Have you ever been unemployed after completing your education? Spent a few months without any salary being deposited in your account? It’s a difficult period, right?
I spent the last 2 months unemployed. I left my role as Content Team Lead at BankBazaar.com on 6 September 2019 without another job offer in hand. I had my reasons to do so, and I don’t regret that decision at all.
But all the same, being unemployed is a period of desolation for a middle-class person dependent on their own income alone. My husband Rajesh very sweetly agreed to support me while I left my job and waited for another one. However, for someone who dislikes not having their own money to spend, I wasn’t going to feel good taking any money from him, eh?
These 2 months have been very enlightening. I learnt quite a few things. I hope you haven’t had the misfortune to be jobless, but if you have, you will empathise with some of the things this period of unemployment taught me.
1. Worrying About Not Getting a Job Is Counter-Productive
I spent the first 2-3 weeks worrying. Even when I was at Mangalore for 10 days, taking care of my parents-in-law and cleaning the hell out of that house, I couldn’t but dwell on why I wasn’t getting any job calls.
I was constantly agonising over my depleting bank balance and wondering if I wasn’t getting a job because I wasn’t suitable for any role. Questioning my competence and luck, haunted by my stepdad’s meanest words: “you’re just the best among the worst”. Apprehensive if my CV was not well made or whether I was going about job applications the wrong way. Concerned if I would become a victim of the supposed global recession that was coming in.
And none of that was useful. It only made me grumpy, sensitive, and whiny, and that is not the mood you want to be in when you’re alone at home all day. When you start feeling defeated, you aren’t even going to try, and that may lose you several opportunities.
You need to accept three things:
- Every job opening you see is not going to be a good fit for you. If you go into a panic application mode, you will end up getting into a job you may not like.
- Every job opening you get overlooked or rejected for is neither your fault nor anybody else’s. That job was destined for someone else, and your ideal role is just a little further away.
- The more you worry, the more you lose confidence. This means that when a good opportunity does reach you, you may not be ready for it. You don’t want that, do you?
2. I Missed Working and Keeping My Brain Busy
The loneliness got to me in 3-4 days’ time. Even if I had a million chores to finish, I would feel disinterested in doing them. I would sit melancholic on the sofa. I couldn’t even bring myself to read anything new. I realised that I needed to feel like I’m working, but didn’t know how to motivate myself.
My friend Siddharth got sick of my ranting and started pushing me to write. But I was going through creative and psychological blockage. I would open MS Word and stare at it for hours until I got sick of the blank page.
He then decided to let me help with his website. He asked me to edit his articles. He also needed to return to writing/updating his website, so we encouraged each other to get productive. Once I edited a few articles, I got my writing mojo back. I reorganised my 3 old defunct blogs and found some reusable content. The first post I made was about poetry recitation, on 27 September.
I then decided to challenge myself to a 30-day blogging streak. I created a list of articles I could rehash and new posts I could write. I customised the blog’s design and experimented with WordPress. I tracked my blog’s viewership/traffic metrics and promoted my content on WhatsApp stories and Facebook. I learnt a lot in a few days’ time.
So, a bit of editing meant to keep me busy for a few minutes a day led to me writing, strategising and marketing for, and managing my blog. I even wrote an article on Gunther Holtorf, who travelled the world for 26 years, for Siddharth’s site.
The point here is that you must find ways to keep your mind active. Whatever floats your boat, whatever suits your career or life.
3. I Missed Being Around People As Much As I Missed Working
While Sid’s site and my blog took care of me feeling useless (and the household chores – yeah, they don’t really take care of themselves even if you ignore them!), I still missed being around human beings almost all of the wakeful hours. The absolute silence of the house would get to me until I switched on some music or web series. I needed to see people and talk to them as much as I needed to remain busy.
Though this was never remedied as such, my friends helped a lot. Prachi would call and talk to me whenever she could and my Gulab Gang and Sid always made themselves available on chat. I met Sid and Aishwarya when I could (I was staying away from evening parties to avoid accelerating the depletion of my bank balance), and Avijit, Rajesh’s friend and my rakhi brother, came over when he could too.
To be fair, I could have done other things to remedy this. I could have gone for events, joined an NGO activity, visited bookstores, or met other friends. The only reason I didn’t do any of these was that I lived too far away and commute would cost me a bomb. But if money is not a problem for you, you should try to get out and meet people, new and old, to not get enmeshed in this problem.
