As someone who has been laid off twice in the last year, I fancy myself a bit of an authority on this situation. Now that I have been through this multiple times in such a short period of time, I can tell you what I have done right and what I’ve done wrong.
The first time I lost my job, it was catastrophic. I spent a long time grieving the loss and sliding into a depression. I felt as if the world, and “The American Way,” had betrayed me. I’d worked for the company for a couple years and put a lot into the job, so when I got laid off, it was a huge blow. This also took place during the winter, when it’s difficult to keep up your spirits under normal circumstances. The dark and cold amplified my unhappiness.
While I still left the house every day to go to the gym or see a friend, I spent a lot of my unemployed time by myself. I watched a lot of TV, spent hours on the Internet, and became more and more disgruntled. I found that I wanted to talk to people less and less because they would ask me about my job search. The job search was going poorly and it upset me to talk about, so I began to avoid most people.
This went on for six miserable months. I finally took a job that I wasn’t sure I wanted. It was my life preserver and I had become desperate. At first, it was good to work again. The job I took was different than anything else I had done and for a bit, seemed like a good thing. However, this new job was with a start-up business that didn’t do very well. Within three months, I was laid off again.
The second layoff felt different. First, I hadn’t become entrenched in the new job or settled into new patterns. Second, it was becoming clear that I wasn’t fulfilled by this job. I was starting to become a bit bored by it and already felt stuck. Third, this time, and very importantly, it was summer when I got laid off.
Because I knew how poorly my last period without working had gone, I recognized that I had to be better at dealing with it this time around. For the first few weeks, I was much more concerned about managing the unemployment period than I was about finding a new job. So far, this has worked to my benefit and I’ve been doing okay.
- Step 1: When I began the job at the start-up and got good health insurance, I started seeing a therapist. At the time, it was to manage the change in my life from not working to working again. Little did I know that the therapist would also help me through another period of not working.
I have continued to faithfully see the therapist every week. He functions as my coach and pushes me to seek out a job that is more than “just a job.” While I often argue that a job is a job and I simply need money, the therapist has a point. If I was really into what I did for a living (which I never have been), it’s likely I would be more happy overall.
- Step 2: I got a part time job. The state I live in allows me to make a certain amount of money without being penalized. I can make one-third of my weekly unemployment allotment without having any money deducted from my unemployment check. While I think it’s stupid to penalize the unemployed for earning money, my part-time job allows me to work within this system.
I like the place where I work part-time and there are interesting people to talk to. Being somewhere at a certain time a few days a week is good for me. It helps me feel more like a regular person. The job also involves food, which cuts down on my grocery costs.
- Step 3: I volunteer. My community has frequent events and volunteers are necessary to pull them all together. I’m on a couple of different committees and plan these events. I have meetings often and am responsible for so many tasks that volunteering feels somewhat like a job.
The only downside to this particular volunteer choice is that when you organize events you used to look forward attending, they become less enjoyable. Instead of excitedly anticipating a big festival I go to annually, now I’ll be glad when it’s over and my responsibility for it ends. I’m hoping that someone will attend the festival for the first time this year and enjoy it so much that they unknowingly take my committee position for next year.
- Step 4: I made sure to keep seeing and talking to all my friends. This way, people are always somewhat familiar with what’s going on in my job search. It allows me to not tell long stories about my lack of employment just more frequent short stories.
- Step 5: I set new fitness goals. I’ve always been someone who loves the gym. Instead of always going to the gym as usual, I ride my bike and run outside. I registered for my first road race and train for it a few days a week. I’m also planning a bike trip that I need to build endurance for.
- Conclusion: Having things in my life other than my job search keeps me busy and keeps my mind off of things. Instead of hiding at home, I feel like a proactive member of society. A friend recently pointed out that with all my activities, I am more productive than someone who works a full-time job, but spends much of their time screwing around on the web or chatting with co-workers.
I don’t know how long this period of unemployment will continue for. I’m careful to only apply for jobs that really interest me, rather than jobs that seem to simply fit the bill or have high salaries. There is a strong possibility that as winter gets closer and the daylight hours shrink, I’ll panic and start to apply for every job that’s vaguely applicable to my background. However, I’m hoping that my five steps will help steer me away from that route.
Losing your job is rough. I try to believe in the “when one door shuts, another one opens” philosophy and hope that all of this turmoil is for the best. Everyday, I fervently wish that I’ll walk away from this year with a fabulous dream job that I enjoy and pays me enough to live. Until then, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.