6 Survival Tips For the Recently Unemployed (or how quitting your job can rock your world)

unemployed man sitting down
Have you ever been fired from a job?

Not in a mutual termination, or a ‘sorry, we’re not renewing your contract’ kind of way, but a proper disciplinary hearing followed by a swift kick up the arse and a see you later (and never come back) kind of way.

I have.

And what followed turned out to be one of the strangest periods of my life.

Memorable as it was, I can’t pinpoint the exact date other than it was 730am on a cold and bleak January morning – probably a Tuesday.

Yep, I was unceremoniously booted out following a 10 hour nightshift. Retail – you gotta love it.

To tell you the truth, I was relieved. Ignore the fact I recently signed a tenancy agreement in a flat share and my life savings amounted to a jar of loose change and a pair of odd socks. I was free. Free to do anything I wanted. Free to finally live out my dreams, to travel the world and to laugh at the minimum wage sheep trapped in their pens of woe.

But it didn’t really work out like that. Money has a way of bitch slapping you when you least (most) expect it. You see, in ancient Greece, bartering for goods and services was the best way of acquiring whatever you needed to survive. Sadly, in modern times, this technique isn’t as popular as it perhaps should be.

If only my flatmate chose to accept odd socks as rental payment. Life would have been easy.

The bastard.

So within a few weeks I was on state benefits. Queuing up every 2 weeks to pick up the measly £130 they deemed acceptable for survival. I’m not going to lie, life was tough.

The first 3 months were one of the lowest periods I’ve ever experienced. Scraping for cash like a live-in beggar, borrowing money from friends for nights out and raiding the apartment for loose change to pay for the bus fare into town.

At one point, I genuinely had less than £2 to my name.

But, you know what? I grew to love every minute of it. You may as well clad me in leather and whip me a thousand times, because only a masochist would take any enjoyment out of my predicament. Yet there I was – revelling in poverty.

Yes, I’m weird.

No, I’m not into that.

I loved it because of the personal growth, the introspection and the opportunity to recalibrate areas which have recently run off course. I liken unemployment to a visit to the dentist, perhaps a check-up with your doctor or akin to taking your car in for servicing because there are some weird sounds coming from God-knows where. Yet, most people fear it. They become attached to their salary and title because it’s what society tells them to do. Without a job – their identity crumbles. They’re lost.

But it shouldn’t be this way.

A career is merely the side to the main course that is you.

It’s an addition. It’s not who you are – it never has been. So if there comes a time when you wake up in the morning and you have no place to be – don’t panic. It’s temporary. Treat it like a gift – not a curse.

You’re about to start an amazing chapter in your life, because…

1. It’s the wakeup call you desperately need

Admit it. Your job sucked.

There are only three types of people who enjoy their work – rock stars, porn stars and the clinically insane. You, on the other hand, no doubt embrace the start of the working day with a combination of boredom, dread and a yearning for the onset of dissociative personality disorder.

Yet you stick with it. It’s easier that way. You don’t want to rock the boat or for people to think you’re a quitter. You’d rather put up with the daily grind than step one foot outside of your comfort zone.

It’s understandable. We’ve all experienced this feeling.

But if you’re fired, forced into redundancy, released from your contract or simply quit on the spot – you’re thrown into the deep end. No dilly dallying. No faffing around. No other option than to give yourself a hard slap in the chops and grab your life by the contents of your underpants.

What are you going to do with your life? Whatever it is, there is no better time than right now!

2. It will toughen you up

During the spring of 2008 I was unfortunate enough to cancel out my 3 months of unemployment by landing a job as a door to door salesman. Sure, it was a job – and it was amazing for developing my confidence and ability to talk to strangers, but you see – the salary was 100% commission based.

And I was awful.

I swapped the bliss of earning absolutely nothing while sitting at home in my pants to earning absolutely nothing working 13 hour days. No, scrap that – I was losing money.

You know what salesmen are like. If you’ve seen The Wolf of Wall Street – well it’s a bit like that but instead of fast cars, expensive women and copious amounts of cocaine, we had train tickets, expensive lunches and post work drinks.

To be honest it would have made a shit film.

But the horrifying part wasn’t the job itself, it was the fact I was losing £20 a day on expenses while earning virtually nothing in return. I kept this up for 6 weeks before I tapped out and clung on to what little dignity remained – but to this day I am thankful for the experience.

I had a £10 budget each week for food – that’s how poor I was at the time.

I was losing £20 a day on expenses in the forlorn hope I would make those sales and turn a profit.

