So the thing about unemployment that nobody tells you, is how utterly soul-sucking and depressing it really is. Granted, my first couple months of having no job was utter bliss – I traveled, volunteered, visited friends and family, went to new places, tried new things, basked in the comfort of the USA, reveled in waking up with nothing particular to do except maybe decide which film at the Sundance Film Festival to watch. But being out of the US for two years also led me to underestimate just how bad the job market really is. And it’s bad. At June 2011, the unemployment rate was 9.2% and, as so many of us know, that doesn’t count the thousands of people who have just given up on looking for a job.
I used to wonder about those people. Those people who weren’t counted among the unemployed ranks because they had given up. I used to wonder why they would stop networking or why they wouldn’t just send out one resume a day or what they did with their days instead. Now I know. Because after the first few months of joyful unemployment and the happy twinkle of job leads and second interviews, there come the tedious, soul-shattering months of unwilling unemployment, of disappointing job leads that don’t pan out, of sleepless nights filled with unnerving questions about life decisions, financial stability, and whether the two years you just spent in Lesotho were really worth it.
Many of you know me in person. And I feel confident that you would generally describe me as a motivated, proactive individual with a rather sunny disposition. But by Month Six of unemployment, I was downright depressed. More than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Depressed, embarrassed, and entirely worthless. Here I was, two masters degrees, 10 years of experience, forprofit and nonprofit experience, time spent abroad — and still jobless, homeless, and dateless. I couldn’t even bring myself to blog about anything because I felt like if I didn’t mention the job hunt, it would be a glaring ommission.
But now that I am beyond that dark and twisty phase, now that I am not only gainfully employed but excited about the work itself, I think I can write about those months. And I want to write about them because maybe you’re looking for a job too. Or maybe you know someone who is looking for a job and you don’t know how else to support them. My period of unemployment is rather typical — 57% of unemployed people are unemployed for 15 weeks or more — so perhaps the lessons I learned will help others. First up: The Case of the Missing Cheer.
For now, enjoy and be a tad disturbed by this video: