Thursday, January 24, 2013

What I learned by being unemployed for 7 months

First, I have to do a little victory dance -- I accepted an offer of employment and will be rejoining the workforce soon.

Here's what I learned from my personal journey through unemployment. Your results may vary.

1. Being let go from a job was not a personal judgment about me. It was also not a reflection on my professional performance.

2. It happens to "everybody." When I first lost my job, many people (more than I thought) gave me words of encouragement because they had been in my shoes -- long-term unemployed. Six months. Eight months. A year. All in a geographic area commutable to several Tier 1 (ie metropolitan) cities and many Tier 2 (ie large) cities. These were good people. Hard-working and intelligent. They were my inspiration. In this economy, lengthy job gaps are not a death sentence for finding meaningful future employment.

3. Unemployment is a serious test of mental and emotional fortitude. The experience is isolating and depressing. I needed to force myself to get out and network or see friends, especially on the days when I felt like staying in PJs all day. Also, I made it a rule to not wear sweats/PJs during the day unless I were going to the gym. I had been through unemployment previously, so I had a decent emergency fund available to me, but other friends in the same boat struggled with the emotional stress of financial challenges as well.

4. It's also great for the waistline. Between reduced stress, ability to work out regularly and having time to cook more meals at home, I lost 10 pounds and improved my muscle definition.

5. It gets better. The hard work will pay off. I tuned out all media coverage on unemployment because it seemed to focus on the impossibility of getting a job, which is the exception, rather than the rule. I was able to get to know myself better over these 7 months, make better decisions for my future, and realize that work should not be the be-all-end-all of my existence. I had job interviews within a few months, job offers within a few months (which I turned down because they weren't the right fit for me) and, now, a successful emergence from unemployment.

Looking back, my unemployment came at a good time for me -- personally and professionally. Personally, I was able to be available for my family during a very big transition. I was also able to use the time to realize that, as much as I didn't think I was, I centered a lot of my life around my job. Professionally, I was able to re-assess my goals to get a clear picture of where I would like to be in 5 or 10 years.

Today I am grateful for my last few days of "free time" before I get back to the routine of a 9-to-5 gig. I'll be getting my naps and movie-watching in while I can :-)

No comments: