How To Handle Being Unemployed
Unemployment (or funemployment, as people who are not fun refer to it on social media) is a magical stretch of time that every young person should experience. As a freelancer in TV, I have one or two periods of planned unemployment a year, but I’ve also had periods of unplanned unemployment as well (read: I GOT FIRED, OK? JEEZ). Regardless of which it is, I can’t stress enough how beneficial having the time off has been for me. I’ve done some of my best long term thinking while being unemployed. You’re forced to see the big picture, which can be a beautiful thing. But it can also be easy to get lost in your sea of free time.
Unemployment usually comes at a significant crossroads in your life. It can come after you get fired. It can come after you quit. It can come after you’ve gotten a new job and bought yourself a little time in between (ah, the sweetest of all). All of these situations are prime times to reflect on what’s next and what brought you to this moment. It’s imperative that you treat it like a gift and not some sort of weird purgatory where you listen to sports radio and jerk off all day (preferably not at the same time).
I’ll focus on the not as cool unemployment. The “holy shit where will I work next because I got let go” kind of unemployment. The type where you want to sit around all day, dreaming about driving your European sports car down a dessert highway and seeing your ex boss on the side of the road in need of mechanical assistance, but you just crank up the Seger and speed past them toward the dick sucking contest you’re judging in Milan (this is my dream).
This period can be one of the most important professional moments of your life. You have to be able to overcome it as much as you enjoy yourself in the moment. Below are the tactics that allowed me to avoid becoming a home-bound degenerate and actually find employment again (I know! I’m as surprised as you are).
Be Honest With Yourself and Others
Job security isn’t something you think about too much until it’s gone. And the simple truth is that no one is safe professionally, from CEO’s that make too much money to you, somehow. Realize this for what it is: a bump in the road.
Most importantly, be honest to others. If people ask you how work is going, tell them in the most graceful way possible. Keeping up some sort of charade that you’re still employed means you’re not facing this bump in the road directly. Admitting you’re out of work takes serious guts (who doesn’t love lying?), but it will make a world of difference in the long run. If you can’t admit this to acquaintances, how will you ever come to terms with it yourself? Plus, you’re putting it out there that you’re looking for a job. You’ll never move on if you don’t put yourself out there.
Don’t Sleep Late / Get Outcha House-
This is a HUGE key. Just because you’re not working doesn’t mean you don’t have things to do. Losing your job means you lose that nice routine it created for you. That means you have to create your own.
Oversleeping, in my experiences has led to laziness. Laziness leads to procrastination and inactivity. Then you look at your watch and it’s 5pm and you haven’t left the house yet. That’s a great way to feel worthless. I would always attempt to get outside before 9AM every damn day. That could mean getting a coffee or going for a walk. Even just go outside and then walk directly back in to go look for jobs and watch SportsCenter. Just a few moments outside, seeing others in the real world, will snap you back into reality.
Physical AND Mental Workouts-
You’re going to have WAY too much time on your hands during unemployment even if you’re looking for a new job all day. Working out and picking up creative hobbies is a great way to do this. I tended to start with a workout every morning around 9AM, then do my networking/job hunting until lunch. After lunch I tried to carve out time for creativity. This could be writing, reading, drawing – something to keep your mind sharp. You’d be surprised how much of a weirdo you become when you’re alone most of the day and don’t have an office full of people bugging you with shit. Social interaction: a gift and a curse.
You Can Still Treat Yourself-
There’s an odd guilt that comes with getting laid off, where you don’t think you can have fun anymore. You’re not working all day so you haven’t “earned” the right to go out to a bar and watch a game or go out on a date. The truth of the matter is everyone needs to blow off steam socially, whatever that may be. If you can afford to go out, go out. But my rule has always been that I need to be super productive that day in order to do something fun at night. Maybe I got a lead on a new job and wrote a killer cover letter for it that day. Maybe I made a big dent into the project I’m writing. Without these accomplishments, I always felt this guilt creep in. With so much free time on your hands, it’s all about keeping the elements of your life balanced.
Weed? No Weed
I like smoking pot recreationally. Not an every night sort of thing, but maybe once or twice a week if I wanted to kick back, relax and eat an entire box of cereal while watching eight consecutive Bar Rescues (YEAH I KNOW, EACH EPISODE IS THE SAME BUT I LIKE THAT EPISODE). However if I’m ever out of work, I avoid weed entirely. Each person reacts differently, but having weed on hand was always a bad idea with me at home all day. I’m not a slave to my impulses per se (OK, MAYBE), but it’s pretty easy to light something up when you have so much free time. My advice would be to take a breather.
Keep That Goddamn Glass Half Full-
So one of the worst things you can do when you get laid off is take it out on yourself. After you’re let go, are you allowed to go out and have nine IPA’s and grumble to yourself for a few hours? Or take a day to watch tv in those gym shorts that have that hole your balls always hang out of? Sure, but don’t let that turn into multiple days. Sulk, then channel that anger, guilt, embarrassment (whatever you’re feeling) toward something that benefits yourself.
Getting serious for a moment, depression is a major issue among the unemployed, especially if your unemployment reaches a stretch over six months. You have to be confident in yourself that this will pass and that you are primed and ready to rejoin the workforce; all you need is a break. But prolonged time away from work will affect the most confident of people. That said, you need to keep in touch with your loved ones and friends. And if you do feel overwhelmed, tell those who care about you.
Just having the time to think to myself was the absolute best byproduct of being unemployed. When you’re working for the man (every night and day), how often did you have time to really ponder what you want out of life and what might come next? The one thing I crave when I’m working a 12+ hour day is time to myself. Well bucko, you got that in droves.
I used my time to visit places I never would when I worked five days a week. Go to a museum you uncultured animal. Or take a long weekend to visit that friend who’s a bus ride away. What you do should inspire yourself. TRIGGER ALERT: Do you want to get married? Do you want kids? What are you going to do when your parents get old? I never really thought about that enough until I had the time to. So if you’re out of work, take advantage of this time to yourself. Because you’ll be back to work in no time.