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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

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.


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15 thoughts on “career girl: being unemployed made me feel worthless

    • After 20 yrs as a manager I was let go. I spend most my days sending out resumes. The rejections are the worst. Makes me feel absolutely worthless. Thank you for sharing your story.

  1. Zoya, thank you from me, and on behalf of other people who really NEEDED to hear these words! This sounds trite of me, but it’s so refreshing to be reminded that I’m not alone and to hear of light at the end of the tunnel. I’m glad that things improved for you. This struggle of your bout with unemployment is me right now, although my circumstances are slightly different.

    I was a TEFL teacher in Mexico, and I really loved it. I finished the school year, but a number of factors drew me back ”home.”
    I needed my family and they needed me. I really love my family and they did need me, but I arrogantly thought it would be easy for me to land a job and I was very deluded about the situation in my hometown. Here I am 3 months and 200 rejections later, wondering if I’m competent enough to deserve a job and kicking myself for my arrogance. In spite of all this, reading this was like a little light in the abyss of unemployment blues. Thanks again!

    • Hi Sara,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the article, and that it helped make you feel a little better. I know it seems hard to even think of right now, but something will come along – trust me!

      Keep trying, and keep your chin up – my partner is going through this at the moment (although he has casual work, he isn’t having luck getting a job in his field), and I always say to him to accept that sometimes it’s better not to apply to jobs you know you won’t get, and instead focus on building your resume by doing other things you enjoy – like volunteering, reading, writing a blog, whatever your interests are.

      Good luck with it all, fingers are crossed that you get something soon!


  2. I just cried! I am in your situation right now. I had a job when a graduated but i quit for some problem. Then im jobless again Its been 4 months and i feel useless every single day. I kept doin freelance work now but it is never enough. People kept asking me if i already got a job and it is bothering me. They sounded like i didnt try at all. Ive been sending resumes numerous times. Your blog made me feel better and i wont stop giving up. Thank you.

  3. Thank you for posting this. I am currently in the same position. It’s been 3 months since I have worked, and it’s been really hard to not let it get me down. I just recently moved to a city in which I know no one. I too was incredibly naive about job prospects. I thought bc I was moving from a large urban city to a smaller one, that I should have no problem finding work. Boy was wrong!!!!
    Just wanted to thank you for writing this blog. It’s comforting to know Iam not alone.

  4. 5/28/2014. Hello: I find myself on the other end of the equation; I worked for an international law firm for 22 loyal years. I was laid off too long ago to say. I have worked here and there and remember complaining when I took a job/position working for someone out of their home office, i.e., the woman’s kitchen after I had worked in a beautiful high rise building downtown. Gosh, I would certainly welcome that (perceived) “lowly job” now – the one with no benefits, long hours, stress, etc. for the current (no job) life I have now! My partner took care of me for a longtime but he’s had his own career struggles as a general contractor in a horrific economy starting in late 2008. I have had to move home which feels humiliating at times. I too feel worthless and all used up – can’t believe I am even saying all this here on this forum. I know I am the only one to change the direction of my life but after so much loss (financial and otherwise) – I wonder what the future holds? Still standing in Southern California

  5. Thank you for posting this article. It’s a much needed reminder that we are not alone in our job search, and we most definitely have a full future of possibilities ahead of us!

  6. Hi Zoya,

    I am in my 50’s and been out of work for over 2 and a half years now. I was retrenched twice when the companies I worked for closed.

    I can identify very well with the feelings you speak of. It’s good to hear that there are people out there that have struggled and found something. Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions.



  7. Thank you for your article Zoya, I found it very helpful. I have been dealing with exactly the same thing as I have decided to study and work part time, but it’s tricky when I’m so used to just getting temp work (which isn’t really a long term option).

    I like the idea of writing down what you have applied for and that way you can see that you have been proactive. I am also trying to have days where I don’t obsess over the job hunt and enjoy a break.

    Best of luck in your career!


  9. Hi Zoya,

    I know I am a few years late to the party. Your article however is just what I needed to read in order to feel some sort of relief during this particularly hard times of job hunting. Reading it hit really close to home especially since I, too, am depending on my parents’ financial support even though being a grownup. I, too, chose Communications and Media as my professional field. And I ,too, had to pass on social events just to find myself watching for the 5th time The Office on Netflix. Bottom line, thank you for these lines that are part of your past hopefully but just as important, helping me through my present.
    I hope that everybody who’ll read this will pull through and just keep being driven and convinced that better days are around the corner.

  10. Like Corina, I am a bit late here in replying, but I’m very grateful to have found these collective words. So many of you seem like my twins in one way or another, including in the same fields of work in my background. I normally do not leave comments anywhere online and am always busy with my own work, largely my freelancing and brief temping. It has hit me in a rough way just how hard I work and how this is not yet translating to job offers after applying for 50+ positions and also following up and reaching out to past article source interview contacts, looking to offer my skills through gigs, and nobody is ready or as a budget for things at the moment. I’m somewhat used to that because of the nature of news writing, editing, photography, etc. But I thought my office work background would have more takers sooner. It is amazing how not working except minimally can kill your soul and start to make you feel like you are worthless and don’t deserve a good job anymore. I know I need to put my mind-space into a better set of circumstances, but oh the spiraling in other directions. Ooofh.

  11. It’s reassuring hearing its not just me that struggled though I wouldn’t wish unemployment on anyone.

    I graduated in physics and only found sporadic temp work.
    It took me a year to decided I wanted to be a developer after looking into accounting and tutoring and other things and now nearly 3 more and I’m volunteering on projects and getting interviews but with no work and wondering whats wrong with me after this long when it’s suppose to be this high growth high demand area.

  12. I’m late to this too, but I suppose there’s no statute of limitations on how job searching can feel like an endless round of self discovery/awareness that leads nowhere.

    Mid-life layoff for me, second one in 3 years after a long career.

    Always appreciative of people who aren’t afraid to share their story, allowing others to realize we’re not alone.

    Thanks for sharing, everyone!

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