Unemployment In Your 20s: Oh, The Places You Won’t Go!

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I have been unemployed in my time. I have been unemployed much longer than one can comfortably be unemployed, which is about a week – give or take – or until the tuna and the ramen run out and the orange juice runs dry and you’ve got to make a run to the corner store and calculate how many cigarettes you can ration until after you’ve made your minimum credit card payment – because paying $2.50 on a $20 withdrawal at the store’s ATM is just a bit too nasty to contemplate without considering just holding up the place.

The Not-so-Great Recession struck just as I was graduating from college, which put a dent in my figure-it-out-as-I-go-along plan and left me spiraling into a series of truly unruly decisions, culminating in a job going door-to-door in the richer parts of LA asking for donations to causes I could care less about. I quit that job about a week into it when I learned that the starting salary was “by commission.”

I sat through dozens of interviews for jobs I would have hated had I actually been accepted for them. That didn’t stop me from putting on a tie and my best shoes whenever I got called in. I sent over a hundred job applications to posters on craigslist, LinkedIn, Monster, CareerBuilder, the post office, Disney, and a plethora of potential pyramid schemes. I counted.

By the time I was actually hired as a cubicle jockey in a mid-level marketing firm, I was down to my very last pennies, and I was so happy to get that phone call I climbed the Culver City Stairs that night to thank the dirty gods of this damned city.

So believe me when I say I’ve been there, and believe me when I say the best thing you can do is, for Pete’s sake, keep yourself busy in the meantime.

If you do find yourself unemployed, don’t succumb to the easy lures of television, internet quizzes and video games. Even if these are your hobbies, they’re going to slow you down and eat up your time.

Do fill the time you’re not looking for a job with constructive self-improvement, such as reading, exercising, volunteering, and anything that can be done for free in your potential career field. Not only is this good for you, it’s especially good for job interviews when they ask you what you do with your free time. No interviewer wants to hear that you’ve been idle, even when you’ve been idle, and no interviewer wants to hear that there’s a gap in your job experience, even when there’s a gap in your job experience.

Don’t waste your time on wishy-washy internships that won’t help you land the job that you want. Certain internships can be beneficial in the long-term, and some even pay, but make sure you’ve factored in failure and the hours you’ll sacrifice from your job-hunting by spending time doing work for no pay.

Finally, accept that depression is a natural part of life and nobody but your mother thinks you deserve to be happy. I’m here to tell you that the bad days are gonna come and the wicked hours of self-doubt and loathing will slither in like venomous snakes to sink their fangs into your squishy spots. All I can tell you is to keep busy, learn to whittle, carve some stakes and stab those depression snakes in their beady little eyes by refusing to stay down – no matter how long they keep you down.

The job you eventually get may not be the job you really want, but we Americans are used to working long hours at things we hate just so we can say that the system works. Get out there and find a clock to punch in the face, and look at every job you get as a stepping stone to something you won’t mind doing until you die.

Keep the faith, true believers. TC mark

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