9 Things I Learned from Unemployment
Hello from rainy San Diego!
If you didn’t know…I was laid off back in December. I found out the news at the start of November, and despite four weeks of aggressive job hunting, I ended up officially unemployed as of December 1.
But…time for exciting news: I am officially employed again!
I tend to avoid talking about my job on here (a la church and state separation or something of the like), but I will share that I am working at a public relations agency. I’ve been settling into the new role for the last three weeks or so, and I can already say with confidence that it’s a great fit. My coworkers have been lovely, I’ve been challenged in a great way and I’ve been given the resources to grow and succeed. For the first time in awhile, I’ve actually looked forward to going to work (maybe just because it’s new but who knows!).
But…let’s back up a bit. I was without a job for 7 weeks (though, it admittedly felt like 11 with the news hanging over me for a month). I’ll be honest: I never hope to repeat that time period again, and I truly wouldn’t wish a layoff to anyone. It was stressful, tearful, shameful and enraging all at once. But, at the end of the day…I am truly and honestly thankful I went through it for the invaluable things I learned, including:
1. A career does not define me.
I place a lot of value in my work, and I thrive on a 9-to-5 schedule. My career is a large part of who I am and where I see myself in the future, so when I lost it temporarily, I could feel myself beginning to question who I was. After dealing with similar feelings when I lost running, I reminded myself: I am not one thing. I could find fulfillment in being a cat mom, a friend, a daughter and sister, a home chef, a reader, you name it. While I love my career and the work that I do, letting it define me will eventually lead to a whole slew of identity and self-esteem issues - employed or not.
2. Saving money is important.
Last year, I finally started to save. It was just a tiny amount here or there, but I’m forever thankful I did. I had some savings to lean back on when I got laid off that made it a little less stressful - at least, financially. However, while I had some savings to get me through, I should have honestly had more that I knew I had blown on so many things in the past. While I’m still rebuilding (and will be for a bit) my finances, my goal is to save more this year.
3. Relationships are everything.
I feel really thankful for the support system I have (Justin and my parents at the top, who both really helped during this transition period) that listened to me, checked in on how I was doing, paid for lunches just so they could see me and helped me prep for interviews. More than that, though, I learned that people genuinely want to help. I had dozens of people - friends and acquaintances and strangers alike - scouring their networks for any opportunities or solid connections. It feels awkward to ask for help, but so many people truly want to that it’s worth it to just bite the bullet.
4. Boredom is valuable.
You can only job hunt for so long. I typically spent my mornings and evenings perusing job boards or writing cover letters, but my afternoons tended to be free. After a week or two of reading, completing chores around the house and taking lots of naps, I found myself defaulting to feeling “bored.” It was in these moments, that I either a) forced myself to find something to do, which ended up ultimately being enjoyable; or b) got some really heavy thinking done. The moments of pause allowed me to pursue some hobbies I don’t usually have time for and allowed for some much-needed introspection.
5. My mental health has come a long way.
If you would have asked me three years ago how I would have handled a layoff, I would have told you the truth: an epic breakdown, a lot of panic attacks and a reset of depression. Sure, I cried about it and my emotions fluctuated day to day, but I handled it much better than I could have predicted. I accepted that I had no control over the situation (only my response), and I knew deep down that life would go on. I also accepted that it’s okay to have good days and bad days. That’s part of life, and I let go of some harsh judgement I would have passed on myself before. All in all, it was a reminder of how far I’ve come (thanks spiritual/religious journey, fitness, therapy and SSRIs). Small steps!!
6. Balance is key.
I tend to throw myself into work - always taking on more than I can handle and always making myself available. You can likely figure it out: I tend to prioritize work over many things. The break from a job was a nice reminder that I enjoy so many other things outside of work. Moving forward, I want to be really mindful to keep more of a balance of all of these things with work.
7. The unemployment system is really complicated and pretty inefficient.
Whoever told you that receiving unemployment is easy…they are wrong. Between a weird waiting period, an insistence on their part of snail mail vs. anything electronic, an old-school website, non-negotiable appointments scheduled for you (way down in Chula Vista during rush hour!) and the inability to talk to anyone on the phone…I struggled with the system. But, at the end of the day, I received free money (that I technically paid into before…), so who am I to complain? It was enough per month to cover rent, which was ideal.
8. Failure is a part of life - and it’s all about the grace you have while you fail.
In a similar vein to #5, I learned that plans fail. That’s life. It’s all about how you react to it. This failed plan taught me a lot about being humble and surrendering to the universe’s larger plan for me.
9. No one works a traditional job in San Diego.
Ha - this is a joke…kind of. During my daily ventures to coffee shops to apply to jobs or my mid-day attempts to beat crowds at Trader Joes, I was shocked at the sheer volume of San Diegans out and about. Does no one work here?! I suppose I joined the crowd in these instances, but I was really surprised at how many people don’t have traditional 9-to-5’s in this city. It actually inspired me - people can still thrive without a traditional office gig.