dwell on the fact that I had no job and was having no luck with applying, I often lost all motivation to keep trying. I dreaded opening my laptop, and I got super nervous when handing in resumes. Try to remind yourself of the other, important things in your life and keep perspective when it comes to your employment search.
Remember, something will come along – you’re not alone in this, and someone will want to snap up your skills and talent eventually.