60 Days of Unemployment: Here’s What I’ve learned.

Yesterday marked two months since I lost my job.

And while I’ve been unemployed for much longer than 60 days in the past, I feel like it’s a good time for an update.

If you read my post announcing my unemployment (it’s here), you may recall that I didn’t intend to apply for full-time work just yet.

But, I quickly realized that I had 0 freelance clients, and even just the thought of looking for contract work was bringing up nasty fears: inconsistent work, clients and mills not paying a fair wage, and not paying on time.

This is the first thing I want to acknowledge: Major kudos to the FEW clients who respect and celebrate contract workers.

I now have a few great freelance clients that keep me busy when I’m not applying for work — and for that, I am very grateful.

It feels good to be reminded that I still can write for a living and that I’m not a terrible employee. Getting fired or laid off tends to make people feel that way.

It also feels good to make a little bit of an income.

Contrary to what people think about unemployment checks: 1. It’s not near enough to survive on, and 2. it is not enjoyable whatsoever to fill out the form deducing your weeks to hours worked and the number of job activities you did and then getting a government deposit as a result.

Having been on unemployment four times now, trust me on this.

As of today, I’ve applied to nearly 80 jobs (a majority of those are full-time, with some part-time and contract mixed in) and attended at least one networking event each week.

I’ve had four initial screens for jobs and received 10 rejection emails.

So, what have I learned?

The Job Market is Crazy Competitive Right Now

For some industries, the market may be great. But, as someone who has worked in tech since 2015, things haven’t been great these last few months. Small startups and even larger brands including Shopify, Microsoft, SoundCloud, SnapChat, and Twilio have laid off thousands of employees.

That means all of us are likely competing for the same jobs. Most of the jobs I’ve applied for have between 200-950 applicants — even if it was just posted within 24 hours.

With numbers like those, it’s understandable that my resume is ending up in a digital black hole. It also explains why I’m not getting many interviews despite being well-qualified for jobs, or that first-round calls are already asking questions I’d normally hear in rounds three or four.

Don’t Take Rejections Personally

With applications come rejections — lots of ’em.

Most of them, I glance at and put them in my “Applications” folder in my email inbox (for unemployment purposes). Some of them have brought tears to my eyes, simply because it was an opportunity that seemed right.

The thing is, only the hiring manager knows what they’re looking for. As someone who’s been on the other side of this process, there are often really small things that distinguish one candidate for another, and it’s usually not because of a lack of preparation or the way a question was answered.

Over the past month, I’ve been worried about my hair color, my outfit, how I phrased one thing or the other, but I’m practicing just letting all of that go.

It’s difficult not to take rejection personally, but I just keep reminding myself that it wasn’t the right fit. There’s a reason it didn’t work out, and the right job is out there (more on this in a bit).

Steer Clear of Non-Supportive Areas

Want to know who your real friends are? Lose your job.

I have been surprised — both good and bad — at who’s chosen to reach out, check on me, and offer support. I’m very aware of those who have not.

At the start of my unemployment, I posted much of my journey on social media. I thought posting progress on job applications, networking events, and how I was feeling would help me find community and encouragement.

It definitely did not, and that’s on me for having those expectations. Instead I was hurt by the lack of response I got, and I felt like no one cared.

Once I realized this was happening, I started sharing much less in-general, and I stopped posting anything of depth on social media (I keep it to pics of food and makeup), stop posting after 5pm daily, and I take Sundays off social media altogether.

I only share job hunt updates with close family and friends, and this helps. Keep your support team close, and everyone else at a distance.

The Right Next Step is Out There

Sometimes I get discouraged when I see one of those rejection emails, but I’m quickly reminded that I’ve been here before. What’s different now is, 1. the job market, and 2. my skillset.

I don’t know if my right next step is a full-time job. Maybe it will work out to move back into full-time freelance. Maybe I’ll sell a script or a book and none of this will matter.

As difficult as it is, I find the best way to get through this is to embrace the unknown and just be open to whatever comes next — whatever feels right.

Keep Tabs on Your Health (Mental + Physical)

Losing a job is a major blow to the structure of someone’s life. It’s the paycheck, it’s the schedule, it’s the drive, etc. When you don’t have that, things can get out of line, real quick.

Right now, I am staying mindful of how I feel inside and out. I am sticking with my normal diet and not letting my emotions put me in the drive-thru of P.Terry’s. I still do my monthly juice cleanses, take walks outside, and lift weights while I watch Bravo 🙂

Staying on top of my physical health helps me mentally. It’s easy to feel alone, scared, rejected, etc. So, I journal. I talk it out with my friends and family. I commiserate with others in the same boat. I make sure I’m still having fun — still meeting up with friends, still hosting my screenwriting meetings, still reading books and watching TV.

I want to be in good health and have a clear mind when that right next step comes!

Have a Creative Outlet

A huge part of keeping my mind healthy right now is to have my creative outlets. As a creative, this has always been important to me, but in tough times, it’s even more important.

When I’m not working on freelance or looking for jobs, here’s what I’m working on:

  • My Etsy shop: I’ve added 40+ listings since I was laid off! It’s made a few sales, but I’m mosting set on getting my inventory built up, and making sure all the images look presentable in time for the holidays. I spend time off-screen brainstorming ideas for new listings, and hammering out details. Check out the shop here!
  • My next novel: I’m trying to publish my third novel next month (you heard it here!), so I’ve been writing, editing, and working on designing the cover in my spare time. Take a look at my published books here!
  • My next script: I meet twice per month with other screenwriters, and we workshop ideas, outlines, scripts, etc. I’ve been brainstorming plots for my next script (I finished my first one in July), so I can get started on that!
  • My weekly newsletter: I’ve had a weekly newsletter for the last two years. It’s free and fun, and often includes blog posts, along with fun links, and personal news. I always look forward to putting together new issues each week. Sign up to get the newsletter here!
  • My blog: I’ve had THIS blog for 12 years, and it continues to be a place for me to share my thoughts on makeup, skincare, TV, juice cleanses, and other random fun things, but also write about my struggles and journey as a writer and as a person. I never thought anyone would read it, but I’m grateful for those that do.

Know That it’s Going to Get Better

Many years ago, I was going through a tough breakup, and a friend said to me, “It’s going to get better because it has to.”

That phrase pops into my head whenever I’m facing any challenge.

The sun always shines after a storm — things are going to change. There may not be a shift this week or even this month, but when it does come, I’m going to be ready.

I don’t know what the next legs of this journey look like, but I’m here for the ride and I’ll do the best I can, whatever that requires.

To see more writing from me, be sure to subscribe to The Bitter Lemon by clicking “subscribe” on the right side of your screen. Want even more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get roundups, book recs and lifestyle tips. 

8 Comments

      1. thebitterlemon

        I had a very scary bout of burnout in 2021, and that’s why I struggle with taking on freelance work. However, I’ve found that it helps to just regularly check in with myself and make time for ACTUAL rest. Easier said than done, but vital for success.

  1. Monch Weller

    Great post right here, and I agree with most of your points — as someone who once spent almost half a year without any work.

    I was laid off from my old job years ago, around September. Tried looking for work during that time, but unfortunately companies in the Philippines do not hire during the last four months of the year. I took that as a break from corporate writing and started a blog — which I’m still continuing nine years on.

    Thankfully, I got a job in March — the following year after being laid off. Since then, I’ve been on a roll with writing!

    1. thebitterlemon

      Thanks so much! Usually this time isn’t great for jobs in the US, too. I’ve told myself that it’s OK if my job hunt continues into the new year, when there may be better opportunities. Congratulations on your job, and may we have long and fruitful careers!

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