Unemployment is a humbling experience. Going through the motions of countless interviews, job fairs, rejections, and false hopes, either breaks you or makes you. I’ve been through those uncertain months without a job. Stuck at home, waiting for that phone call, or hurriedly applying to any position you can find online, you find yourself lost in a confusing array of emotions.
One phone call from a prospective employer and you’re in cloud nine. A week without any follow-up from the human resource department and you’re in a hell of self-pitying. You see majority of your peers with a stable job and a steady source of income, and the misery is compounded. Questions like, “am I good enough”, or “what am I doing wrong” resurface every waking moment you remember you’re unemployed, rejected, or ignored.
Job fairs, in particular, can be the big reality check. Long lines of similarly jobless individuals filling up application forms inside a mall, and silently fighting for a vacant position in a myriad of companies can hurt the ego. You know you’re clinging to the shards of optimism left in your heart. If you’re a professional, with a good college degree and professional experience, you may find yourself in despair trying to get a job amongst potential welders, drivers, housekeepers, and chambermaids.
But that’s the beauty of a job fair, isn’t it? Like the Internet, it is a great equalizer. You can have the highest grade-point average graduate from the most prestigious university and find yourself rubbing elbows with fifty-year olds simply looking for a good job – whatever it is – to support their family and not worry about where they can get their next meal. To hell with professional growth, a position you can boast of on your LinkedIn account or a job where you enjoy the pleasures of a fully-stocked pantry. A job is a job, minimum wage or not, blue-collar or white-collar. Worrying about what people think is the last thing on those people’s mind.
And you? You’re worrying about the work environment, the type of HMO you’ll receive, the Christmas bonus, and the company outings. You’re worrying about the free food in the pantry, or the commute to some swanky office building.
Unemployment brings you back down to the ground. You feel nothing without a job and yet you can afford to be picky. Beggars can’t be choosers. There’s a moral lesson behind that saying. Opportunity comes knocking on your door and you hesitate, thinking this may not be the impressive job you need to boost your resume. Four, six, ten months to a year of unemployment and it starts breaking your ego. Now you’ll take anything, really. You’ll take anything that will get you out of a rut and back to a place where you can at the very least, afford even the simplest pleasures in life – a new shirt, some fancy pastries, a new pair of shades, the occasional cab instead of the bus. You’ll take anything that can pay you so you can eat and sleep well.
Most of us are too ideal. In my case, the university education I received made me wrongly believe I should never settle for anything less – whether it be my paycheck, my fringe benefits, my office perks, or my work-life balance. When I found myself without any of those because I was quite simply, without a job per se, I finally recognized the value of a job. It’s not just about passion. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to find the ideal job. So what it’s really about is doing your best, regardless of how seemingly ordinary your work is. You can be a clerk in some obscure public notary, or a part-time promodizer for some unheard of shampoo in the mall, but with honesty, dedication, and hard work, it becomes something worth more than a job. It becomes love.
I know we have a lot of notions about love. It’s such a big and ambiguous word. But common features of it include sacrifice, humility, and honesty. Persevering in something you don’t particularly like, but you do, is sacrifice. Starting somewhere small – an assistant or secretary first before becoming an executive or manager – requires humility. Giving a hundred percent of your time, energy, and focus on your work is all about honesty.
Unemployment is a tough time for anyone. But it can also be an adventure. It makes you question a lot of things. Its only kindness is learning more about yourself – that is you are willing to know who you are. I’m done not settling. Instead, I’m accepting. I’m taking the challenge as it comes. I’m taking every given opportunity to me, and no longer taking it for granted.