erinism: #socialmedia and other explorations

Lessons Learned From the Unemployed

Posted in jobs,Uncategorized by Erin on November 24, 2009
Tags: , , ,

It has plagued growing number of Americans. It may seem like the end of the world to some. Some may feel embarrassed, like a failure. No, I’m not talking about the latest STI. I’m talking about unemployment (dun, dun, dun!). For whatever reason (for most of us, it’s the economy) 15.7 million have found ourselves in this situation. I’m one of them. For those of you out there who are still gainfully employed, first of all: congrats! Secondly, I am turning my envy into motivation and writing this blog post. Ah, yes: wisdom from some chump who doesn’t have a job. But, I beg you, hear me out. What I’m saying does have some traction. I give you: Lessons Learned From the Unemployed.

Continue to assume normal business hours

One of the first mistakes I made during my unemployment was staying up late and sleeping until mid-morning. Sure, I would get the recommended eight hours of sleep a night, but at what cost? It was hard to get my motivation up and my butt moving when I did finally wake up. I’ve learned the hard way that by keeping at least similar hours to those I would have if I were employed, I might lose a few precious moments of sleep, but I gain so much more in productivity. It’ll also make the transition into employment that much easier.

Set personal deadlines

If you’re anything like me, you thrive in a fast-paced, deadline-driven atmosphere. There’s nothing like being under the pressure of the clock. Well, in unemployment, the one luxury you’ve got is time. At first, I had all of these plans, lists of things I yearned to accomplish during my permanent vacation. However, I wasn’t actually translating that to results. Once I started keeping a calendar and to-do lists with actual due dates, that all changed.

Assess your personal motivation, optimism, and yes, balls

Being unemployed will test you. Period. It’s not easy to have to force yourself out of bed everyday full of motivation and determination in the job search (especially in this economy). You’ve got to put yourself out there and really make yourself stand out from the other hundreds of applicants wanting your job. Looking good on paper is no longer enough to climb the latter that is your career. You’ve got to stay positive. While you might not land every job you feel confidently about, negativity begets negativity. And no one likes a Debbie Downer.

Market yourself

This is especially important for those of us in the PR/marketing/advertising industries. It’s one thing to have the skills to promote a Fortune 500 company, but can you translate that expertise to marketing your party-of-one? It can be at times thankless (there will be no “You’re doing a great job! Thank you so much!” emails from your client), but in the long run, you’ll only have yourself to thank when you land your next job.

Expand your horizons

People with full-time jobs can sometimes get stuck in the same old routine (but hey—they’re busy). Now that you have a little—ok, a lot—more time on your hands, take the opportunity and do some things you ordinarily would not get to do. Even if you’re on a strict budget, there are plenty of free things to do (especially in New York City). Check out free museum nights, free concerts in Central Park, hell, even volunteer (walking dogs is my new weekly hobby). Who knows, you might even find a new passion or meet someone with knowledge about a job.

Question your standards

Sure, we all might think our poo doesn’t stink. That we could walk on water if we really tried. I hate to break it to you, folks, but the competition is pretty stiff out there. Even if you’ve taken a year of your life to teach English to children in Africa, there’s someone who’s done it for two years. You might think you deserve the corner office with a view, but don’t be afraid to take a position that is slightly less than your dream job.

Get by on less (Or, as I like to call it: Ballin’ on a budget)

As New Yorkers, we sometimes get a little spoiled, especially in the food & beverage and shopping domains. If you’re used to ordering take out or eating out every night, I’m sorry to break this to you, but that thing in your kitchen is not just a place to store your sweaters in the summer. It’s called an oven—use it. It’ll most likely be good for your waistband, too (and, no, I am not calling you fat). By the way, I know you’re used to $50 bottles of wine…but that $10 bottle will not kill you. (This post wouldn’t have been written without a $7 bottle, in fact.) And, I promise, it won’t kill you to withdraw from your weekly SoHo shopping trips either.

Test your personal relationships

The thing about losing your job is, it doesn’t just affect you. If it goes on long enough, it will probably have adverse effects on those around you as well. This is another thing I’ve had to learn the very hard way. The stress and constant anxiety of the job search caused me to alienate my family. They would keep on asking me if I’d found a job yet and offer their unsolicited advice; I, of course, took this as them nagging me negatively, but in reality, they were just showing they care. It also has tested my relationship with my significant other. Our lifestyle together changed drastically with the loss of the second income; instead of nights out wining and dining in lower Manhattan, we now have movie nights at home with Cup Noodles. It might not sound glamorous, but I really think it’s brought us closer together. There’s nothing like the threat of alone time in the silence of your own apartment that will test your love.

Make time for self-reflection

I use the term “make” here tongue-in-cheek. You won’t have to make time. There will be plenty of it. And a lot of it will be spent looking back at what you’ve accomplished, what you could have done better, and what you wish you had done. A lot. Self-reflection, I think, has saved me a few trips to the shrink. It helps keep even the most jaded New Yorkers sane.


This goes without saying and should be done even if you do have a job, but for the unemployed, it is that much more important. Network online, IRL (in-real-life for those not savvy in internet lingo), at the grocery store, and when volunteering. Your networking switch should never be off. I’ve made so many contacts and, yes, even friends, that may seem by chance, but in reality it was through networking and not being afraid to put myself out there.


Take it from me, being unemployed is tough. It sucks. While I am not one who is satisfied with sitting at home all day—I have that urge, that need, that itch to work—it makes me sleep a little better at night knowing I can at least carry these lessons learned with me in the future and to my next office (or cubicle).