At one of the last meetings of my graduate research seminar, our professor gave us a rather heartwarming pep talk about our future. He encouraged us not to underestimate our own worth and the value we bring to the workforce, not to sell ourselves short and settle in our job search. It was sweet, really.
But at one point, he said, “As you move into this next phase of your lives…” to which one of my classmates interjected, “You mean from student to unemployed?”
I think he pretty much summed up what we were all thinking, at least those of us who took time off between college and grad school and have been “out there” on the job market before.
“My internship ends on May 17,” I said to my boyfriend recently. “Then I’ll officially be unemployed.”
“No you won’t,” he said. “You’ll be funemployed.”
I stared at him blankly. “Did you just think of that?” He nodded proudly.
It was his contention that I should enjoy this summer of unemployment, likely the last time I’ll be without a 9 to 5 for a long time, maybe decades. Initially I railed against this notion. “Being unemployed is not fun!!” I argued.
And that’s true. It’s not. But I thought about his idea, and I realized something. As long as I am truly doing everything in my power to find a job…why not try to enjoy the extra downtime and freedom — and summer — while I have it? This is also a privilege thing, of course, and I realize that. I don’t have a family to feed. I have support and low expenses and a part-time job to keep me afloat. For most people, I know, unemployment is a desperate state and anything but fun.
Even in my situation, in the absence of impending financial catastrophe, it’s still not fun mentally and emotionally. There are few things that can dent your self-esteem faster than looking for a job and not finding one. Constantly trying to sell something that no one seems to be buying. It’s draining, frustrating, and honestly demoralizing. But I also know what will happen if I let these negative emotions about the process take over. Last time, I gave up – took a job that represented the opposite of everything I want in life, and wound up miserable.
This time, I don’t want to do that. It’s hard; the longer the job search takes, the more the anxiety builds. The more you start to feel that you’re not a “legitimate” person. But what does that even mean? In that awful job I talked about before, I could not have appeared more legitimate from the outside. But to myself? I was a joke.
Sweetly Indecisive had a good post recently on the difference between starting and settling. I’m not holding out for my ultimate dream job here – I’m willing to start somewhere. But what I’m not willing to do is settle for a job that makes me dread getting out of bed every single morning.
So I’m going to try, really try, to keep all that negativity and desperation at bay. To work as hard as I can to find a job, but not hate my life and myself in the meantime. To grab onto some of those magical moments of summer “vacation” while I can. To not define myself by this period of stagnancy, however long it may last. And to trust that there’s something worthwhile out there for me.
This is easier said than done, of course. But one day soon enough, when my alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and I head out in the cold for my morning commute, I’ll probably be thinking how I should have enjoyed this time while it lasted. Should have done morning yoga and picked up an iced coffee (from that place that makes their ice cubes out of coffee) and walked through the park in the sunshine. So between resume-polishing and cover letter-writing, I’m going to do all those things.
Funemployment, here I come… I’m almost looking forward to you. Just kindly don’t last too long.