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.
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.
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.
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.