Staying Sane During Unemployment

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I walk in the doors full-throttle, resume in hand, pencil skirt in line, and hair straightened to perfection, but still my stomach lurches. I am walking into, yet another, interview.

While I was living in L.A., this was a typical Monday for me (oh, and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, too!). I interviewed for so many jobs, its almost hard to keep track. I interviewed for a job as a personal assistant to an inordinately rich family, a personal care assistant for individuals with mental illness, a data analyst at two major market research companies, a waitress, a professional recruiter, a fashion merchandiser, an event planner, a research assistant, a hospital administrative assistant, a writer, a pharmaceutical research statistician…the list continues, my friend! Both fortunately and unfortunately, I did receive a few offers from my many interviews and discovered that some of the positions were not worth taking while others were more promising. Regardless, I spent a majority of my time, applying, preparing, and interviewing for an array of professional positions, all in the small segment of (a brutally stressful) three months. While some may have thought my go-getter attitude was a little excessive, I was determined to find a job as immediately as possible, and decided that if I wanted any job right away, I had to let go of the idea of my dream job. However, as my job application obsession became so engrossing, eventually, I forgot what my dream job even was.

Now, though only months later, I am a completely different person. I have found a job that I enjoy, and I am moving towards achieving my dream of working in public health. My mindset has completely transformed, and I feel so much better for it. With this growth, I have picked up a few key take-away points about post-college unemployment and how to get through alive. Hope this is helpful!

(1) Know What You Want

Knowing what you want from a job is critical. When you begin applying for jobs, you will quickly realize that luck, timing, and a number of complimenting elements combine to decide whether or not you are hired for any particular position, and, more likely than not, it will be nearly impossible to get your “dream job” right off the bat. In fact, depending on their particular industry, my friends have applied to as little as three, or as many as seventy-plus, jobs before they received any offers!

On top of the high likelihood of immediate rejection, you will learn that with each new rejection it becomes more and more difficult to remember what your dream job is, and more and more appealing to settle for whatever job you can get. Frankly, more often than not, this may be the best choice, too! But, do not fret; if you keep your true intentions in the back of your mind, you can continue to achieve them, even if that achievement is not immediate. If and when you are offered a position, ask yourself: “how will this help me move towards my goal?” If, for example, you have 20 dollars to your name and rent deadline is approaching, then the answer is: “to survive!” Or, maybe, if, at the moment, you are offered a job in a less-than-ideal position, but within a company you admire, you can pin this opportunity, not as a set-backwards, but as a launching pad for your next career move. The possibilities are varying, but the key to making the most of your given circumstance is to keep your goal in the back of your mind. Having a clear idea of what you want will make the less fun stuff more tolerable and prevent you from losing sight of your dreams. I would recommend even writing your goal on paper to make it more concrete!

(2) Don’t Bring it Home

When I was applying to jobs, I was living with a roommate who was in the same boat and spending much of her time applying for jobs simultaneously. Quickly, our conversations began to focus entirely on jobs, applications, etc. and we were on edge, even in our own apartment. My advice to you is this: take your interviews seriously- prepare, organize, and excel- but then leave it at the door when you go home! Set aside a time in the day (i.e. three hours each morning) where you will research jobs, send emails, etc. and then stick to that routine! Applying for jobs is a job in itself, and its rarely healthy to take your work home. Have an escape route. Plan fun activities for the times when you are not looking for or interviewing for jobs. Spend time with friends who don’t cause you stress, watch movies, read books, and do low-cost activities that you enjoy. For me, it was most important to spend time with people I love, because support is critical during unemployment!

(3) Be Busy

Another risk during unemployment is the sheer amount of free time you will have. Although having nothing to do can be the most wonderful feeling in the world at the right moment, when you are too bored, you run the risk of slipping into dangerous territory emotionally and physically. It is easy to ruminate and feel sorry for yourself when you have excess time to reflect, so as a preventive measure, make sure you’ll be busy! Maybe this means volunteering, finding a part-time job, joining a sports team, taking a class, or staring a blog (hehe), but do something that will give you a purpose each day! Unless you are extremely introverted and would be better energized alone, try above all else, to make time to see friends and family and surround yourself with people because, as I said before, support is critical! On top of keeping you clear of an emotional break-down, staying busy creates opportunities for success through possible networks. The more people you meet, the more jobs you will hear about and the more pathways to those jobs will be revealed. What’s more, you will be energized through your activity and that will be further motivation to continue the job search!

(4) Know You’re Not Alone

Almost all people who have a job had to apply for it at one point. We can almost all empathize with the scary, anxiety-provoking, somewhat isolating time of applying for jobs and drowning out the voice in your mind that questions if you may be unemployed for eternity. You are not a failure because you do not have a job, and you will not be unemployed forever. Stay optimistic, keep searching, and don’t forget to enjoy yourself and find peace in your life even while you are getting your way out of unemployement.

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