I learned to be resourceful. It’s amazing how far you can stretch a ten pound note when you have absolutely no other options, and to this day, when times are tough I think back to this period of my life and I gain strength because no matter how bad things were financially – I refused to break.

3. You will improve your finances – long term

You’re going to think I’m crazy for suggesting this, but unemployment is one of the best things to ever happen to your long term finances.

The training wheels are off.

You have to fend for yourself now. No one is going to shove a wad of cash into your pocket on a monthly basis, and unless you have a secondary source of income, you’re going to live or die by your current bank balance.

Unsurprisingly, this tends to re-focus your spending habits.

Long forgotten direct debits are cancelled without a moment’s hesitation.

Takeaways, expensive nights out and absent minded spending are replaced by home cooked meals, the odd bottle of wine and brain aching mental arithmetic.

It’s not fun, and your friends may begin to wonder if you’re still alive, but this newly developed attitude towards spending becomes a super power you will carry forward throughout the rest of your life. Debt is rarely the result of a lack of money – it’s the result of spending what you don’t have. Those who cannot handle their cash on 20k a year will face the same problems on 200k a year.

The ability to handle your finances is in the mind, not the wallet – and experiencing a situation, in which you must scrutinise your funds on a daily, even hourly basis, is invaluable.

4. You have all the time in the world

Time and money are mortal enemies. They hate each other. It’s a mutually exclusive partnership designed to pull you in opposite directions.

You may have loved your former salary, but at what cost? How often did you return home from work only to feel too tired to do anything with the few remaining hours left in your day? How often were you on the receiving end of the dreaded ‘overtime phone call’ from your boss because of a staffing crisis? How many vacation days were wasted because there was always something else that required your immediate attention?

Well, that’s in the past. The situation has flipped 180 and you’re now in control of every waking moment. Each day is a blank canvas. You can wake up at any time without feeling the burden of having somewhere to be. You can hit the sack when you’re done with the day, not when the day is done with you.

There’s a 24 hour clock with your name on it.

Make it count.

5. It’s an amazing opportunity to study, practice or learn a new skill

The best part of unemployment is, as I mentioned above, the free time. Distractions are few and far between and the excuses we trot out whenever we catch ourselves procrastinating are suddenly banished from existence.

Some people spend their unemployed hours searching for a new job. Others tend to sit around playing their Xbox while waiting for opportunity to appear like some form of magical careers pixie from the bottom of the garden.

I did a bit of those, sure; but I usually focus on my hobbies and passions. I study intently. I educate, practice and train with a burning desire to make the most of my free time. I remember one Thursday morning back in January 2011. I had just finished a temporary Christmas contract and I had 3 months to kill before I was likely to be offered a permanent position.

So I woke up at the crack of dawn and made a plan. This is from an old doc file I made back then and it also allows a bit of buffer time for relaxing/food etc. I won’t break down the specifics, but this is just an overview of my schedule that day.

6am – Go for a beach run
730am – 2 hours German study
10am – 2 hours guitar practice
12pm – 1 hour German study
130pm – 2 hours guitar practice
4pm – Gym
6pm – Job applications (apply to 3 jobs online)

Each day would have a similar theme – a mixture of guitar practice, German study and exercise. These were my three passions at the time and I absolutely loved the feeling at the end of the day when I could look back with pride at what I had accomplished.

I had no job, and I was poor, but shit happens.

So next time you’re unemployed… no, scrap that.

Next time you have any free time – by investing in yourself, the day will never feel wasted.

6. Whatever happens – everything will be alright

Worst case scenarios are nothing but ghost stories, figments of a terrified imagination, a fear so profound we would rather play it safe than allow ourselves the chance of seeing what lurks beyond.

I always hear the same excuses whenever I talk to someone about quitting their job. What if I run out of money and I can’t provide for my family? What if I can’t pay the rent or the mortgage and I have to find somewhere else to live? What if no one else will hire me?

Come on, seriously…

Do you honestly believe you would allow your family to starve? Do you honestly believe you would allow yourself to end up on the street? Do you honestly believe there isn’t a company who would be willing to hire you?

I thought not.

Human beings can survive in the most extreme of habitats, situations and circumstances. You, on the other hand – can do whatever the hell you want. The media will have you believe there are no jobs in the current climate. This is BS. There is a ton of money to be made with your current skill set. Whether you choose to work for someone else, decide to start your own business or scrub toilets for a living – there are always jobs available. You’re more resourceful than you think. In hard times you will always find ways of making a little extra cash, of stretching a little money a long way or to find good fortune in the unlikeliest of places.

