How We Survived A Year Of Unemployment
By now, you’ve heard the story of how I lost my job, house and sanity last year; an unholy trifecta and veritable s**tstorm that would level any normal person. But not this mama!
It wasn’t easy, but I finally see a light at the end of the tunnel and for once, it’s not a train.
If I can survive, anyone can. The hardest part? Finding moments of joy and opportunities for reflection and rediscovery. I don’t do “happy” well; I usually defer to b*tch panic, especially when I’m robbed of routine and, um… my house and livelihood. This past year forced me not only to change my idea of “normal”, but also my identity and my future. It was a lot of work, but here’s how I did it:
- I changed the monologue: Hi, I’m Alexis’ anxiety! Follow me on my path to total self-destruction as we examine every worst-case scenario!
I was convinced that if I ever lost my job we would survive for exactly two weeks before selling everything we own and becoming hermits in a box by the underpass. In reality, we lasted much longer than I thought we would. I had some savings, a severance package and support to see me through the biggest hurdles. I worked hard to change the negative-speak and set realistic expectations. Without sounding too “New Age-y” and “#blessed,” I found the positives: our new house will be clean and dry, we will not starve, I will find a job!
- I cast a wider net: I started looking at a greater variety of opportunities. Contracts? Sure! Self-Employment? Why not? Part-time? Bring it!
I’m now leveraging 16 years of knowledge in retail marketing, graphic design and communications into what I hope will be a successful new career.
- I started volunteering: Once a week, I spend several hours at a not for profit developing digital marketing assets. The additional skill sets look great on a resume and the finished pieces are perfect for my portfolio.
- I kept learning and networking: I’m a sucker for research. If there’s something I don’t know, I make it my business to learn it. I took online tutorials and courses at Udemy.com and Lynda.com. I read books about freelance careers and customer success. I joined MumNet and attended networking functions to grow my village. I signed up for career workshops, job fairs, and connected with people in any industry I was interested in. Everyone was happy to let me pick their brains and some of the meetings led to job interviews. Most importantly, the process of networking forced me to go outside and be in the world.
- I enjoyed more time with my kids: This should be at the top of the list. I took advantage of every opportunity to take the boys to and from school, to the park, appointments and walks around the city to discover the world and each other. I will never get this time back once they’re older, and the extra time allowed me to slow down and be with them rather than just herding them around and getting things done.
We’re a work in progress – still not gainfully employed, house isn’t finished yet (because, insurance companies) and we don’t know what the next few months will bring us, making it hard to make any long-term plans. The things I don’t know and can’t predict far exceed the things I know for certain. What I’ve come to is this: After 16 years, I lost my “safety net.” So I might as well take a chance, laugh a bit and above all, enjoy the ride.