When I got laid off, I had a whirlwind of initial emotions and thoughts. I was all sorts of embarrassed, annoyed, sad, confused, worried, and a little excited, too. When you’re laid off, they explain a lot of things– severance packages, how to cut ties with your benefits, etc.– but they don’t tell you how to deal.
After I got laid off, I immediately started spamming the San Francisco Bay Area with applications. I was determined to find something before my severance ran out. But after a while, my optimism faded. It gets annoying when people are constantly asking you for updates, and you don’t have anything positive to update them on. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my friends and family for their concern and interest, but it makes me feel more embarrassed than loved. I try to keep a mostly-optimistic outlook on life, but it’s soul crushing to have to tell people, “nope, no new interviews this week,” or “no, I didn’t get that job.” You start to feel inadequate.
The gloom of being unemployed started creeping into the rest of my life, too. I was missing out on opportunities that I would normally say yes to. I was bailing on dates, because: 1) My confidence was shot, and 2) I typically wouldn’t go for an unemployed guy, so didn’t expect anyone to want to date me either. On top of it all, I was also bailing on friends out of financial obligation. Since I don’t have a set income, I can’t afford frivolous brunches or drinks on a Saturday like I used to be able to do. It made me feel alone, but more than anything it made me feel like I was losing control over my own life.
I needed more structure, and something had to change. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup. I needed to take care of myself, before I could take care of my career.
First, I wanted to feel a sense of purpose again. How? Productivity. I made a point to limit my TV and social media time, and instead spent those hours at the table elbows deep in the computer. Between this blog, a few freelance projects, staying on top of industry trends, applying for jobs, and studying for interviews I instantly felt my days had more direction and organization. I wanted to stay sharp, and keep my skills and qualifications fresh, which is something you can so easily lose sight of when you’re unemployed. The last thing I wanted was to get complacent with a vacant schedule (AKA lazy).
TOM tip: set aside 3-5 hours each day and force yourself to do something productive in that time. Whether that’s reading a book, writing in a journal, applying for jobs, or updating your resume, do something that exercises your mind.
Next, I knew that I needed to find a balance between living like a queen and a peasant. While I couldn’t splurge on dinner and drinks out every night, I also couldn’t live like a hermit either. In an effort to be more financially conscious, I was cancelling appointments and hobbies that had otherwise kept me sane. Example? My hair. It had been five months since I’d had my hair done before I finally went back to the salon. Yep, 20 weeks (my roots were out of control). Eventually I realized that I needed to take care of myself and my appearance so that I could look and feel my best in an interview. That shit is priceless, ya know?
TOM tip: don’t let yourself go because you think you can’t afford it– investing in yourself will be worth it in the long run. Even if you have to pinch pennies elsewhere to make it feasible.
Last, I made the decision to say yes to every job opportunity. I went to lunch, or took a phone call, with every local contact I had at my fingertips. I agreed to every interview I was offered, even if I thought I was overqualified or wasn’t totally thrilled about the company. My thought process here was that practice makes perfect. The more comfortable I could be selling myself, and my skills, to a potential employer, the better. This logic led to a couple of freelance contract opportunities that I otherwise would have missed out on.
TOM tip: be proactive. Make sure that you know your worth, but explore every opportunity with open-minded intentions.
I’m currently working for myself as a freelance contractor, and trucking along with interviews for a full-time gig. While I’m no expert here, I’m feeling a lot more comfortable in where I’m at in the process. Believing in yourself, and what you bring to the table, can make or break you when you’re unemployed, and I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. I’ve felt hopeless and helpless, but I’ve also felt optimistic and excited for what’s to come. Often times there are far better things ahead than what we leave behind, and remembering that is key.