It felt like an episode of “I was pregnant and didn’t even know it!”… except the unexpected surprise was my boss telling me that the dream job I nabbed at the ripe age of 23 was over: I was fired.
Cue the surprise, sobs and scrambles similar to the TV show and fast forward to now: I’m 24, with some experience in my field and jobless. Being unemployed in my mid-twenties feels different than being unemployed in my early twenties or my early thirties because I’m stuck between milestones: no longer a recent grad but not quite well established in my first career.
If you’re like me, you might also enjoy a certain freedom that comes before being married, owning property and having babies which makes this situation a strong fork in the road. Unless you’re set that this is the career for you, take this opportunity to explore what your options are.
Here are some suggestions on what to do next:
1. Sort the details out.
I made sure not to sign anything when I first hear the news. I wasn’t the world’s worst employee so I asked my boss if they’ll still be a reference. I read everything carefully so I’d know how much severance I’d be entitled to, when it’ll be paid and when I’d get my Record of Employment (you’ll need this if you want to apply for Employment Insurance). If you are hesitant about anything, ask someone you trust to look over the paper work or find a community legal clinic if you’re suspicious.
Keep your emotions in check; don’t start a fight with your employer unless your rights are being violated. I also asked about my benefits and squeezed in a dentist and a chiropractor appointment.
If you’re able to, you should be involved in at least one volunteer opportunity regardless of whether you’re unemployed or not. Giving back to your community is important and when you’re unemployed, it can be beneficial for your bounce-back as well as your soul. If you already volunteer, ask if you can commit further. If you’re new to the game, start with something casual like volunteering at an event and then seeing where you see a fit for your time and skills.
Improve skills you’d like to be employed for or use the time to learn new skills. Bonus: meeting new people and maintaining that feeling that you’re doing something with your life.
3. Sign up for something.
Anything. Seriously. Commit to something with a set weekly schedule so you know that you have to leave your house for it. If money’s tight, spend it on this instead of on crappy food. The activity you sign up for must be out of your house and should involve other people: try a dance class, a book club or an outdoor club.
4. Leave your house once a day.
Now that you’ve committed to leaving your house at least once a week, step it up to leaving the house once a day. Sometimes I take a walk around the block, meet up with a friend or go to my favourite coffee shop. If I don’t feel like spending money, I’ll hang out at my local library: free internet and loads of inspiration await you.
5. Meet with influential people.
Take some time to grab a coffee or a drink with people you normally wouldn’t see. I met with people who have jobs I’d love to do, people who do something totally different than me, people who are making a difference in my community or people who work jobs I’d totally hate. Ask them their stories, what inspires them and what advice they’d give to you right now. The things you’ll learn and ideas you’ll spark are multiplied and networking really is one of the best ways to find a job. Don’t do it for this, but sometimes the folks I met with paid for my beer.
6. Evaluate past work experiences.
I wrote down every single job I can remember and revisited what I loved about them and what I hated about them. Look for patterns in the love/hate to help you focus on what kinds of opportunities you’d like to pursue. Maybe you have a hidden passion that you overlooked or maybe you’ll just solidify what you already know. I make sure to keep the list handy so I can add ideas when inspiration strikes.
7. Exercise and/or meditate.
Chances are that even if you left the office with a feeling of freedom upon your dismissal, negativity and depression may creep their way into your life once the news settles. One of the most common excuses for not exercising or meditating is not having time—now you have heaps of time. Kill two birds with one stone and sign up for an exercise class or a meditation class.
8. Talk to a counsellor.
The sad truth is that someday, we’re going to have to find jobs because life costs money. This transition is one that surprises me incredibly in the ways I feel hopeful one minute and then I hate my life the next. Ask a friend to recommend you to a counsellor or find a community service that will connect you with one and make an appointment, even if you feel okay for now. Friends and family are great sounding boards but if you want an unbiased opinion and the relief that they won’t pity you or worry needlessly about you, you should see a counsellor.
Deciding your next steps will take a while, so don’t rush into anything that you’re not sure of. Or rush into it, that’s fine too. I keep telling myself that eventually, everything will sort out. For now, act from a position of strength (assertively knowing what’s next for you) than a position of weakness (desperately grabbing anything you can without thinking) to ensure that when things do get sorted out, you’re happier than you were before.
Keep reminding yourself that things will work out, because they will. I promise.
Author: Juliana Gomez
Editor: Renée Picard
Images: superchristie at Flickr