5 Ways To Turn Unemployment Into a Gift

by on January 6th, 2012

Unemployed and discouraged?  If so, you definitely want to read today’s post from Trisha Ingram, a recent MBA grad and writer of the blog Cali Girl to Cowgirl. Trisha blogs about her experiences moving from California to Tennessee and she is actively seeking a new opportunity in Organizational Development. You can connect with her on Twitter (@trishaingram) or Facebook

It’s been two months since I entered the unemployment market, a first-time experience for me.  Aside from not working during the first semester in college and a 9-month period of living abroad in Brazil, I have held a job since the age of 15.  Needless to say the thought of unemployment initially scared me but I was determined to make the most of it.  Although unemployment can be draining, I am choosing to take advantage of new opportunities and as well as reflect on things I am thankful for. Here is a summary of what unemployment has afforded me so far:

1) Time and space to explore a new career direction. Previously, I was neck deep in a fast-paced lifestyle and forgot to leave room for daydreaming, in other words, envisioning the future and figuring out gifts and talents I could use to maximize my career. Right now looking for a job is my job. But, because I have also taken time to analyze my strengths and be honest with weaknesses, I have discovered a field of work where I strongly believe I will excel.  Now my job search has become more directed and meaningful.

2) Opportunity to network with new professionals. We’ve all heard the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I personally believe it’s a combination of both, however, right now I have chosen to focus on the “who you know.” It lends itself well to my situation because I decided to move to a new city to look for a job, a perfect segue into meeting new people. I have already reached out to a number of professionals in the area and have found that, generally, people do truly want to help. What a source of encouragement especially on days things seem so dry. Classy Career Girl has suggested a guideline format called the 4×4 Networking Challenge that I have incorporated into my networking efforts. I find it helps me stay targeted and well-rounded when building relationships.

3) New appreciation for finances. I have a greater appreciation for managing finances well. All the advice I have ever applied in the past about saving money, staying out of debt, and keeping a monthly budget has never been more important than now.  It’s easy to think about preparing for the future in regards to wealth, retirement, and buying toys. But preparation for down times and seasons of transition such as unemployment are just as essential. Having worked hard over the past few years to live on less than I make and avoid debt has made unemployment much less stressful.  For a wealth of resources and knowledge check out Dave Ramsey.

4) Motivation to revamp my health. For a couple of years I juggled my day job with full-time business school and, in so doing, lost focus of my health. Now that I am finished with school and have some flexibility, I have recommitted to getting in shape. A daily routine of preparing meals, working out, and getting proper rest has helped create structure, something that a job doesn’t provide at the moment. I also find that this healthy lifestyle helps me maintain high energy and a positive attitude toward finding a job.

5) Ability to volunteer more. I decided to take up something I was interested in but hadn’t previously had time to devote to. After considering several activities and hobbies I realized for me it was volunteering.  So I teamed up with friends who are involved in various organizations and offered to help where needed. Volunteering provides a sense of contribution which adds value to our lives, again something a job doesn’t provide at this time. Plus it’s a break from the daily grind of job hunting and a good way to have fun and socialize.

Some of you may wonder why all of this couldn’t also happen when employed. Well it can. However, I believe a season of unemployment provides a new perspective that makes these things more meaningful. Without a job there is a deeper sense of longing, a broader view of the future, and a greater sense of possibility for what is to come.  All of which are good fuel for personal growth.

I realize that unemployment can be a sensitive subject with a variety of effects on people.  For me it has been a gift.  It has given me a chance to review life, to reset, to brand myself as new again. And I am undoubtedly hopeful of good things to come.

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