I Was Unemployed Just Like You

by Vault Careers | September 07, 2011

It’s September 2011 and yet it feels just like September 2008.  The economy and the job market are still in shambles.  The 2012 Presidential Election will hinge on the same issue that mattered most to Americans in 2008 – Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.  It’s a broken record that has little people feeling motivated, optimistic and/or hopeful about the future.  But there is hope if you look hard enough. 

Finger pointingI have received some comments from those who read these blogs.  Words like negative, depressing, and disparaging have been used.  However, it is not the intent of the blog to make people think we believe it is easy to find the job and that the current economic difficulties are just a fad.  The aim of the blogs is to motivate readers to continue their job hunt despite the scary numbers.  When I write that unemployment may be the best thing that happened to you, I meant it.  Here’s a bit of my story. 

Taking risks.  I had been an editor for a local newspaper, but had a desire to be something more.  However, every time I thought of quitting, I was offered a new opportunity – whether it was to start a brand new sports section, create a new website, or lead the paper after it was purchased by a major media conglomerate.  I continued to receive raises and promotions.  It was hard to say no; especially because I loved the people I worked with.  Eventually, I took a risk and took a job at the New York Public Library, starting a new career as a public relations representative.  Journalism seemed like a natural pathway into public relations and I really enjoyed my job.  The problem: it was a temporary position and any thought I had of making it permanent was taken away from me when the economy tanked.  I had a job with an expiration date and I was counting down the days until unemployment.  Everyone said, “You’ll be fine…you’ll get a job soon.”  I hated that, because I knew I wouldn’t. 

Desperation.  My girlfriend was in the process of starting her own business, so losing my job came at the most inopportune time.  There were bills that needed to be paid.  Applying for jobs became a 24/7 aspect of my life.  The stress led to mistakes – such as copying and pasting a cover letter to the wrong person for a job I really wanted.  Still, calls were coming in and I was entertaining all possibilities, including moving to Beverly Hills to work as a book publicist and even taking on a job with a pro-marijuana activist group whose values did not match my own.  I was willing to do anything to earn a paycheck.  Unemployment numbers were scaring me.  There seemed to be no opportunities. 

Swallowing my pride.  I went back to journalism.  I was an award-winning journalist and here I was taking on a job putting together community calendars for tourists coming to the Bronx while thinking that a job on the graveyard shift at my local CVS was not such a bad idea.  I wasn’t making much at all, but before I went back to the type of retail job that paid my way through college,  I looked at other freelance possibilities, and took on special projects for my former employer.  I even took on public relations jobs with a paycheck that would come when the employer felt I had done enough to earn one.  Whatever I could do to expand my resume and skill set became priority No. 1.  

Stepping up.  I reached out to every contact I made at the paper and garnered higher-profile freelance assignments that sharpened my writing and public relations skills.  I decided to ignore the unemployment numbers and not let statistics hold me back.  I made sure that every step I made took me one step closer to a new job.  Informational interviews started to replace regular job interviews.  A contact I had made set them up for me and I wanted to make sure she knew I was serious about my job search and could accept the constructive criticism I needed to move forward.  Strategy was important.  I could not settle on just being a nameless jobseeker.  I needed to set myself apart. 

Breaking through.  That same contact that set up informational interviews – she got me a job interview for a part-time job.  No more unemployment and still no health benefits, but it was a start.  They gave me the job based on the reputation I had earned with my contact.  I worked hard to make her proud and turn a part-time position into a permanent role.  I received attention for my hard work and eventually was offered the full-time role I had coveted.  And every opportunity I can, I take on a new role, because while I know everyone is replaceable, I want to make it hard to be replaced.  It’s all about persistence, humility, a strong work ethic and an unwavering passion to always improve and never stand still.  I was unemployed…just like you, but I am working now, and you will one day, too.    

--Jon Minners, Vault.com

Filed Under: Job Search | Networking


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