Unemployment is not easy; trying to find a job in a world were everyone that you’re up against is just like you (good grades at school, degree, internships under the belt) leaves you feeling utterly helpless. The daily barrage of rejection emails, meaningless job titles and refusals to provide feedback can result in the appearance of dark clouds overhead and a crippling sense of worthlessness.
I recently left my job as a secondary school English teacher, and plunged into the unemployment hurricane. My decision to leave was based on dissatisfaction with the job, and I felt confident in the knowledge that I could pick up work doing supply teaching if the money started to run dry. Ten weeks later, and I’m still unemployed. I’ve applied for more jobs than I can remember, and have had more rejections than I can keep track of. To top it all off, secondary supply work tends to dry up at this time of year, and the month of August (when all children will be off school, and thus there will be no hope of working) is drawing perilously near.
Thankfully my boyfriend has a good, stable job, and if we fell into problems we would always have people to call upon for help. I am eternally grateful for that. However, this post isn’t about money, it’s about getting through the storm, because for many, it seems dark and never ending. Having only been out of work for just over two months, I’m no expert, but I do feel that I have picked up some useful ways of thinking about the world that have helped me on those darker days.
1. Don’t let rejection break you
Rejection is never nice. Being unemployed means that you have to put yourself ‘out there’ continuously and thus, statistically speaking, you are far more likely to face rejection. What I’ve come to learn is that rejection doesn’t necessarily mean that you are incompetent, or weren’t right for the job. For every ‘no’ response that you receive, take it on the chin, and move on. Because in the current job market, with hundreds of people applying for each role, there are going to be a lot of ‘NOs’.
In the words of my dad, ‘recruitment is a con’. More often than not there is someone who is earmarked for the job, and sometimes the recruiters themselves are not adequately trained for the process. Other times, they just have a very specific sort of candidate in mind. If you don’t fit the profile, you won’t get the role.
I have spent hours crafting my CV and cover letters so that I can make apparent just how precisely I fit the skills in job descriptions. And then I get a rejection email a few weeks later. The general excuse is that I don’t have enough experience, despite the role being advertised as ‘entry-level’ or ‘suitable for graduates’. For someone like me, who is changing career direction, lack of experience is always going to be an irritating issue.
At the end of the day, if they can’t see that you are right for the role, then its their loss. If they don’t want to take a chance on new talent, then it’s their loss. If they aren’t going to read your application thoroughly, then it’s their loss. Just don’t let it get you down and, crucially, don’t let it stop you continuing to apply for similar things. It really is a flooded market out there – so persistence is surely one of the few things that will pay off.
2. Utilise the internet fully
All of the jobs I have applied for I have found online, and many of them didn’t come up on recruiter’s websites, or job pages. My advice is to research, research, research – that way you’ll discover new companies and opportunities. For example, just the other day I was browsing a local newspaper web page, something that I don’t normally do. This lead me to an article about a local ad agency that has just secured a big contract. I then went to the website of the agency and was bowled over by how fantastic the company looked (not to mention the fact that they were based 10 minutes down the road from me) – to top it off, they had a few vacancies on their job page.
Follow companies on Twitter and LinkedIn, as many will post jobs there, preferring not to go through recruitment agencies. Nevertheless, make sure you register with agencies too, creating a profile and general online CV (although do read the small print with anyone you plan on signing up to. Since registering online with a couple of job sites, the email address that I have used has been majorly spammed).
Network as well – tell your neighbour, hairdresser, local shopkeeper that you’re looking for work. I’ve actually managed to achieve one or two work experience placements this way.
3. Fill spare time with hobbies
One of my reasons for leaving teaching was lack of free time. I love cooking and baking, for example, but found that I never had time to do it. Now, I feel like I have all the time in the world, so when I’m done searching for jobs, or can’t face writing yet another cover letter, I do something that I enjoy doing.
This afternoon, for example, I made bagels, and at least once a week I try to update this blog. When working full time, few of us can spend time doing the things that we truly enjoy – don’t let this opportunity go to waste.
Before I left teaching I regularly complained about never having the time to go to the gym. Most people will likely feel the same way – in any job it requires great motivation to drag yourself to the gym after a hard day’s work. So now, I make sure I go several times a week. And if things get bad and I can no longer afford membership, then I’ll take up running or cycling, or I’ll do yoga to YouTube videos in my living room – there are endless possibilities for keeping fit.
I would also argue that exercise can help you to maintain a positive attitude. If I’m having a particularly bad day prompted by multiple rejections, then I get myself to the gym. When I come back, things normally seem that little bit brighter.
5. Get out and talk to people
This is a biggy, because staying inside the house all day every day is a recipe for disaster. If I stay inside continuously, then I find myself talking to inanimate objects, and binge-watching YouTube vloggers. To prevent this from happening, I try to go out for a cup of tea once a week in a cosy cafe, and sometimes drive into town to browse the shops. This does, of course, require excellent will-power in resisting the urge to actually buy anything, but I’m one of those people who enjoys the process of browsing just as much as I do buying. (OK, maybe not quite as much, but you get my point)
When it comes to unemployment, I’m a firm believer that you just have to keep at it. Eventually, you’ll see the calm after the storm, and all those months of endless applications will disappear into the past. It will happen. Be strong and keep going.