14 Lessons I Learned While Unemployed

Mad Men
Mad Men

Being unemployed sucks and it’s horribly embarrassing. It’s like telling someone you’re a complete loser and actually meaning it. If you know me at all, you know I’m a workaholic, and losing my job last year was like getting broken up with by the guy I was in love with.

In the matter of a month, I interviewed at some of the largest companies in the Midwest. It was a chaotic mess consisting of me spilling coffee on my suit before interviews, cramming company mission statements into my brain and LinkedIn stalking future interviewers like I had just been dumped and was trying to see if that loser had come up with a better girlfriend. But, what I learned during that month was invaluable.

1. Relationships matter.

I HATE networking. I love meeting new people, but not in forced, awkward situations where you feel obligated to make small talk about silly topics like the weather and sports. It’s like the date where all you want to do is yell, “check please” or sneak out of the bathroom window. Let’s face it, no one actually likes professional networking, but it’s a necessity.

2. A mentor is essential.

To this point, I have never had a true mentor. Of course, I have people in my network who are older and provide their advice, but I don’t have one person I go to for continual career guidance. I recommend any career-focused young professional to get a mentor and get one fast.

3. Don’t compare yourself to others.

One of my very best friends was laid off at the same time. It was nice having someone to share the experience with. But, unannounced to him, it was war. I wanted a job first. He got an offer before me, and I was ticked. I had to realize things happen in their own time.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or embarrassed to admit you’re unemployed.

Every single person I met, I avoided the “What do you do?” question like the black plague. I didn’t want to have to say, “I’m unemployed.” However, you never know how that person can help you.

5. No one owes you anything.

I know that is hard to hear if you’re a Millennial. No one cares how many degrees you have, how intelligently you can speak or just how snazzy you are dressed. What people do care about is this: who you know, your ability to connect with the company’s culture and your knowledge of the company and position you’re applying for – and maybe your qualifications. But, the majority of companies hire for personality because if you’re applying for a specific job, they know you can probably do the job since you’re applying. That’s why they’re interviewing you. What they don’t know is if you’ll mesh with the rest of the employees or if you’ll cause problems.

6. Always be humble.

When you have a job, it’s easy to get comfortable and forget to be thankful.

7. Your freedom fund is important.

Yeah, I had a savings and it got me through the month without a normal income, but it could have been and SHOULD have been a lot bigger.

8. Work should be a part of your life.

Not your whole life. You should work to live, not live to work. Especially as a young professional, it’s important to start your career off with establishing a balance and building your work habits around that balance.

9. Don’t give up.

Enough said. Work hard. It will pay off in dividends.

10. Smile on even your worst days.

Always search for the silver lining. It’s there. You just have to find it.

11. Don’t stop your whole life.

I quit working out. I quit eating right and skipped meals. I quit doing almost everything. Literally, all I wanted to do was job search. But, I had to find a balance. For me, it was playing basketball on the court next to my apartment when no one else was there in the middle of the day. It was relaxing and helped me clear my head and gather my thoughts.

12. Take a risk.

Even if the job description calls for a certain skill or quality you don’t have, apply anyway if you think you’d be a good fit. You never know if the employer just might think the same thing.

13. Be yourself.

Don’t take yourself too seriously and be transparent on interviews. Let your personality shine. Interviewers will appreciate it.

14. How to cook.

That’s right. Without the stringent full-time schedule, I learned my way around the grocery store and kitchen. It was about time.

Losing a job without warning sucks, but it’s all how you deal with it. You can cry all you want, but the truth is you still have to pull up your big girl (or boy) panties and deal with it! TC mark

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