Surviving Unemployment in Your 30's and Keeping Your Sanity
Being unemployed blows. Really fucking blows. When I voluntarily left my last job in Connecticut in April to move to Wisconsin to live with my girlfriend of 15 months, I knew, at least logically, that there would be a period of time where my job would become looking for a job. I even knew that that period might stretch on for a fairly long time, given how awful the job market presently is.
What I didn’t realize before I started the job search is that you can rationalize these kinds of things all you want, but once you’re in the middle of the situation, it’s nowhere near as easy. Maybe this is because value in our society seems to have become inextricably tied to one’s profession. When you don’t have a profession to speak of, it becomes very easy to think that you no longer “count “ as a part of society. When you get together with friends and the conversation inevitably turn to work stories, you stop being able to contribute, and, at least in my case, sometimes start to feel inferior to those people.
Before this becomes a self-pitying rant, let me get to the real point. As much as unemployment is terrible, and can be a constant challenge to one’s self worth, there are, at least, ways to handle the whole thing. vHere are a few that I’ve learned:
Diversify your time as much as possible: Staring at Internet job boards for 6 hours a day hoping that the perfect job will magically appear after the fifth time you read through every listing is unrealistic, but it’s exactly what I did for the first month. I would strongly suggest finding other things to do with your time on occasion, more to break the monotony than anything else. Finding a job can be your first prioirity without having to be all consuming.
Be prepared for disappointment, it will happen: I’ve had two interviews in four months. I knew I was out of consideration at the first place once I walked out the door, but the second one got to the “second interview” point, and I had a good feeling that I would get that one. But I didn’t, because someone more qualified was in the applicant pool. I guess my point is, try to stay as even keeled as possible during the process. You’re not likely to get the first job you interview for. And if you do, I hate you.
There’s always going to be someone more qualified so sell yourself to the employer, not your skills: One of the downsides to the curent economy for people in the 30ish age bracket who may be in their first or second “real” job out of college, is the flood of older folks with many more years of experience due to mass layoffs who are willing to take positions below their usual level of expertise or for less money, out of desperation for employment. I’m just as desperate, if not more so, than some dude who was laid off and has 10 years more experience than I do, but employers get all the benefits from hiring those people, with no significant outlay. To counteract this, go into interviews and let the employer see why you, and not necessarily your skill set, are absolutely indispensable to them. Even if you have to get a little personal, show them what you can bring to the table that no one else can.
Network as much as possible, you never know where an opportunity may arise: After my second interview failed to produce anything, their human resources department offered to help me find a placement with other companies that they dealt with. This idea ran counter to my first instinct, my internal reaction being something along the lines of “Wait a second. You just told me I wasn’t good enough to work for you, now you want to help me? Fuck off.” Thankfully, I didn’t do this, and have been getting more leads in the past few weeks than I did in my first two months.
Above all, stay positive: In my case, that means remembering all of the positive, beneficial reasons I had for relocating. I was unhappy where I was. I was alone, had a less than ideal job with no potential for advancement, and lived in an area that was very limiting to someone with a physical disability. Now, I may not have a job yet in the cheese state, but I do have a woman who loves me and who I hope to marry sooner rather than later, and the freedom of finally living somewhere where the disabled can have “normal,” independent lives. I guess I’ve learned that one is not defined by their jobs, and no matter how bad things may seem, there are always positives to be found, as long as you’re willing to look for it.