4. Keeping Yourself Busy with One Activity Alone Won’t Cut It
While I’d started writing and managing my blog, I realised that just that one thing won’t keep me going. Every activity can get monotonous if you do too much of it. So I decided that I must combine different things I needed to finish every day to optimise the usage of my time and brain.
I would write an article, spend half an hour to an hour surfing job sites, cook, clean the kitchen, watch something on YouTube/Amazon Prime/Netflix/Hotstar, clean parts of the house, organise my messy photographs folder on the laptop, read around 30-50 pages every day, organise my books – whatever I could get done each day.
I would make a to-do list and reward myself for successfully completed tasks – I did pretty much most of the things I’ve talked about in my post on ways to keep yourself calm while under stress. Writing that post also helped me improve my own coping mechanism.
5. There Will Be Off-days, and That’s Fine
You also have to understand that every single day is not going to be highly productive. There are some days when you feel off-colour, when you can’t do everything on your list, and you can’t feel satisfied. That’s okay. All you need to do is to make sure that not every day is like that. Having one bad day a week is fine, but if there’s only one good day a week, you need to shake it off and get a move on.
6. Always Be Prepared
One thing I did at the beginning of my unemployment that I’m proud of is the ‘can-sell-if-required’ list Rajesh and I made. We decided that if I wouldn’t get a job in 2-3 months’ time and we ran out of money for sustenance, we would first sell some things in the house that we don’t absolutely need. I knew I could ask my mother or friends for financial help, but that would be my last resort.
We did a rough inventory of the things in the house and made a list, prioritised from the most disposable to the least. Even though we knew we wouldn’t end up needing to sell things, that list made me feel better about the short-term future.
I also cut down expenses wherever I could. You’ve already read my recommended ways of cost-cutting – most of which I practised. The most important place where I reduced expenses was food – by cooking at home, I not only saved money but also kept myself busy.
I also kept abreast of news and activities in my field – the SEO and content world – in order to ensure that when I do get a job interview, I wouldn’t make a fool of myself by being ignorant. I did practice interviews with myself and thought up answers to questions interviewers might ask. I actively let people know that I was looking for jobs, and many of them gave me leads.
7. Having a Good Support System Is Important
It’s quite obvious from all that I said so far, that it is important to have a good support system of friends and family.
If Rajesh hadn’t said that he would take on the burden of being the sole earner and pay the home loan EMIs, I would never have been able to leave the stifling job that BankBazaar had become.
If my husband and sister didn’t spend some time listening to me yap at the end of every day, I would have felt depressed.
If Sid hadn’t encouraged me to write and keep myself busy at all times, I would have sulked my 60 days away.
If Prachi hadn’t spoken to me almost every single day, I would have been quite frustrated.
If my friends hadn’t responded to my WhatsApp chats, I would have felt lonelier and more melancholic.
And I had this support because I opened up to them and let them hold me. When you’re going through a tough time, don’t grip your pride and ego and refuse help. I may have been a tad over-dependent on friends and family, but you don’t have to go to those lengths. You just need to make sure that someone knows what you’re going through, and that you have someone to talk to honestly at the end of the day.
8. Focus on the Positive, Have Confidence in Yourself, and Things Will Fall into Place
Howmuchever help you have from others, if you do not help yourself, you’re going to go nowhere in life. So instead of looking at things that are going wrong, look at what’s working for you. Look at the positive side of things and keep the silver lining in focus. My two favourite axioms are well worth mentioning here: This too shall passand It could have been worse.
Secondly, trust your abilities and knowledge. Believe in yourself, be confident that you are an asset to the world. When I got the interview call from the company whose offer I accepted (I’ll tell you all about them in a few weeks’ time!) I had long stopped worrying about not getting a job and was confident that I could be what they’re looking for. I was even prepared to refuse the offer if it did not meet the things I was looking for – a decent hike, a role that would challenge me and never leave me to enter a comfort zone, and a good working environment.
An Idle Mind Is a Devil’s Workshop Indeed
I guess the main thing I’m trying to say is that the more inactive you remain, the more you’re hounded by overthinking. You will get caught in a cycle of self-pity and fate-blaming, which would eventually lead to a depressed mood and outlook. Unless you’re actually suffering from depression, don’t let yourself go there.
And while I would never want to be unemployed ever again, I would happily admit that perhaps I needed this break to learn a few lessons.