It is reductive to sum up a complex experience with a tidy list of ten lessons learned. Whatever. I’m doing it anyway. Here’s what I learned about looking for a job, or, at least, what I think I learned.
- It is not fair. On DAY 25 I wasn’t even offered an interview for a little part-time job. I was extremely well-qualified for the position, so that did not seem fair to me. On DAY 29 I read about how it is easier for men to come by professional success than it is for women. That, too, seems very unfair. But on DAY 88 I was struck by the fact that things would have been even harder for me had I been black. So, yes, looking for a job is unfair, but there is usually someone else who has things worse than you do.
- It is hard. Sometimes you feel frustrated because you apply for a position that has already been filled, as I discovered on DAY 10. Sometimes you feel embarrassed because you don’t want to tell people you aren’t working, which is what happened to me on DAY 20. On DAY 33 I was miserable because one of the places that said they wanted to interview me was taking forever to get back to me with an interview date. But then DAY 34 rolled around, they got back to me, and I watched a movie about French cooking and learned that “adversity is the spice of life.” Speaking of delicious food and Europe, the Swedes break up the difficulty of their workday with a midmorning coffee and pastry. As I learned on DAY 6, this is a great strategy for job-seekers as well.
- It is unpredictable. The biggest surprise of my job hunt came on DAY 55 when I received an offer for the position that I had previously been rejected from. I still can’t believe it happened, because it was the last thing I ever saw coming. This wasn’t the only surprise, though, since I was also pretty surprised on DAY 26 when, after not getting any requests for interviews for 25 days straight, I suddenly received two in one morning.
- You need persistence. One of the truisms I clung to throughout this project is something I learned on DAY 16: you cannot control the outcome of your actions, but you can control your actions. You cannot control whether or not someone hires you, but you can control the number of jobs you apply for. So persist in applying. Persistence applies to other challenges too, as I noted on DAY 95. For awhile this spring I had a very painful foot injury, but recently all my icing and stretching has paid off, and it is feeling much better.
- You need to know your own power. Being unemployed can make you feel powerless, but it is important to know your own power because that will make you behave in a more proactive manner. I learned this on DAY 24. The point was reinforced to me on DAY 27 when I read about how posture (specifically a more upright, confident, powerful posture) can affect the way you talk about yourself in a job interview. Don’t let feeling crappy about yourself change the way you present yourself to the world.
- You need to say “no” sometimes. Some workplaces are not that great. It could be because they are unprofessional or don’t pay well, a situation I came across on Day 42 and DAY 43. It could also just be that the job isn’t right for you right now, which is how I felt about the job I interviewed for on DAY 28.
- You need to apply for the jobs you want. On DAY 44 I applied for a job that I thought was totally out of my league. Then, to my great surprise, I heard back from those people on DAY 69, and they wanted to interview me. By then I had accepted another job, but the lesson is still the same. If you want a job, apply for it, even if you think you aren’t good enough.
- Unemployment can be a period of personal growth. This lesson was pointed out to me by another blogger, Aimless Panther, on DAY 41. It’s easy to think that being unemployed means you aren’t moving forward with life, but that isn’t necessarily the case. I was able to do some interesting things while unemployed, like study ceramics, as I did from DAY 60 to DAY 77. I’m stating the obvious here, but you can’t do twelve hours of ceramics on a weekday when you have a regular job. Take advantage of your free time when you are unemployed.
- People will help you. So, so, so many people helped me. I don’t even know where to start on this one. The recruiting firm I discovered on DAY 7 was a great aid to me, as were all the people who endorsed me. On days when I was nervous or things looked bleak, like DAY 21, you guys, my readers, swooped in with supportive words. When I was getting ready to move, some of you, like wanderlust809, gave me fantastic advice about moving. Mr. Rogers would be really proud.
- Always say “thank you.” Writing friendly little thank you notes after interviews is both mannerly and a way to impress your interviewers, as I wrote about on DAY 47. Perhaps more importantly, saying thank you is also a great way to remind yourself of all the ways people are helping and of all the things you have to be grateful for. That’s why, after I received a job offer, on DAY 58 this 100-day project became a gratitude project.
On that note, I’d like to offer my final THANK YOU to the readers of this blog. You guys are the best. Thank you for encouraging me, celebrating with me, giving me advice, and generally hearing me out. These little internet communities are strange things, but even though I don’t know most of you in real life, you have nevertheless made a difference in my real life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.