If and when the shit hits the fan – you will survive. Do you know why? It’s because you’re human.

I’ll give you an example;

When Steve Callahan spent 78 days clinging to a life raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – he was faced with the very real and likely threat of death. With supplies rapidly depleting and no hope of being rescued, it would have been easy to accept his fate.

How does a guy survive without food or fresh water?

He adapts. He looks for absolutely anything to prolong his inevitable demise for just one more day.

His caveman brain kicked into overdrive and using skills and abilities he never knew existed – Steve crafted a makeshift spear to hunt the fish swimming below. He instinctively found an acquired taste for fish liver because it was the organ containing the nutrients and vitamins his body craved.

He found a way to survive because it was the only option. This instinct will shield you from the worst case scenario – even if you have no idea of the how or the why.

It doesn’t matter if you’re facing your impending demise, dealing with the prospect of bankruptcy or any other punch in the face situation you may find yourself in – you’ll meet this challenge head on.

Whatever happens – you’ll come out the other end a stronger person.

Trust me, I’ve been there.

Are you currently unemployed? Have you had periods of unemployment in the past? How did you cope? Let us know in the comments below, thanks.

 

About Jamie

Jamie is a guitar teacher and writer who hates the typical 9-5 existence. After quitting his job to enter the world of guitar tuition, he created this blog to document his thoughts and struggles as he takes on societies norms armed with nothing more than his cheeky wit and undeniable charm – Give his Facebook page a like, add him on Twitter or follow his Google+ page and he will repay you with even more awesome words!

Comments

  1. I agree that quitting your job can lead to motivation and better things. For me, I love my work as a college instructor and I have a daughter to care for and a mortgage to pay. But someday up the road I might take the plunge into the great wide open again.
    Dan Erickson recently posted..Pink Links For Breast Cancer Awareness In OctoberMy Profile

    • Hi Dan, I think it’s quite liberating when we free ourselves of the daily grind. Whenever that day comes, I’m sure you’ll make the most of it!

  2. I love that you were able to bounce back and make a positive from that experience. You definitely do learn to adapt in situations like that. I’d probably become homeless if I was in that situation because I wouldn’t be able to afford my meds and then I’d be out of my mind possibly.

    I love that you were able to utilize your time to learn new skills. Some people might became a snorlax and just give up all hope and not do anything. It will definitely toughen you up also, and show you how most people don’t care, but the ones that do are the ones you should be grateful.

    Thanks for the share Jamie.
    Sebastian Aiden daniels recently posted..Should You Be Focusing On Success?My Profile

    • Hey, yeh, I’m used to it now. I’ve been without a job so many times over the years, I kind of gain fresh insights with every occasion. I don’t now where you’re from, but obviously you have to pay for your meds – which isn’t the case in the UK. I still think you’d find a way to survive and move forwards.

      Thank for your kinds words!

  3. Hey Jamie,

    I received your newsletter at 6am in the morning after I cried that night because I don’t know what to do with my life. You’re blog is spot on but I am really in the shackles of my family’s demise. I don’t know what to do. This job is literally sucking the life out of me. I love to write though which I do after work hours to support my family. They don’t understand what I’m going through and just tells me to be thankful about my job because there are a lot of people unemployed right now. I think I’m already depressed. It’s really hard to be like this. All I wanted to do from the moment I go to work was to go home and sleep and write.

    What do you think. Well I think I should quit. every pore on my body yells me to quit. I’m just so stupid and coward to do it.

    • Hi Angel, thanks for your message.

      You should always listen to what your instincts are telling you. Never do what other people tell you to do – it’s your life. You do what you want with it. If that means quitting, then do something else instead. It’s ok to feel scared – it’s natural. Try and relax because, whatever you choose to do, you’ll make the right decision. Don’t fight anything – just keep moving forwards and you’ll get to where you want to be.

      You’re in control. 🙂

  4. I was unemployed for 4 months 5 years ago after redundancy, and had ridiculous london rent to pay. I also had about 1 friend in the place since I’d recently moved there. Psychologically, it was a terrible experience to begin with (especially the dole office – ugh).

    But like you’ve written, it taught me a lot about myself, mindset, and money. As my debts piled up, I became a little smarter about negotiating rent payments, reducing outgoings and knowing that this period wouldn’t last forever.

    Once I got another job, I paid off my debt in a matter of months, since my outgoings were so low.

