How to be unemployed
I've been lucky enough to have almost always been satisfied and happy with my job. However, like most people, I sometimes find myself thinking, "wouldn't it be great if I didn't have to go to work"? It sounds great, doesn't it? No alarm clock beeping at you, no need to put on stuffy work clothes and no long commute. You can do whatever you feel like all day long. It might sound wonderful, but for me it was very different from what I expected.
I would like to point out now that if you're looking for information about unemployment, how to quit a job or how to find a job, then you've come to the wrong place. Have no fear, there are many other places where you can find this type of information. This article is about how I stumbled into self-unemployment (as I call it), and the tips I used to stop myself from going crazy. Read on if you dare.
Nearly two years ago, my husband and I chose to leave our nice, settled life in the UK and move to the United States. We chose adventure and excitement over stability and (my) career. I can't remember what made me make this decision, although I think I may have been promised a puppy (a puppy that I finally got 18 months later). It seemed like a good idea at the time - I would be a lady of leisure for a while, my husband would benefit from a great opportunity for his career, and both of us would have a lot of fun and meet new people.
What I didn't realize at the time was that, for someone who has always worked, not working comes as a shock. It's one thing to take a few weeks off for a vacation, or to go on maternity leave and have a baby to take care of (or so I hear), but it's quite another to not be working for the first time ever and have nothing at all to do. So what would you do if you had nothing to do? There's only so much watching TV, surfing the Internet, going shopping, cleaning and cooking you can do. I found it incredibly difficult, so I had to learn how to make unemployment work for me.
Tip #1: Make some friends
If you already have some friends, then you're way ahead of where I was 2 years ago! I didn't know anyone in the US apart from my husband. In order to rectify this, I joined a newcomers' group, which was a great way to meet people. And I joined every club they had that interested me - coffee mornings, Bunco, Ladies Night Out, Movie Goers, Culinary Club, and the Book Group. If I had the slightest interest in it, I did it. They were a lovely and welcoming bunch, and I eventually made friends with a really nice group of people.
I really can't stress enough how important it is for you to make some friends when unemployed. It especially helps if some of your friends are also at home during the day. Having other people to talk to and spend time with can make unemployment a lot more fun.
A side note: I've recently heard about a website where you can rent a friend to go to a party, event or do an activity with. This concept seems a bit crazy, but maybe it's so crazy it's genius! I'll let you know how it goes if I ever try it out myself.
Tip #2: Do some volunteer work, but not too much
I was warned about over-volunteering when I first became unemployed, and I thought, "That will never happen to me". Well it did. I volunteered at my newcomers group, a local watershed group, three different environmental groups and a children's after school program. Even though a lot of the work was very fulfilling, after 9 months of excessive volunteering, I was completely burnt out!
So my advice is to only volunteer for things that are interesting and fulfilling for you, and start with only a few hours a week. Once you have adjusted to your new voluntary role, then and only then should you increase your hours.
Many websites offer assistance with finding volunteer "jobs" like VolunteerMatch.org, but personally I have had the best success with visiting my local Volunteer Bureau and checking the local paper.
Tip #3: Further your education
Take your time out of full time working to help you develop some new skills and gain some knowledge. It could even be your chance to start working towards the career you really want. I chose to use some of my time while unemployed to continue working towards my post-graduate diploma, which I had already begun to study online with the Open University.
Even if you don't want to spend any money on education, there are lots of ways to gain some knowledge while unemployed:
Local libraries, community organizations and other groups often offer free classes and seminars, many of which will be during the day. Check on the Internet, on local notice boards (often found in the library), in your local paper and local magazines to find out what's going on near you. I went to a couple of free courses while unemployed, but I wish I had gone to more!
The Open University, a very reputable online university in the UK, offers free courses on OpenLearn. OpenLearn now includes over 8000 hours of free course material. Free-Ed.net, GCFLearnFree.org and many other websites also offer free online educational materials on a variety of programs.
More about unemployment
- Ways to Overcome Unemployment
Unemployment can happen to anyone. The important thing is to know how to overcome it and get back on your feet.
- Unemployed and Learning to Deal with It
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- Why unemployment sucks
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Tip #4: Get a hobby
Finding a fulfilling way to spend your time is the key to being happy when unemployed. Even if you're involuntarily unemployed, unless you have to spend all your time looking for a job, taking up a new hobby can be a great way to occupy your time (and your mind).
My hobby was exercise. Despite the fact that I am a mediocre guitar and viola player, and have a host of other interesting skills I could have honed, I decided that exercise would be my new thing. And I didn't even go to a gym where I could meet people - my gym is a room in my apartment building that is empty during the day... sigh. Well, at least I was quite muscly by the time I found a job! Later, I also joined a volleyball team, which IS a great way to make friends. At least I figured it out in the end.
Tip #5: Chill out!
When you're unemployed you can do whatever you want. If you want to watch a movie in the middle of the day, go for it. If you want to go for coffee or lunch by yourself, why not just do it?
I was so uptight as an unemployed person that I completely forgot about all of the fun things I like to do in my downtime. I think i just didn't want to spend money, but it resulted in me almost never leaving the apartment. Finally getting out of this rut really helped me to feel a lot happier.
My eventual solution to my issues with being unemployed was to get a job. Even though I have had to take jobs where I haven't been paid as much as I had grown accustomed to, I have been fortunate to be able to do some networking and learn some new skills in my chosen field. I wasn't very good at filling my time and feeling like a contributing member of my household without working. Sigh. Well, I've been unemployed twice already in the last two years. Maybe third time's a charm?
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