Now that I’ve had a job for about a month, I think it’s safe for me to finally reflect on the painstaking process that was the job hunt. When I graduated undergrad I got lucky — I knew someone who got me an interview and that one interview led to the job I’d have for the next five years. It’s only fair, thank you universe, that this time around was not so easy.
In total, I was on the lookout for a job for eight months. After five months of half-hearted looking, I quit my job and designated three straight months to sending out application after application. While I know there are a lot of people out there who have looked harder for longer, my journey felt long.
Since I had never lived through the job application process, there were a lot of things that surprised me. Which brings me to the point of this blog. If you’ve never lived through unemployment there are some things you should know to help others through it. And if you have lived through it, I think it’s important to know you’re not alone in your thoughts and feelings (solidarity sister, ya ya!).
What being unemployed did to me (and others)…
Here’s where it all begins. Before I went through this season, I had never fully grasped the emotional toll the job search can have you.
One of my dear friends, Leslie, who was searching for a job at the same time as me put it this way, "The stress of being unemployed while student loan repayment was looming over me was causing my hair to fall out in chunks. I started to believe that I was a balding, unemployed waste of an education that wasn't worth any employer's time. This mentality started bleeding into other aspects of my life as I started to think that I had nothing to offer in personal relationships. In essence, the process reduced me to a fragile person with limited self-worth on the brink of losing it at any given moment."
For me, my search left me in tears more than I care to admit, not because the rejections felt personal, but because I felt a lack of control in the face of the unknown. Often it felt like my resume was submitted into a black hole — I couldn’t control whether it was even seen. Granted, this allowed me to comfort myself with the idea that since they didn’t give me a second glance then it wasn’t really rejection, right? The not knowing why I wasn’t requested for an interview was maddening. For a society that tells us constructive criticism is healthy and the only way we grow, the silence surprised me.
But, a worse unknown was that of time. I could be unemployed for anywhere from one day to…well…forever. The vague timeline did a number on the psyche. I felt like I couldn’t make plans to go see friends because what if I got a job in a month? Or what if I didn’t get a job for a year and ran out of money? I struggled even more with the day to day — should I invest in joining a new book study if I’ll be moving soon? Do I get trained for a coffee shop job I’d drop the instant I’m offered a development position? This type of back and forth led me to have some crazy thoughts…
Some of the thoughts I had while applying to jobs...
- Is my phone number wrong on my resume? That must be why they’re not calling me about the job. Wait, is it bad this line of thought sounds like that of a delusional woman being ghosted by her recent date? … Darn it, my phone number is written correctly.
- Turns out applying for jobs is just a high stakes version of online dating — the high stakes being that my livelihood depends on it … although I guess that could be true of online dating as well if I were a gold digger. Hmmm…would becoming a gold digger be easier or harder than finding a job? Must research how one goes about becoming a gold digger.
- Oh, I have an email, it’s probably about a job! Nope, just Coldstone and Nordstrom Rack. Must evaluate life choices.
- Wow, another person from my graduate program got a job! I’m happy for them. It seems like the perfect fit. I’m totally happy for them. [Starts sobbing into bowl of Coldstone.]
The Bottom Line: Four things I learned…
1 – Community is necessary. I needed to surround myself with people I knew cared for me, loved me, and believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. My family was the tops when it came to support — my parents even pretended they liked having me living in their basement. They trusted that God had a plan even when my hopes faltered.
2 – I had to tell people what I needed. This was especially true of my friends that had never been in a season of unemployment. Not only did they have their own lives, but they weren’t mind readers. They wanted to care for me and help me through, I just needed to be clear about the ways I felt supported. What I asked wasn’t earth shattering, it was as simple as a text that told me they were thinking of me or an invitation to come over for ice cream. When I asked them to be intentional and they responded in waves.
3 – People genuinely want to help. From family to friends to strangers, I had people networking on my behalf. In the beginning it felt awkward and uncomfortable to ask people to make connections for me. But, I found that the more genuine I was in wanting to know about someone’s career path and background, the more conversations I left feeling encouraged and inspired to keep going. I’m not saying it wasn’t ever awkward, but the bottom line is it can’t hurt to be genuine and ask without expectation.
4 – My worth is not in a job. Out of everything I learned, this was my most important take away. As my dear friend said, “The good thing about experiencing such a low moment in life is that it was the perfect time for self-reflection and after the darkness I was able to see that I am more than what can be listed on a CV. I do many things that feed my soul that cannot be dwindled to fit on two-pages and those things deserve to be nurtured no matter what job I occupy.” While I love my career and the work that I do, letting it define me will eventually lead to self-worth issues, whether I’m employed or not.
This season taught me a lot more — about transitioning gracefully, facing fears, being patient… Now that I’m out of it I can look back and be thankful for bits of it. But honestly, I wouldn’t wish this season on my worst enemy. For all of you who are still searching for the right job, I get it and I hope you feel a little less alone after reading this. For those of you who are supporting the aforementioned people, they need you now more than ever. Keep on supporting them … after all, you could make the difference between them finding the job of their dreams, or becoming a gold digger. Take it seriously.