10 Things I Learned From Being Unemployed
Approximately four and a half months ago, I began my frantic job search State-side. I can’t even comprehend an efficient way to explain my anxiety during that time, but I will try.
I had one goal: Obtain a job that, at some level or another, required (or at least preferred) my $150,000 degree. Don’t worry, I didn’t put that as my objective on my resume…even though I thought about it.
Five long weeks later, I still had nothing. I can’t begin to tell you the kind of self-doubt that begins to creep into your soul as you sit and wait. I checked my resume for the millionth time. I revised my cover letter again and again. I even began to regret my degree – wishing every day I’d just been a nurse (even though I can’t stand the sight of blood and guts). Maybe then I would be employed, I would mutter to myself.
I began to watch our savings drain away. I laid awake at night willing my phone to ring – even though I didn’t want to be hired by someone who would call in the middle of the night. But, no, wait, I’d take anything. I was suddenly this incredibly emotional person I’d never known before. I started to question my worth, my goals, and my dreams. What was I even good at? What did I have to offer the world?
Every time someone asked me about my plans, I was so embarrassed. I felt like hiding in shame. Here I was, Grace, unemployed. It was like a dirty word. I was mortified.
And then that call came. I got the interview. I was hired. And suddenly, I completely forgot about all the misery I went though. Everything was just so much greener on the other side – literally, greener, $$.
Since receiving my job, I’ve barely had a moment to stop and reflect on that time of my life. But over the last week, I realized that it is important to sit down and record what I did learn from my period of anxiety.
So here you are, 10 Things I Learned From Being Unemployed
1. You are not alone.
At some point or another, everyone has experienced this time in their lives. True, not everyone experiences it for an extended period of time, but everyone knows the feeling. It’s okay to be scared. But be comforted in the truth that you are not alone. These are the steps we take in life – the ups and downs that make life an adventure.
2. Never take what you have for granted.
All last year in Beijing, I spoke about how I’d never take pollution-free skies for granted again. A moment to breathe fresh air again; A chance to run and not have my lungs ache. Unemployment was like polluted Beijing in my life. It was a chance to re-evaluate what was important in life (like air). A chance to remember that hey, not everybody has it as good as I have had it all my life. Don’t take those moments for granted.
3. Rely on the strength of others.
Unemployment for me felt incredibly isolating. I felt like I couldn’t turn to anyone because I was so embarrassed by my own failure. Whenever I did finally break down and mumble about my self-worth, someone was always there to pick me back up. Chin up, friends, there are people all around you wanting to support you.
4. Remain confident in the skills and talents you have.
You are not a loser. I know you may want to feel like you are, but you’re just not. This is your chance to evaluate what you’re good at. You are unique. How can an employer be benefited by getting you? They would be lucky to have you, and you need to remember that. Confidence is everything.
5. Use (don’t abuse) the free time.
Being unemployed really is just an extended vacation if you think about it. Now is your chance to take that road trip you’ve been dreaming about. A chance to go to an amusement park for the day and not feel guilty. A chance to take a picnic in the park and fly a kite. You have the time. Love it. Embrace it. You aren’t going to have it soon enough.
6. Make long-term goals for yourself.
What do you want most out of life? A family? A career? Adventure? What kind of job is going to help you achieve those things? Do you want to buy a house? Do you want to live abroad? Do you want to pay off student loans? Evaluate your next steps carefully. This is your chance to choose each step ahead of you. Look at the paths and choose the one that helps you achieve those goals, step by step.
7. Dream big.
There is no harm in shooting for the stars. I always told my parents I would be an egyptologist, astronaut, or Secretary of State. I still think I could be – if I really wanted to be. I like to dream big so that I always have something to look forward to. If your aim is to be a teacher, then aim as high as you desire. A teacher in your ideal city or your ideal grade. If your aim is to be an actress, aim for Broadway. You get the idea.
8. Start good habits.
I wish I had started exercising during my time of unemployment. What a great opportunity to get into the habit of going for a run or eating healthy. Or maybe reading a book a week. Studying that language you are letting sit in the corner of the room. After all, I’ve always been told habits are hard to break once you start. …Maybe everyone was talking about bad habits, but I’m gonna say good habits should work the same way.
9. Ask for advice.
Intelligent, well-connected people are all around you. They’ve been where you have been. They can help you. Don’t be too proud to ask for advice. Have people critique your resume. Get suggestions for job pools. Practice interviewing. Reach out. I wish I had asked for advice more often, I would have learned that much more.
10. Don’t sweat it.
I wish I hadn’t spent my nights panicking. I wish I hadn’t agonized over something I really couldn’t control. I wish I hadn’t doubted myself in the brief period of time where I felt unwanted. God has a plan, and you can’t pretend that you know what it is. You just have to relax, do what you can, and enjoy this beautiful, mysterious, twisting road. You never know what kind of treasures you may find.
I hope this encourages you, friend.