What A Year of Unemployment Taught Me

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I’ll be starting a new job at the end of this week, after about 50 weeks of unemployment. It was extremely hard for me in these last months, but I learned some great lessons.

Humility

On a bigger scale, for the first time in my life I was completely dependent on my husband’s income to float both of us. The money from unemployment covered rent, but that was my only contribution. I learned people loved me and supported me simply for being me and this kind of unconditional love is difficult for most people to accept.

I’ll never look at homeless people the same way again. We are all closer to the pavement than we like to acknowledge.

Know Thyself

Out of necessity, I had to define myself without gainful employment. Having a job is important, but it’s only one aspect of my personality.

I learned how to be more patient. There was no choice but to apply for job after job and know that only a few employers would even get back to me to let me know I wasn’t chosen. I was doing my best and that was all I could ask of myself.

When you hit the lowest of the low, you confront yourself and your feelings of complete hopelessness, anxiety and confusion. I picked myself up and kept going, there was no time to be in the dumps.

Tips in Particular for Portland and Other Difficult Job Markets

The eleven and a half months of unemployment gave me a lot of practice editing my resumes, writing cover letters and interviewing. We live in a world where anyone can find themselves unexpectedly unemployed, so it is wise to be up to par on representing yourself in the best light possible at a moment’s notice. Though I went on some interviews at places I knew I probably didn’t want to work, it was good practice. I was open-minded to the possibility that the company and the people there might be much better in person than over the phone.

If it’s been a few years since you’ve tested the waters in the job market, it may surprise you to learn that most jobs, even temporary ones, now require an average of two to four interviews.

You may have to downplay your education if you have degrees not necessary for jobs you are applying for. Don’t lie, just don’t volunteer information.

My job search was a mix of being realistic and dreaming big. I went for jobs I thought I could easily do, such as receptionist. I also tried for jobs such as project manager, that I knew I could do but figured were a long shot. In the end, it was the very long shot that I obtained. The things I thought I was a shoo-in for were the ones I didn’t land.

I use a non-chronological resume that highlights my skill categories.

Social media shout outs to people you already know can help. They might not be aware you’re looking for a new job.

It’s okay in interviews to talk about what you did in your time off besides looking for jobs. People were fascinated to find out I used my time to finish two screenplays. Also, I was honest in cover letters when a job appealed to me because it was close to where I lived. It’s a win-win situation. You don’t have to battle traffic every day and they know they can always count on you to make it in.

In my experience, the nebulous, temporary short-term part-time gigs with small companies require you to jump through the most hoops for the least amount of money. If you are looking for something permanent, whether part-time or full-time, I would suggest bypassing such ephemeral positions. They take away momentum from your search and you never know when they will cut your hours or just up and fire you.

The pickier I was about where I applied in the first place, the more interviews I got. Cutting back on the carpet bombing technique got me the result I wanted.

Let us know about your personal experiences!

One response to “What A Year of Unemployment Taught Me

  1. Thanks for this! After over six months of unemployment and temping in the PDX area, I finally start a new job in March and the search was surprising – like you described 🙂

    Like

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