The Upside to Unemployment

Unemployment is an opportunity, one you should use to its fullest!

I can hear the clock ticking from across the room. By the early morning light peeking through the curtains, it must be near five or six o’ clock in the morning. I’ve woken up for no reason whatsoever other than apparently I just couldn’t sleep another second longer.

I already feel exhausted. Last week took it out of me, but truth be told not a lot really happened. One okay-ish interview on Tuesday but that’s it. Going from York to Guildford and back in a day seems to have upset the rest of the week, meaning I’ve barely got anything else done. I had a bath last night too. I thought they were meant to be soothing?

As I get up to check my phone my body aches slightly from yesterday’s exercise; just about the only thing I can do these days to keep myself occupied. I check my phone and yep, I was right 5:35am. Brilliant. What a great way to start another day as one of the unemployed.

Just over a month ago I found out I’d qualified as a Broadcast Journalist from the esteemed school of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies (JOMEC) at the University of Cardiff. And having spent the previous year, in between my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, looking for something to do for the rest of my life I thought this time would be different.

I knew what I wanted and all I had to do was go out and get it.

But after several interviews, I haven’t quite had the luck I thought I would. And so here I find myself spending day after day trolling online job boards for anything even vaguely related to journalism.

Having been in this position before (although this time I do have a more defined job search as opposed to the very broad and general one) I know what the key to maintaining sanity is: Find something you can do every day.

For me, that’s quite easy. As a journalist I can just open up my laptop and write whatever is in my head. And as a broadcast journalist I can pick up a camera and practice filming. I only have access to a small digital camera and my iPhone, which is by far the easier of the two, but can still produce very good quality video. And I’ve enjoyed playing around with my phone and using a relatively small Joby gorilla tripod.

But I realise this isn’t so simple for everyone else. I can sit down and write anything, whereas I guess an engineer can’t just engineer (?) and a mathematician can’t… well… I guess they can just sit down and do maths. But my point is not every career lends itself to something people can do a little bit of every day at home.

So the key is finding something else. Something that will at least keep the clogs of the mind turning and stimulate you, yes stimulate, intellectually and mentally. You can spend all day every day applying for jobs but I can tell you now it is mind numbing and will drive you insane.

If you look online there are numerous sites that will offer you advice on coping with unemployment. Some of these do have some helpful tips but others can be downright depressing and are only marginally less so than the answers you get when you think you’re ill and Google it to see what it is. The likelihood for both is you’re not dying.

In the near two months I’ve spent not working I’ve thought about how to deal with my situation. Sure I can do bits of exercise and write the occasional article, or practice filming something but how do I use this going forward?

I believe something is not an experience unless you take something from it and what I’ve learned from this experience is you can never stop learning from it. However you got here, you’re here now and you’ll just have to deal with it. There’s no point feeling sorry for yourself, you need to get up and do something about it. In the end finding something to do in the meantime will just help.

I know it can be tough. It can be embarrassing and utterly shameful to have to admit to someone you’re unemployed. But it takes courage to admit that. It takes commitment and determination to lift yourself up out of bed every morning and continue on.

It also gives you an opportunity to reflect. Who are you, what are you doing, where are you going? The average person these days will have between one and six jobs over their lifetime. Maybe now is a time for a change, and when are you going to get a chance to fully explore that without fitting it in around work?

There are obviously financial implications to being unemployed and granted I am in a fortunate position having recently graduated being able to live at home. I have a car so I can get around and no financial commitments like rent or bills so the pressure on me is minimal compared to others.

But I’m not someone who takes all this for granted. I know how lucky I am and therefore I don’t think this can be put down as privileged white boy complains #firstworldproblems.

I think the message here is it’s not all bad; it’s what you make of it. You have the choice of what to do next. You can be swallowed up by the shame and despair, or you can choose to accept that and move on to something better. People won’t judge you based on your current situation, they’ll judge you on what you do next.

You can learn a lot about yourself in a time like this and ultimately the things you discover will just be additional strings on your bow.