Fellow Unemployed Americans,
The bills are coming in. The phone isn’t ringing. The e-mail aren’t being returned. The unemployment rate is dropping, but you find yourself a part of the percentage.
Put all that aside for a few moments. Grab some coffee. I’ll be right here. Back? Good. Here we go:
You’re in a great situation.
On the surface, there’s nothing great about being downsized, laid off, let go, fired or whatever word they use these days. Nobody that has ever lived has enjoyed the scenario of wondering what they’ll tell their spouse or significant other as you pack your belongings into a file box.
Unemployment can make you angry, confused and depressed. But only if you let it.
This is my second time being out of work within four years actually. That seems pretty normal for the ad industry, as we seem to be picked-off like fill-in AAA ballplayers facing Mariano Rivera.
I didn’t handle it well the first time around. Doubt crept in pretty quickly. But, after four months or so, I got a new gig. People have been out of work for much, much longer than that, so I count my blessings.
But, the past is in the past for both of us dear reader. We’ve both come to a crossroads in our lives. Take solace in knowing that most people around the world have found themselves unexpectedly out of work. If they can come out of the other end, then so can you.
I think we’re both in a position to have a better life than the one we had. We just need to get though the rough seas of unemployment.
Allow me to offer you some tips on how to get through it. Yes, you’ve read a billion and a half of these kinds of articles. I’m no guru. Just a guy trying to make his way though this. If I can help someone else get through it, all the better.
SET A GOAL - Realize this: It’s not about paying the bills. It’s about finding something that you love to do, everyday, for the rest of your time on the planet. Assuming you’re human, at one time you felt like you were put on this Earth to do something. Figure that out. If your entire unemployment being is simply about money, then you’ll be distracted and un-focused. Set a goal. An idealized job or profession. At your lowest point, Googling how to get that job is 100% better than not getting out of bed in the morning.
BACK AWAY FROM JOB BOARDS. - Your dream job isn’t going to be posted on Craigslist, Monster or any other job board. You can’t rely on them. Check them. Highlight the gigs you life, then back the hell away. Spending time there opens up stupid thoughts like “Well, if I only had X skill I could apply for Y job”. The lack of jobs that interest you there don’t really reflect what is actually available for work. Freelancing or networking with others in your dream industry will get your closer.
GET A LIFE - When you’re out of work, your brain kicks into money lockdown mode. You feel compelled to sit at home so you can “focus” on finding work and not be tempted to spend cash. I found that getting out of the house is essential to surviving now. Go to a coffee place, library, movie theater or the park. Getting out of the house re-connects you with society. It reminds you that there’s more to your life than collecting a paycheck. Seeing other people milling about reminds you that we’ve all got problems to work through.
INBOX AVOIDANCE - When we’re unemployed, the e-mail inbox and telephone can feel like a lifeline. If someone contacts us - WE FEEL LIKE WE EXIST. If the phone doesn’t ring or our e-mails aren’t returned, WE’RE DEAD TO THE WORLD.
I wish I had the answers as to why those e-mails weren’t returned or nobody called you back about that job that took 2 1/2 hours to apply to online. I struggle with this on a daily basis, but I’ve learned to live with it. I fill out my application, hit send, and generally try to forget about it. I e-mail a contact about freelancing, e-mail again, and if I don’t get a response, I move on. Just because people aren’t contacting you, that doesn’t mean you’re un-employable. Not all of us fit into every job. Don’t hover over the inbox or the phone.
THE BLAME GAME - I had a rather clean, no harm, no foul break from my agency. Others might not have had it as easy. It’s easy to place blame in order to make us feel better feel victimized. You hate the CEO, the CCO or even POTUS if you want to get really big picture.
Stop it. It’s not going to help. Re-focus. At this point in your life, all the blame for not getting work really is on you. People can help out with job leads, suggestions and even some cash to cover the bills. But, it’s YOUR effort that will get you out of this mess. Stop blaming. Do.
CHANGE IS GOOD - I’m a different person since being let go. My attitude is different. I’ve added new skills. I’ve met new people. I even slashed off most of my hair. Make a change in your life. Get a haircut. Sell your crap on eBay and get a new shirt or two. Maybe a bike. Read some books. Learn a new language. It doesn’t need to cost a lot of money to do this. Switch things up somehow. Progress. Evolve.
DO SOMETHING INTERESTING - When you get your next interview or job opportunity, they’re going to ask “So, what have you been doing since being let go”. What are you going to say?
It’s crazy, but I’ve gotten through this by BEING A full-blown web video producer/writer/director. I’m not getting paid, but it’s what I want to in life. Now I’ve got something to point at and say “Here’s what I’ve been up to.” Do something interesting. If it can help you land your next job, great. It will keep you motivated.
SHOW YOURSELF - There are no bosses, co-workers, clients or managers to get in your way. Nobody to muddle with your vision or ability. Show us what happens when the reins are off. You may not have all of the resources, but more than likely, you can pull together something that you’ll be proud of. Maybe it’s the trump card that will get you the next gig.
1 VERSUS 100 - Instead of worrying about that one perfect cover letter to that one employer, what can you do that can be seen by hundreds of people? A blog? A video? An art show or trade fair? How can you be visible?
BETTER OFF - At least a few times I week, I think back to the fact that I used to drive 90 miles one way to work every day. Thank the lord I don’t have to do that. That idea alone gets me through most days. Think back to your past gig and focus on what you DON’T have to go through. If you were paid twice your salary, would you go back?
MY CARD - What’s stopping you from being self employed? There are people with less talent, less good-looks and less intelligence that you that have opened a small business. Take a good, long, hard look at what you want to do in life and see how you can make money off of that. Get some entrepreneur books.
I’ll admit that I’m walking down this route, and it’s as scary as hell. I worry I’m not talented. That I lack equipment and funding. I need better stuff on my reel. People will see me as a hack. I come up with hundreds of other things to do than make a few cold calls. (Blogging) Yet, in some ways, it may get me further towards paying a bill than filling out a job application.
Self-employed isn’t for everyone. At the most, it could be the break you’ve been looking for. The least, it’s a project to work on.
Yes, you might fail. I’ve failed at a ton of things, and will do so at many more. We’re trying to better ourselves. There is no failure in that.
FAMILY TIME - Strangely, my unemployment has brought me closer to my wife and kids. I’m home to help with homework or play while my boys while Sara makes dinner. I try to have one bit of information or progress to pass along every day. At the same time, I open up to her on my frustrations about the lack of response from emails. Keep those closest to you informed about how you’re doing. Yes, sometimes there may be “nothing to report”. But showing that you’re being active can be a big relief for everyone.
While my list may be extensive and rather wordy, I hope you have gained something from this. I can’t make promises that this will get any better soon. You may have been out of work ten times longer and have bill collectors camping outside your house. I don’t want to get in a lowest checking balance sword fight with you. We’re both in the same place, and I ask you to not dwell on the negativity of your plight. Don’t. There is just so much negativity in our world. Move away.
I leave you with this: embrace this clean start for everything it can be. If you remain focused, goal-orientated, upbeat and KNOW that this is only a temporary situation, you’ll be fine. Unemployment is a cleansing. A chance to do great things. Be active. Celebrate the health of friends and family.
It will be okay dear reader. It will be okay.