    I used to have a fear about going back there – with thousands in debt and dry cereal for meals. But no more ! The things I learned from that time are still with me today – your true friends help you, money comes and goes, and the dole office should be avoided at all costs.
    Razwana Wahid recently posted..How the F@!K did you do it, Makenna Johnston (and was there wine)?My Profile

    • Hey, there is nothing wrong with dry cereal. I’d prefer that over soggy cornflakes!

      Some wise lessons there, Raz. You’re right. Your true friends stick around during the hard times and you become pretty darn good at cutting the fat from your life – in finance, materials and relationships. At least you have experience, so if you decide to take the plunge again, things SHOULD be a little simpler this time. I think you said you were considering a change… go for it!

      You have to love the dole office, though. I especially love how they lump everyone together in the same ‘loser’ category and you become nothing more than a case they are desperate to get rid of. The best part was when they forced me to start a 6 week training course designed to ‘improve my skills’ and thus increase my chances of employment.

      These skills were to raise my confidence, improve my English??, improve my maths and best of all, to work on my communication skills.

      I was to get a certificate and everything.

      6 hours a day, 3 days a week, for 6 weeks?

      Nope. See ya.

  5. Hey man, another great post. Superbly written – I am in a similar position now, but not due to unemployment – because I am setting up a business which is still in a state of negative cash flow. The principles that I am using to stay afloat are pretty much the same – it’s amazing how the same principles can work for different situations in life.

    ‘…instinct will shield you from the worst case scenario – even if you have no idea of the how or the why.’

    What a powerful thought that is – incredible!

  6. Something I heard once that stuck with me… we are not determined by who we are in times of plenty. We are determined by who we are when things are lean.

    That’s probably a paraphrased quote that someone told me but I liked it enough not to look it up and steal the sunshine from what I thought was a brilliant thought that I’ll ascribe to the person who cared enough to say it to me.

    I recall life being hard, I doubt I can forget it. As a single mother, it’s knocked me down enough times that quite often all I had was my identity. We used food banks to get enough to eat, and even then… there were times I went without anything at all just so my child could eat. As a parent it’s not as though you have any greater calling and your kiddo doesn’t ask to be born into a poverty stricken world. There’s never been any real job security, so in times when we had plenty I’d often save it for the times we would be without. Thing is, I think my (now teenager) is better off for having not had everything he ever wanted growing up. He has some concrete goals, he has a life that is wholesome and on track, and he knows what really matters in life.

    While it would have been a lot more comfortable to have never lost or quit or been fired from a job, I doubt seriously it would have ever helped me to define my real strengths.

    • Hey Becca, you’re right. You’ve been though some tough times and it’s made you a stronger person and it’s probably helped your son too. I never had much growing up, and that’s why I am able to cope when things get a bit rough, because I have experience of how to deal with them. More importantly – I don’t take things for granted either.

      Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂

      • That reply is actually really helpful and I hope my son will appreciate seeing it also. You have molded your life to be the success you wanted for your own life, and though my own may yet ever become the grandiose thing I always wanted, as a mom I want so much more for him… without being a helicopter parent and trying to shape his life for him. I know he has to do this himself, and it’s hard to allow the failures that I know will help him find his strength. He’s already starting off so much better than me, and through people like you and blogs like this, I hope we both get the strength that you exude. Thank you Jamie.

  7. Great points. I think your last point about things being alright is the most important. I’ve met many people who were laid off that worried incessantly about what will happen to them. It’s that fear of the unknown and uncertainty that can just drive you insane. Too many people have messed up their health, both mental and physical, by excessive worry after losing a job. Just relax. Something will come around, you have to believe that it will. Otherwise, you’ll just drive yourself insane.
    Steve recently posted..The Lies Your Mind Tells You that Hold You BackMy Profile

    • Hi Steve, There is definitely something crazy in our brain which forces us to seek out the worst case scenario. Too much negativity can end up turning the situation into a self fulfilling prophecy and many people start to genuinely believe they won’t turn things around.

  8. Great advice here, right away we should be reaching out to our contacts and network. While at the same time be doing the things that bring hope and encouragement into our life.

  9. For those who lose their jobs through redundancy, remember this:
    It is the job that is redundant, not you. You are the same skilled person the day after redundancy as you were the day before. Walk upright and be bold.

    As to taking up challenges; I took early retirement from the civil service (Acas) and trained as a commercial mediator. I then set up my own HR consultancy, becoming an advocate at employment tribunals and a mediator, the latter including county court mediation. The challenges were immense, but belief in my ability backed up by training and experience is a powerful ‘drug.’

    I am retired now and I think I am more fulfilled than if I had simply run the course of my civil service career to retirement.

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