Unemployment – Still the Best Thing to Happen to Me

Published: Feb 08, 2016

 Interviewing       Job Search       Networking       Workplace Issues       
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Last week, I interviewed Jasmine Ray, the founder of Wall Ball World, for an upcoming blog, but her career advice was so thought provoking and inspiring, I had to post an early tease on our Facebook page.  Her thoughts aligned with my own recent decision to hand in my resignation letter without any sort of backup plan…and it was the best decision I ever made. 

In 2009, during my first foray with Vault, I wrote a blog about my positive experience with unemployment. To summarize, I discussed my decision to leave journalism behind for a career in public relations. I took a contracted position during the great economic collapse and was not offered a full-time position when the contract expired. The blog discussed how I used every contact I met to aid in my job search and how I took on freelance jobs that challenged me as a writer and expanded my knowledge of public relations. The experiences helped me turn a part-time job at Vault into a full-time career. Fast forward close to 7 years later and I have to say that unemployment is still the best thing to ever happen to me.

It Highlighted My Limitations: In 2009, with hopes of staving off unemployment, I interviewed for a Deputy Director of Public Affairs position at the NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA), but I didn’t get the job.  There was a lot I still needed to know about public affairs.  I spoke to mentors and took on as many small PR jobs as I could until I took over as Communications Manager for Vault. In 2012, I began interviewing for the Director of Public Affairs position at DFTA and I got the job. Sometimes getting turned down for a job can help you understand what you need to work on to get the job in the future. 

It Made Me a Better Communicator: Do you know how many job interviews I stumbled my way through?  I could never communicate my experience effectively.  I didn’t research companies before meeting with them; I answered questions about my weaknesses incorrectly (my biggest weakness is that I work too hard); and I asked the wrong questions (what is your vacation policy). With each failed interview, I learned a new valuable lesson until I knew exactly how to sell myself.  I was recently told I interview well, which is something I never would have heard in 2009. 

It Showed Me the Value of Contacts: In the past, a contact was a new business card I could collect. But only when faced with a scary job search, did I understand how important making contacts was to advancing my career.  Now, whenever I work at a new job, I make sure to really get to know vendors and colleagues from other organizations…all with the knowledge that we might be able to help each other do business now and in the future.  And sometimes you make good friends in the process. 

It Allowed Me to Create My Own Brand:  I accessed my skills and saw what I could do on a freelance or consultant basis.  I made a decent income and it allowed me to market myself, more as a business than as a potential job applicant.  When you develop a good reputation in your solo ventures, it leads to new opportunities you may have never thought of before. 

It Allowed Me to Take Risks: I was unhappy in my last job – loved my staff, but didn’t enjoy other aspects of the company.  I was looking for something with more flexibility in terms of the company culture, the work load and the hours. However, I didn’t have the time to conduct a dedicated job search, so I took a risk – I resigned…and then I went to work.  I picked up immediate consulting work to eliminate the resume gap and worked on other freelance assignments until I landed back at Vault (I’ll blog more about my job search in the future). Come to think of it, Vault has rescued me from unemployment twice now. I guess that’s why I’ve become a big champion for what they could do for your career (did you order a shameless plug with your blog?).

The fact of the matter is, it took unemployment to force me to learn those things and only in hindsight did I see the value in it.  So, I pass that knowledge on to you, because I want you to advance your career without those pitfalls.  But if those pitfalls ever surprise you, at least you’ll be prepared for what to do. 

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