Unemployment is a full time job.
It’s a full time job with no pay, no benefits, no colleagues-turned-friends, and no thanks (from yourself).
I’ve been in and out of employment since the end of 2016. It’s the most miserable, yet time consuming part of my life. After university, I was unemployed for three months before getting into a retail job for two years. I never really thought about what being unemployed for a long time would feel like…until it happened.
There are so many misconceptions about what being unemployed is like as well as a large stigma around the unemployed and those who are on benefits. There are many reasons why a person may find themselves unemployed, but I can only talk about my experience about the thing that has encompassed my life for a long time.
Since leaving my retail job I’ve been on work experience a few times in publishing and marketing to get the skills I needed for my career. Now, I job hunt for about 37 hours a week, give or take.
To many, that might seem like a surprise. How can you possibly job-hunt for 37 hours a week and still be unemployed? Beats me. I’m turned down for reasons I either cannot control (such as not being able to drive in the next week, not already having a job) or for reasons that I’ll never know about because employers don’t always give you feedback. But 37 hours a week job-hunting is so different to 37 hours a week in a real job because it’s down to you to stay motivated without any guaranteed outcome. I don’t get paid for the job-hunting I do and 99% of the time, I’m alone. Of course, there is the incentive; a job, but a job opportunity is not for certain, and my email inbox will prove that to you.
The largest difference between most 9-5 jobs and job hunting is the ‘going home’ part of your day. When you’re employed, you have a dedicated time to stop work, put yourself in a new environment and (try) to not think about all the tasks you have to do tomorrow. For me? Job-hunting follows me wherever I go – it’s not exactly something I can escape. It’s also incredibly hard to dedicate specific time to job-hunt and then to leave it. I’ve created multiple routines for my days in order to have time to job-hunt as well as time to not. 9am-5pm (with breaks) is usually for that, but I’ve found myself feeling guilty when I’m not.
It turns out, this is not a new thing. Many people in similar situations find themselves overworked, tired, and burnt out because due to the guilt of not working/job hunting. When I first watched this video by Lucy Wood, I realised she’d hit the nail on the head. While our situations are a little different, they result in the same problem. I don’t feel like I’m working hard enough. I feel guilty when I’m writing a blog post instead of a cover letter, or booking trips to see friends instead of booking an interview. Reading is the worst one. I love reading so much and to me it’s the opposite of work. But at the moment, my mind refuses to let me read in peace and instead I’ll scroll through job boards with my book in the other hand.
Sometimes, I still can’t get it into my head that what I’m doing is working. I don’t have a boss, a working environment, or any money. But I have to tell myself that I am working so hard, because I’m not just job-hunting 37 hours a week. I’m blogging, writing a novel, collaborating with publishers and other bloggers, writing for an online magazine, while also cleaning the house, walking the dog four times a day, and learning to drive.
I am WORKING, which means now and again, I can read a book, I can watch Netflix, I can go to bed at a decent hour and not worry that I haven’t applied for enough jobs. Hell, I’m currently drafting a cover letter and it’s coming up to 8pm. I’m still learning, still trying to not feel bad when I see other people making money from doing what they love while I’m earning nothing at my ‘full time job’.
And I know there’s a light at the end of this horrible tunnel, where I need to have something before I can get it. Unemployed doesn’t mean not working, and I hope that one day employers will start to understand that too.
Want to start from the beginning? Start with Sortin’ My Life Out – The Prologue