What I Learned During Month One of Unemployment

Being unemployed sounds amazing, in a theoretical sense.

You aren’t accountable to any employer. You can go to sleep without setting an alarm. You can run errands in empty stores while everyone else is at work. You can put a dent in your reading queue. You can finally be one of those people who sits in cafes on Wednesday afternoons without a laptop.

Photo by Jason Briscoe

Unfortunately, none of those things will pay your bills or feed you or support your lifestyle or really help you do anything that has to do with money.

It took me about a week to learn this, when I did a thing I don’t usually do — I looked at an ATM receipt.

I wasn’t broke, but my reserve funds were definitely not where I needed them to be. Don’t get me wrong, that week of funemployment was magical. But the week stretched to two, then three, and here I am typing this at the end of one month of unemployment.

It’s been enlightening, to say the least. But by now, the honeymoon phase is over, and I’m ready to get back to work.

I did learn some important, interesting things during my ongoing jobless stint, three of which I’ll share with you right now.

Money Is Relatively Easy To Make

Look, it’s not easy to get a job.

According to multiple sources, the average job search on a company’s end takes about six weeks. It takes even longer on the applicant’s end. I know this. I look every day. I’ve probably applied to well over 100 jobs at this point, and no desirable opportunities came up.

Photo by rawpixel

But, if you know where to look, it’s easy to make at least enough money to get by. One way to figure this out is to take a look at your marketable skills. Maybe you’re good at writing or editing or you can do graphic design and photography. Maybe you’re handy and can fix things. Maybe you just have a car and can drive.

People and businesses are always in need of these things.

You can search Craigslist in the gigs section for work that lasts a few days. Sometimes people just need an extra body in the room to help streamline things. You can make an account on sites like Upwork and bring in enough cash just to keep your head above water. You can do focus groups or work as staff for large events.

Bottom line is that money is easy to find if you’re resourceful enough.

Stress Is All About Your State of Mind

Before I was unemployed, I worked in the sales and marketing industries.

I was with a small sales firm, and a lot was required of me. We had ambitious deadlines, and little manpower. I was one of the 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females who worked more than 40 hours a week in the United States.

It’s not that I didn’t like my job, I just didn’t have enough time to take a breather.

Now, I feel like a different person completely. I’m more organized, more clear-headed, more ambitious. I feel like the only reason I couldn’t bring these things to my job is because I was too overworked to have any clarity. Stress was clouding my perspective.

Photo by Simon Schmitt

I realized that I’m not susceptible to stress, but that stress is inevitable in the culture of some companies. This is not true in every case, but it was for me: Stress was a state of mind brought on my environment.

In my job search, I took this into account and have been picky about what jobs I consider based on reviews on Glassdoor or any other way I can get my hands on a knowledgeable opinion of a given company.

I’ve also learned effective ways to deal with stress including working on my diet, practicing meditation, and limiting my workload.

Waiting for the Right Opportunity Is Always Worth It

During my job search, I was asked to do a couple of things that I never thought I would have to.

One CEO of a small marketing firm asked me to work three days for free as a “tryout” for a full-time position.

I’m 26 years old, and I have four years of professional sales and marketing experience under my belt. Twenty-four hours of free work is frankly out of the question.

I gave him a resume, writing samples, my portfolio, and two interviews. If that’s not enough to evaluate an employee or if I wasn’t a fit with the company, that’s fine. But I’m not in a place where I can work for free.

I’ve learned that this kind of situation is all too common in the murky world of job search. In a world where 32 percent of people describe their boss as “horrible” it’s important to find an employer that will respect you and value your work.

That’s why the focus of my job search hasn’t been finding any new job. Rather, it’s about finding the right opportunity for me.