Do not (choose to) try this at home.
In the immortal words of one Forrest Gump, “Shit happens”.
I was recently reminded of this when I found myself unexpectedly, unceremoniously unemployed. Which, for the record, is not fun.
By way of explanation, I would like to clarify that I was not stealing staplers from the office and my former employer was not in the wrong – my contract was just unexpectedly not renewed because, despite being very happy with my performance, I still have half a day of uni this year, which was inconvenient for my former team. Understandable, but utterly unexpected and utterly… upsetting.
So, I abruptly found myself in a situation that I never anticipated or hoped to experience: unemployment.
In addition to not having an income, there are a few other downsides I’ve experienced courtesy of unemployment:
You will have terrible days.
There will be dark days when all you can do is cry and you just want to have a job. You will sob and sob and wail alone at home and everything will hurt. Hopefully there will not be too many of these days, but either way they will be awful. And every time that you have an unexpected reminder of your former job, the scab will be scratched off momentarily and the wound will be temporarily reopened.
Non-pro tip: Talking to someone can be really helpful when you are (understandably) feeling down and depressed about being unemployed. My wonderful counsellor saw a lot of my mug whilst I was unemployed.
You will feel guilty.
Personally, I felt guilty for having to ask for help, for not working and for hogging the couch. It’s a pretty crap feeling to live with, on top of the fact that you’re unemployed. I’m immensely thankful that I don’t have any dependents, because I hate to think of how dreadful it must be for people who have partners or children that rely on them financially.
The fun will wear off.
Despite jokingly referring to it as ‘Funemployment’, the Law of Diminishing Returns states that you will get less enjoyment from every additional hour of Netflix that you watch. Unfortunately, life without structure, colleagues and stimulating work doesn’t take that long to lose its appeal. In fact, after a while it can be fairly uninteresting and lonely. Perhaps that ‘F’ stands for something else… f#*& unemployment.
Your world will contract.
Days spent on the couch, only venturing out for groceries do not make for a particularly engaging life. Your contact with the outside world may decline dramatically and your world may become smaller. This is further exacerbated by your sudden lack of cash flow which may quickly curtail your social life, which only compounds the isolation. However, being unemployed is a time when friends are vital as a source of support, comfort, inspiration, guidance and networking contacts.
Non-pro tip: Even if you’re on a budget, try and get out of the house as much as possible. Going for a walk or run is free and catching up with a friend for a coffee is a cheap social activity.
Please note: This is easier said than done. I didn’t do enough of this, primarily due to the sadness and fragile self-esteem. Which leads us onto…
Your self-esteem and confidence will take an utter battering.
Suddenly losing your job has a way of highlighting just how central our jobs are to our identities, social standing and the way others treat us. In a world where, “So, what do you do?” is the first thing we ask after learning someone’s name, let me tell you, “I’m currently temporarily unemployed,” does not have a sexy ring to it.
Despite most people being empathetic and non-judgemental, I still felt very self-conscious about being jobless. Sometimes I didn’t go out because I felt embarrassed about my job situation surrounded by my successful peers; I just felt like a failure.
I remember going on a date with a guy who recoiled when I told him about my being unemployed. Although he only shifted fractionally and I understood where he was coming from – I probably wouldn’t actively preference dating someone who is unemployed either – it really hurt.
Not only will your social confidence be rattled, you will feel it when you apply for jobs too. In my first interview following my job loss I felt incredibly nervous – in a way that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Despite being a confident, reasonably intelligent person who was sufficiently qualified for the job, I began irrationally doubting myself – particularly as I had never been in the position of interviewing whilst unemployed before. (Thankfully, this subsided after the first interview and it got easier from there.)
You will be rejected. Again. And it will hurt. Again.
You will apply for jobs, confident that you are the ideal candidate and that you will ace it. But you will be rejected. You might not even get an interview. And it will hurt all over again. And it will be particularly awful if you, like me, make the mistake of putting all of your hopes in one opportunity.
Non-pro tip: Chin up, darling heart. Try to not take it personally and don’t let it affect the confidence, enthusiasm and determination you bring to your next application. Also, despite it being good to believe in yourself, it’s probably best to actively pursue multiple opportunities at the same time – even when you think you have your preferred one in the bag.
Yet despite all of these shitty aspects of unemployment, there are, surprisingly enough, some great things about it too… (Stay tuned. They’re coming your way soon.)