Friday, September 27, 2013

Unemployed What-Have-You

As someone who was recently unemployed due to being downsized, I'd like to elaborate a little on my experience as maybe it's a little bit useful to someone who is going through a similar experience. I'll very much emphasize that there are many, many factors that would make someone else's situation much more trying and difficult then others. I was very fortunate to have a masters degree of sorts (M.Ed), to have some decent experience, not too much in bills and a slew of other things that certainly should prohibit me from "telling folks what to do". There are also a slew of articles about career steps to take when you're unemployed which I don't want to focus on as much as the personal experience of unemployment and how to keep yourself going through such a time. Again, I'll mostly talk about my experience which may or may not be relevant to others. 

I'll first mention that it's taken me close to four months to land a full time job. I applied to 57 positions and had 13 interviews with six different organizations. I was applying to positions mostly in the non-profit, education, human services and higher education fields but also was motivated to secure a job with benefits that was full time. I didn't apply to many part time jobs but was at the point of reconsidering this. I expected to be unemployed for maybe 2 - 3 months. At the beginning I remember not really wanting to put the time into research as how to more effectively secure a good position thinking that I wouldn't be unemployed that long. I might of hesitated a couple of weeks to get on unemployment. I think that was somewhat of a mistake. I wish I had done a little bit more leg work at the beginning that would have paid off overall in maybe securing something sooner. 

Being unemployed is tough (though I'll emphasize again for most folks there would be a lot more pressure than what I experienced). On one hand you have a lot of time. You might think to yourself, "I should do all these fun things while I have this time as that will change when you're fully employed." Often you can't. You would feel too guilty doing so as you don't have a secure source of income. You have a finite amount of resources to spend at these points and certainly need to be thoughtful. Your job is to find a job which can take a lot of effort and energy, but at the same time it can be tough as the unemployed life is an unstructured one. It can be awfully discouraging as you send out an application and often just don't hear anything back. It can be scary and you can feel pretty bad about yourself even if you became unemployed because of external circumstances outside of your control (downsized). 

Securing part time, contract work was really helpful. I worked at a summer camp when they were short on staff and helped out with some educational programs. This really helped psychologically in keeping me somewhat in the habit of working and feeling productive while also bringing in some needed cash flow. It's also something I could refer to on job interviews. However, I did at points turn down work to ensure I had enough time to apply to other places. 

I was in a situation where I was applying to a wide array of jobs that were often fairly different. This made writing a cover letter somewhat tricky as you had to change things up a decent amount to make it match the job qualifications. What was helpful was simply having a document where I categorized and saved all the different cover letter sections I've written and thus had something to draw up. This was my Master Cover Letter Template. My girlfriend (whose pretty good at dealing with all job app jazz) very wonderfully looked it all over to make sure it was edited and helped add some pretty clutch statements that I think overall improved my rate of getting offered the chance to interview. She did this on track changes so I didn't have to accept all of it. A common phrase I used at the end of each paragraph was "to the position of (assorted position I was applying for), I would bring someone with a wealth of experience in developing and delivering curriculum." That was useful in terms of the cover letter.

This felt psychologically helpful, but basically, one of my friends mentioned to have a threshold of applying to two jobs a day and then you could be done. On many days I didn't reach this point, but this provided a bit of much needed structure having this threshold in mind. I could apply to two jobs and then enjoy the rest of the day. Some days there weren't two jobs that I thought I was that qualified to apply for, but still that was helpful.

I used a lot. The job I've accepted is one I found there. However, indeed was helpful, as was I applied to some jobs at universities but none of those went anywhere. Finding some human service organizations and larger non-profits to regularly check for relevant opportunities was helpful too. I had used google drive and docs to record every job opportunity I've found and make relevant notes if I was offered an interview or rejected. This was helpful just to keep everything together, especially when I used different computers.  

Staying positive was hard at points but I think good to do. I can be pretty bad at editing and polishing up work. I generally loathe writing a cover letter (see previous post here) and think it's absurd that you have to do so even though often you'll just not hear anything back and often employers might not even read the damn thing. I feel like there's generally a better way for our job market to operate. So I had some weeks where I ranted and raved like some type of petulant creature. At some point though I tried to focus on some of the positives of being unemployed (unsuccessfully) by saying ... Oh it's great getting to learn about all these organization, it's neat getting to develop my writing skills, it's wonderful having this time to catch up with friends, it's nice having some time to do some other projects and have a little lull. This effort, though not always successful, I feel was better than ranting and raving. I still think some reforms to the job application process are in order, but that's not necessarily helpful to dwell on when you need to find your next place. Staying positive about yourself was hard at points, but definitely important. Realizing it's pretty normal to be unemployed and that you are in fact employable seemed beneficial to remember. It's tough though as you can have a lot of time and mull on things and also get rejected in a lot of different ways throughout the process. Keeping up with running, eating well and all that self-care jazz is good to keep in mind. 

That's about it for now, below are all the articles I wrathfully read to brush up on my job hunting skills. Effective Cover Letters to Turn Downtime Into Job Offers to Write a Great Cover Letter Things You Should Be Doing If You’re Unemployed ADVICE ON YOUR LENGTHY UNEMPLOYMENT CAREER COUNSELING COMMUNITY Events work that inspires you letter necessity Letter what have yous ways to boost your career search to Find a Job (Yes, Even Now) into a job or something godawful ways you're sabotaging yourself's not about me, it's about you... the 20 questions you need to ask in a job interview Job questions