What Unemployed People Do

In a nod to one of my favorite blogs, Stuff White People Like, I bring you “What Unemployed People Do”.

#1 Hang around Target. Do you see people wandering through your local Target store, very much in a fog and with few things in their cart? Yes? Then you have spotted one of us. I have overheard more than one person at Target chatting up the clerk heavily, talking about how they lost their job. They keep talking to kill some more time before they have to go home and find something else to do. It’s a big store to walk the whole way through. Now that the Target store near me has a grocery store inside, you see even more people going to Target to kill a few hours. And get good deals on Campbell’s Soup and Swiffers. Nothing like being thrifty and stretching that unemployment check. And it has to be Target and not Wal-mart. Target is hip, Wal-mart is just sad and will make you more depressed.

#2 Work out like a celebrity. It is no coincidence that in the time I have lost my job, my LA Fitness has become twice as crowded in the morning and early afternoons than it ever was. Across the board, everyone I know who has become unemployed has given me the same advice–to spend three hours at the gym and work out like it’s your job. It’s your time to do your own special version of the Biggest Loser and train yourself. Should a spin class be wall to wall people at 10am? Of course not, but now instead of a few stay at home mommies taking advantage of the gym child care, it’s all the rest of us, working out our angst. You will feel better and you may even start rocking your own hard abs.

#3 Drink coffee. I don’t even really like coffee that much. But coffee is social. Coffee is a verb, you “do” coffee. Coffee makes you look hip if you need to go and sit alone somewhere. Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Peets, it doesn’t matter. The crowds at each store are different (yuppies at Starbucks, old timers and faux coffee drinkers like myself at Dunkin’, hipsters at Peets). It’s a place where you can sit for hours and no one feels sorry for you. They believe you are there by choice. You can bring your kid. You can bring your laptop. When it’s warm out, you can sit outside on the patio and tie your dog to your chair for company. You can bring a good book or write your first novel. It has tables, chairs, and beverages, what else could you want? And if you really just can’t focus because your job loss is too recent, you can sit and people-watch. And if you want to get really crazy, you can order a biscotti just to feel continental.

#4 Mall walking. You may have enough money saved to buy some things. You may have a big unemployment check and there’s no need to panic, at least not yet. But it does seem gauche to spend money when you don’t have a job. Even if your spouse works or mom and dad throw you a couple bucks, it is just better to keep your cash in pocket and walk the mall. Window shopping, it’s good for the soul. People hang out at the mall from all walks of life, you don’t have to feel singled out. No one knows you lost your job. Maybe you are just comparison shopping and need to go from store to store with no bags in your hand. Even though you really want those Uggs slippers for $99, you just can’t seem to justify it…but it doesn’t hurt to keep trying them on. And it helps to know there is a place in the food court selling “cupcake shots” just in case you are having a down day and need the sugar to bolster your mood.

#5 Write a blog. I admit, I always wanted to write a blog. I love to write. I write things in my head all the time. I write them down in notebooks, date books, on construction paper, on receipts. I never thought I had time to sit down and get into a writing groove. Lose your job, lose your “busy” status, and boom, time to write. I think you can write about anything, as long as you have an audience. I chose writing about losing my job because I had never been unemployed before. It is one of those life experiences that I had not gone through. It was very emotional and very traumatic but also is very therapeutic and very inspiring.

#6 As the weather gets warm again, I think doing things outside will be part of the unemployment routine. Just in the past three days of warmth, you see people walking, biking, running. Again, when the bike path is jam-packed at 10am, you know that it’s not just a coincidence, it’s unemployment. The ranks of the daytime roamers have increased. You will start to see the parks and playgrounds filling up soon and instead of nannies and babysitters, you’ll see more moms and dads.

#7 Look for a job. Maybe not at first. Maybe some weeks it will be just too much effort and emotion to do it and you’ll just go through the motions. But looking for a job is in a sense it’s own job. It is labor-intensive. It takes a lot of networking, Facebooking, Twittering, Linkedin-ing, Monster posting, Career-Builder surfing and emailing to find a job. I have already had an interview and it took a lot of work just to get to the interview. The woman interviewing me told me she received 180 applications, interviewed 10 of us and then hired 1 of us. And it wasn’t me. It was a month-long process, just for 1 interview. Sometimes you have to think they don’t even read your resume. I have been told by several companies that I don’t have the requirements they are looking for. You don’t have sales lead experience. When you read my resume and cover letter, you can see it is the one thing I do have experience with. I am sure there is some program just scanning this, that the people looking at resumes take 5 seconds and don’t really read them and then you get lost. I just read another business blog about the same thing, how most candidates have the right job requirements and skills and are getting scanned out with no logic to it. It’s discouraging. It’s having to do something over and over again and then just a whole lot of nothing…no responses, no follow up, no human contact. I did appreciate that the woman I had my interview with actually took the time to email me and explain the process and complimented the things I had to offer and did right. Feedback, it’s a rare and precious thing.

#8 Go out and socialize. Why are bars crowded on a Tuesday night now? Well, when you don’t have to get up early to go to work, who cares what night of the week it is? It’s much easier to function with a hangover and just work through it at the gym after sleeping in, then when you had to head in to a 9am meeting. The resume, job search and interview process is brutal but mostly it’s lonely and solitary. Make your way to book club night. After all, you probably are the one person who has the time to read The Help or whatever 400+ page monstrosity everyone has decided we all have to read. Host a wine night–everyone can bring a bottle to share and discuss without you having to pay for it all. Head out for a drink/coffee/whatever after yoga class with the woman/man you always wanted to talk to because she/he seems nice. Take the cheap cooking class at the community college or adult ed center . Meet and greet, put yourself out there! Try something new!

#9 Volunteer. Give some karma to the world. Do something and help out at a place you always wanted to volunteer at but never seemed to have the time. Being around nice people (because non-profits generally consist of the nicer people in the world) improves the spirit, the soul and the world. It may change your perspective on the things, helping others really helps yourself as well. You will smile more. You will do things and not look for the credit like you did when you were working at your job. You will be a happier more positive person and I think that is when you will find a job you like. Maybe you will even find the job you like at the place you volunteer.

Well, I hope that gives you insight into how some of us spend our days….

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