Unemployment can be a really frustrating time. If you’ve just come out of college you might be feeling pretty disillusioned and thinking, “I went to college for this.” I feel ya. I went to grad school and came out of school into a recession for the second time in my life. Talk about a rude awakening. I was under the impression I would finish my MBA, find some job at a Fortune 500 company and be on my way to climbing the ladder of success. Needless to say it didn’t turn out anything like that and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think that 8 months of unemployment was the ultimate blessing in disguise. Hopefully some of what I share here will shed some light on what might seem like a dark tunnel that lies ahead for those of you who are facing this same dilemma.
5 Things I gained from Unemployment
Passion Projects: Unemployment is actually the perfect time to explore passion projects that you might have been thinking about for the last several years. Chances are you’ve used excuses like “I don’t have the time” or “ I don’t have the resources.” If you tell me you don’t have the time when you are unemployed I’m going to personally come and smack you upside the head. Not seriously, but that’s no longer a valid excuse so abandon it. In the world we live in today there is an endless stream of free resources out there to get any project off the ground. Need knowledge, it’s free. Need people, they are readily available on almost every social network and there are people who are looking for projects to work on. Does your passion project require capital investment? Well, then start a blog and start writing about your passion project. You’ll eventually find a way to get there. And if you’re still stuck, reach out to me and I’ll even build you a blog for free.
Financial Awareness: Nothing will make you get better at managing your money than not having any. I graduated from business school and watched my bank account dwindle to literally a zero balance after my financial aid money ran out. I had to move back to my parents house to a town that I hate. In order to attend networking events, instead of paying the cover charge, I had to volunteer to work the door. I even brought a flask with me to a bar so I wouldn’t have to buy any drinks. It’s amazing to see that 8 months later that experience has made me so much more financially aware. I don’t buy anything that I don’t absolutely need. I eat out maybe once a week. I setup an ING direct savings account and anytime I want to purchase anything, I setup a sub account for that item and I just contribute to it. For example, I want to go to Costa Rica at the end of this year, and every week I put in 25 dollars to my Costar Rica fund. I need some couches for my apartment, so I throw about 50 bucks a week into that account. Basically, I don’t buy anything unless I have the cash to pay for it.
Shifting Priorities/Hobbies: If you spend anytime on my blog or know anything about me, it’ll become apparent to you that my life is driven by surf conditions. When I was unemployed I knew that spending all day submitting resumes was a recipe for depression and disaster. If that’s how you are approaching this, STOP. Seriously not only is not effective, it will make you feel like shooting yourself. Surfing, which was something that started out as an outlet, completely transformed my life. When I was unemployed, I literally would spend 6 hours a day hanging out at the beach and surfing. I’m healthier, happier , and have way more energy because I found this outlet. Don’t live near a beach? Well, learn a musical instrument. You can probably find a used guitar on craigslist for peanuts. And if you want to learn to play, there’s probably a blogger somewhere who teaches people how to play guitar through his blog, for FREE. If you already play the guitar, well you know what I think you should do for your business idea :). You can even find some classic Gibsons to get you started.
Just find an outlet and you will get through this period of life with a much bigger smile on your face.
Skill Development: If there’s any one thing I used this 8 months for, it was to develop skills that I didn’t already have. I had dabbled with blogs before, but I really didn’t know much. Today, thanks to developing all these skills, my blog pays my rent and all of the rest of my income is play money. I consider it the best off-the-job training in the world. For anything you want to learn, there’s likely a free resource out there for you.
Relationships: It sounds weird, but through social media I have developed a wide variety of different relationships with some people who are both personally and professionally some of the most amazing people around. My network extends beyond my Geography and it blows my mind how powerful this community of people is as a whole.
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that unemployment was a picnic. It actually sucked in many ways. I was like a beach bum and many people started to wonder if my life was going in a downward spiral because of my growing obsession with riding waves. But in the end, ALL OF IT, was an amazing blessing in disguise. I encourage you to treat this is a journey of self discovery that will ultimately put you on the path which you belong. With unemployment you get a great opportunity to evaluate what you truly want. The downside of getting a job right out of college is that you really don’t know what makes you happy and you end up taking whatever you can get. Pave your own path, escape the Matrix, unplug, and tell me your story a year from now (if you follow my advice).