Posted by Tim Stobbs on February 27, 2015
Unemployment – Welcome to the Wasteland (Year 2 AD – After Degree)
Overall in my life I don’t actually regret much. I’m fairly happy with where I am and what I’m doing but I have to look back at this particular period of my life as a bit of an exception. After all, I was free from my soul eating employer wasn’t I? No work to go to, lots of time to relax and kick back and guess what…I blew it.
What the F*&%$?!?!? You say. Yes, I blew it. I didn’t sleep in everyday, I didn’t read lots of books or catch up on watching movies…instead like a trained slave that was used to the beatings, when the master wasn’t there I flogged myself instead. My two major mistakes were:
- I worried the entire time I was unemployed about money.
- I treated my job search as a job.
The first one was somewhat defensible. I didn’t have a whole lot of savings at that point in my life and I owned a LOT of money between my wife and I. After all we had just under $60,000 in debt from university and I signed a $18,000 car lease which was also draining us monthly. So in fact, if I didn’t get a job when my Unemployment Insurance checks finally stopped coming in I would rapidly go from treading water to screwed in a matter of weeks. Yes my wife had a job, but given our expenses and limited savings we didn’t have a big cushion (and I wanted to avoid tapping our limited RRSP savings).
Aside: Also when looking back at these months I realized something….this was the genesis moment of my dreams of early retirement even before I found out about the concept. How? I realize now I never wanted to be in the situation of worry about money like that ever again. So later on in life when I did come across the idea of early retirement, it was extremely appealing to me.
Yet I do think I worried about this way more than I needed to, which lead me to my second mistake.
I had previously read some well meaning advice on job hunting that you should treat your job search as a job, which being young I assumed meant work on it for like 6 to 8 hours a day. So I got up each week day and pretend I had a job of finding a job. So I gave myself a few coffee breaks and a lunch hour but overall spent most of my days looking at job ads and writing up job applications, cover letters and redoing my resume.
Yes, I can see you shaking your head at the stupidity of it because frankly looking back I agree. I didn’t know that spending more time at something doesn’t always increase the productivity of the activity. In fact, I could have likely done just as an effective job search in perhaps 2 to 3 hours a day, but I manged to drag out the misery out to six or eight hours a day. See what I mean by flogging myself.
Then of course because of my worry about running out of money I would feel guilty when I did stop looking early any given day and it would just fall into a negative feedback loop. I won’t do fun things because of fear of running out of money, feel worse, still not have a job, feel even more guilty and clamp down even harder on our spending. Fairly sick eh?
Of course I as didn’t realize that engineer jobs looking for 2 to 3 years experience was particularly an endangered species, and I felt I was under qualified for the jobs that were looking for 5 to 7 years experience. Also keep in mind that after my last job, I was being a hell of lot more picky about getting a new job. I wanted to avoid oil and gas, which when you live in Alberta cuts out a LOT of jobs. So this likely went on much longer than it had to. In the end, what broke me out of this cycle was I decided to widen my job search to pick up just about any decent paying job (ie: higher pay than minimum wage) and I applied for a Customer Service Desk job at a chemical distribution company.
I still actually recall the exact moment I decided I wanted to work at that company. It happened just before the interview before I knew what the job involved, what it paid or even what the hell was a chemical distribution company. While I was waiting for the interview of the reception area I watched the staff come up the receptionist and chat with her. They joked, told stories and smiled a lot more than my previous workplace. It actually gave me a powerful sense of deja vu to how my immediate family treated each other.
So after two rounds of interviews I was thrilled to be offer a job and finally move out of my self imposed wasteland.
- Working longer on something doesn’t make it better.
- Worrying about things you can’t control is rather pointless.
- Fear of running out of money can be a powerful fear.
- Learn to have some fun once in a while regardless of your financial situation. You don’t have to break the bank having a good time.
- Progress was non-existent at this point in life. If anything we went backwards for a few months.