Perhaps you left your last job feeling confident and positive that you’d find something new without too much hassle. Perhaps you had dreams of freeing up some time by freelancing and maybe landing a cushy part-time job to keep the wolves at bay. But two, three, four, five months later and that confidence starts to flag. The freelance work doesn’t quite cover your bills and the part-time job market is more competitive than you thought, especially considering your lacklustre admin skills. You’re starting to feel despondent, self-doubt is creeping in and your dwindling savings are causing sleepless nights and panic attacks.
You know you should try to stay positive. But the million dollar question is how?
We look at three tips to get you out of the doldrums and keep hope alive.
1) Routine is everything.
Just because you don’t have a 9 – 5 to go to doesn’t mean you can sleep until noon and spend the rest of the day watching TV in your pyjamas with unbrushed teeth. Inactivity and lethargy breeds inactivity and lethargy and depression. So, get up and get moving.
Set your alarm for something approximating early morning and get in an hour or so of exercise or meditation before you shower and have breakfast. Then schedule an hour or two of job hunting. Volunteer for a cause that is close to your heart (work at a shelter or put in some hours reading to patients in a hospice, etc.). Volunteer for a couple of causes if you like, as this will give you some variety while making you feel productive and worthwhile.
In the afternoons you can go for a walk or read a novel. Don’t forget to schedule some time to read about industry-related news and developments. You need to keep your professional knowledge current.
Make an effort to cook something interesting for supper. You don’t need expensive and exotic ingredients to be inventive, and there is nothing quite like eating a delicious dinner that you’ve made from scratch.
Relax in the evenings and go to bed at the same time every night – not too late.
2) Do something new – preferably with other people.
Doing something new challenges your brain, and if you do it in new company then it challenges your social skills too. These are good things. If you cocoon yourself at home while unemployed there is the risk that you will stagnate on all levels. Reading industry-related news and nodding at people while out on a walk is all good and well but you’re not really exercising your talents, are you?
So, join a new club or sign up for a new course (classroom-based is ideal because it gets you out of the house, but online courses with practical elements will do nicely).
If you have a tennis racquet gathering dust in your cupboard, now is the time to get it out and put it to good use. If you’ve always wanted to try bowls, you’ll never have a better chance to give it a shot. Many sports clubs have basic equipment on hand for newbies to try, so you don’t have to go out and buy equipment until you’re sure you’re going to stick with it.
If sport isn’t your thing you can join a chess club or a writing circle or even a movie club. The important thing is that you get together with a bunch of people at least once a week to participate in something you enjoy.
There are some great short courses around that will teach you anything from basic pottery to Japanese. Your local college probably has a selection of courses available, failing that, your library will probably be able to put you in touch with independent course providers. And, of course, the internet is inundated with options. Note: if you’re going to use your course for professional purposes then you need to be very choosy when picking a course provider. You want an institution that is reputable and properly accredited. But if you just want to know how to make your own pottery vases, then it doesn’t matter if you spend the next six weeks modelling clay in an eccentric artist’s garage.
3) Ask for support.
Unless you were raised in a sterile lab as part of some wholly unethical experiment, you probably have people around you who care for you and love you and would do anything to help you through a difficult time. Use them.
Well, don’t use them like you would a dirty rag, but use them for support. If you’re feeling lonely and can’t face an evening alone, ask someone over for supper. Alternatively, invite yourself over for supper and in exchange offer to do the dishes. If you’re having a wobbly moment in the middle of the day, phone your mom or dad or sister or brother or friend. You don’t need to spend hours talking to them, but five minutes of chatter with a friendly voice is wondrous balm for the soul. Do something fun (and cheap) with your friends at least once a week; hiking or cycling are great options, so are rent-a-movie nights and picnics.
Finally, ask for help if you’re about to hit a financial wall. It’s not a pleasant prospect and you’d probably rather chew glass but working out favourable terms with someone you know and trust is easier than being blacklisted and living on dry bread and water.
Being unemployed for any length of time is hard on the mind and soul. But if you make a concerted effort to keep busy and keep positive while engaged on a job search, then it is possible to weather the storm. Remember that the situation is temporary – and trust the people you love.
License: Creative Commons
As a newly anointed freelancer with a couple of part-time jobs to her name, Jemima Winslow is intimately familiar with the stress that goes with uncertain employment prospects.