Unemployment is something I was struggling with the whole of 2018. I wrote over 100 applications and went to more than 20 job interviews. After six months it finally paid off and I was offered my dream job. Bummer: As this dream job is not in my home country I am now bound to wait for the work permit to be issued – for six months. I know that six months is not a lot of time compared to people applying from developing countries. Nevertheless does the waiting around not help my situation.
I want to share my story because I know a lot of well educated young adults with worthy and needed skills are going through the same – worldwide. This article is not supposed to be about the economic situation of countries leading to this trend, but more about what unemployment actually does to you and your mind. Lightly speaking: it is and can be devastating.
And that is a huge problem also for your performance – especially in situations where you are supposed to be at your best, job interviews for example. It is not surprising that the motivation to keep applying even searching for suitable jobs drops by the hour. Every step in the direction of employment (or hopefully employment) becomes harder and therefore also each time a little less likely. Unless of course, you manage to improve your cover letters and CV with every rejected application. Finding enough courage to collect feedback and reworking your documents is a tough cookie tough…
What if someone finds mistakes I haven’t been aware off and it is after all my fault to be unemployed? What if that is a clear sign I am not good enough and I wasn’t picked after the interview?
I love my friends and respect them and they love and respect me in return. Nevertheless, it took me some time to overcome my inner barrier in actually asking them to have a look and give me open and honest feedback. Turned out it was the best I could do. While I fought with myself about requesting feedback it was fairly easy to incorporate it into my applications.
Every tiny bit of feedback improved my applications and in fact gave me new motivation to try again. I think I wrote about the importance of feedback and second opinions before. I can’t stress that point enough. The usefulness of feedback is the background behind wisdom, i.e. “Two heads are better than one”, “Missing the forest for the trees” and so on. In my own experience, you can find this kind of feedback almost everywhere and should go for it.
Back to the main topic here though: The crumpling motivation for applications and the job search itself comes hand in hand with the declining motivation for other things as well. And for me, that is the most dangerous part of unemployment. I not only started losing my drive to change my unemployment and financially down spiralling situation, but my energy for other things – things I love – as well. The more useless I felt the lazier I got. And that is a vicious circle no one should get in as they are excruciatingly hard to break. Your brain starts going along with it. Frustration and depression can become daily companions and will worsen everything.
As always, there is light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how hard it is to get out of that situation, it is at least possible. For me, it came in the form of an interim low-level job. I am beyond overqualified for that position (I know this sounds really cocky, but it is like that) and I don’t want to do it for a long time. But, and there is a big BUT here, it got me moving forward again in a way no motivational video, pep talk or reward could. I am getting up in the morning for a boring job and I work six days a week, BUT I am getting up, which is a success in itself. Even if I did luckily not suffer from real depression, those who do can and should count getting up as a huge success. I am not only getting up, but I am also earning money which eases my financial boundaries at least a bit, therefore I can reward myself with small things like sweets or even a beer with friends. I come back exhausted, BUT I sleep better and more restorative. With better sleep, I have the energy to do things I love doing – meeting friends, self-improvement, being creative and doing handicraft activities.
So what is it I want to say to all of you reading this? I guess everybody interprets this according to their own situation and point in life and they should. For me: There is no such thing as a step backwards on your career or in your life. A low-level job is an improvement in comparison to unemployment and so on. Only being on a standstill and not doing anything leads to a downward spiral. I am inviting everyone to show courage and ask for help, feedback and the humility of lowering standards when need be. It is not a sign of weakness to do those things but a sign of strength.