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How to be unemployed

Updated on May 21, 2014

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.

How would you spend your time if you didn't have to work?
How would you spend your time if you didn't have to work?
My new puppy, Rory Calhoun
My new puppy, Rory Calhoun

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.

Me at one of my many volunteering jobs
Me at one of my many volunteering jobs

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, 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., and many other websites also offer free online educational materials on a variety of programs.

When you're unenemployed, it's perfectly normal to get back into bed fully clothed...
When you're unenemployed, it's perfectly normal to get back into bed fully clothed...

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 solution

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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    • chirls profile image

      chirls 6 years ago from Indiana (for now)

      Lspel, it sounds like you had a similar experience to me. I, too discovered that I need something substantial to fill my time. I also enjoy working from home, but have recently started looking for a job which will probably be outside of the home. Good luck if you do decide to venture out into the world!

    • FortuneCookieProj profile image

      FortuneCookieProj 6 years ago

      Great article! I have been unemployed for almost 3 years now. When I married my husband he was in the military. He wanted me to be there at all times (because of the strange hours they work). At first, it drove me insane. Then I started a bit of freelance work, which helped. I also have two dogs that keep me company. Between taking care of the house, and writing-- it was like a full time job. It was so weird though, because I went from working 45hrs a week to put myself through college.. to, well, not. If life allows me to, I'd like to work continue to find work from home. However, I wouldn't mind venturing into the world again as well. I just don't want to work retail, or at a restaurant. Being about a semester away from my associates, and not working in three years doesn't give me too many credentials :(

    • chirls profile image

      chirls 6 years ago from Indiana (for now)

      prairieprincess - I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds unemployment difficult. I guess it IS the lack of structure that makes it hard, very good point. Thanks for commenting (and sorry it's taken me so long to respond).

      anglnwu - I guess gainful unemployment works well for some people! I'm hoping I will be able to enjoy it more when I have kids, but I'm not too sure! I guess I will just have to wait and see. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for stopping by. :)

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 6 years ago

      Lovely read. I'm gainfully unemployed--a stay-home mom with too many things to do and so little time to do them. I've worked before and don't miss it one bit. Enjoyed your hub.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 7 years ago from Canada

      Chirls, great hub! I know exactly what you mean about the difficulty of being unemployed. I've been off for six months now, and it's hard to not have that structure. This was quite an amusing read!

      Take care.

    • chirls profile image

      chirls 7 years ago from Indiana (for now)

      Thanks for stopping by Denise! It sounds like you're much better than I am at being unemployed. Good luck with your writing.

    • denise mohan profile image

      denise mohan 7 years ago from California

      I have been unemployed for a year now, by choice. Don't want to quit entirely unless I can make money writing. Have been working on a fiction piece for quite some time. I totally enjoyed this hub. For one thing it help connect me as I am always on my computer. Stop by my hub and then check out my blog. Looking for your opinion. Love your hubs!

    • chirls profile image

      chirls 7 years ago from Indiana (for now)

      Hey Saddlerider, thanks for stopping by. I was in the fortunate position to have chosen not to work, even if it ended up not being what I wanted! I know there are many in a similar position to yourself with the economy in its current state. Hopefully it will start to turn around soon, but that doesn't make it any easier for right now.

      Working a few part time jobs sounds like it could be a good solution for you - it might keep things more interesting to try a few different jobs. I found volunteering great for that - I got to try new things and meet lots of different people.

    • saddlerider1 profile image

      saddlerider1 7 years ago

      Interesting hub. For the first time in 35 years I am unemployed, my position was terminated due to the loss of the largest account my company had. Lost to compettition and my company not willing to compete, hence my departure.

      Again for the first time in 35 years filing for EI benefits. They gave me the maximum allowable, which keeps the hounds at bay from my door and pays what bills I have, fortunately not many.

      I was also given the extended weeks to 46 so I am good till next March, so I have not hurried to find work. However I am concerned due to my age, entering my 60th year, I wonder how many employers will show any interest?

      Although I feel confident I should find work, I am thinking of doing some part time work at two different places if need be, rather than go back to a full time 9-5 job at one company. Like you, I have found interests to keep me busy, like writing on hubs, exercise, visiting friends,the outdoors and catching up on hobbies.

      I am fortunate to have been able to at least collect EI sadly there are so many in your country running out of time and benefits and still can't find work. The economy is not improving rapidly anywhere.

    • chirls profile image

      chirls 7 years ago from Indiana (for now)

      Forgive me o resident unemployment expert! I am but a humble newbie who doesn't know about these things. :P

      Glad you liked it, and thanks for visiting.

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

      Great job on this hub, chiles (in spite of the fact that you didn't consult me since I am the expert in these here parts!). Thoroughly enjoyed it!

    • chirls profile image

      chirls 7 years ago from Indiana (for now)

      I'm glad I'm not the only one to have had the same sort of experience with unemployment. It's hard work! Thanks to you both for reading and commenting.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      I know this one personally as my husband has been unemployed now since we lost most of our business with the advent of the EHR! He keeps very busy though and you make great points about that. It is much the same as you pointed out as folks on maternity leave - you just need to have the mindset that you can and will find other things to do. Great points!

    • Jai Warren profile image

      Jai Warren 7 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      It's a lot of work to feel productive when you're jobless. I truly work at being workless. Did I just say that? :) Really good Hub, great advice! Thanks Chirls, Ciao!