I'm Leah, and in a lucky twist of fate, I've landed my three dream jobs:
book editor, writer, and mother. Since having my son in December 2008, my
work-life has been in constant flux - full-time? part-time? freelance?
working at home or in the office? It depends on the day and which way the
wind is blowing - and figuring out how to keep it all going is a constant
challenge. Heck, I'm still getting used to the idea of being someone's
Check out my profile on Work It, Mom! and my personal blog, A Girl and a Boy.
It’s a touchy subject, but I’m going to try to write about it in a non-judgey, not-telling-you-what-to-do, just-thinking-aloud type of way.
Say you’re unemployed. Say you’ve been unemployed for not days or weeks but months, and maybe even more than a year. You’re diligent about applying for positions, you follow up, you wear your shiniest shoes to interviews but still can’t find work. It sucks. It sucks HARD. It’s a hit on your self-esteem, it insults all the effort you put into school and at previous jobs, and it’s especially terrifying if you have a family to support and don’t know where you’re going to get the money to pay for groceries.
It’s a down economy, times are tough, unemployment is rampant, and yet…at what point do you stop blaming the market and accept that the problem might actually be…you? I’m not talking about not being worthy of a job or not a competent and quality employee. I’m talking about the ways in which you might be limiting yourself, say by narrowing the definition of What You’re Good At and/or What You Can Do.
My husband’s been in the biotech business for more than a decade, and although that’s definitely what’s he’s Good At and Able to Do, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of his skills and talents and interests…which we’ve come to appreciate more and more during this last month he’s been unemployed and looking for work. (Again.)
Like most people researching new jobs, he started by applying for the same old positions in the same old field, but it wasn’t long before he had to expand his search simply because there’s just not that much out there for someone in his particular niche. That’s the depressing part (okay, there are several depressing parts), but the invigorating (yes) part has been asking, “Okay, so, what else can you do? What else do you want to do?” It’s not a planned midlife career change by any means, but if he does end up going in a new direction, I think it’s going to be kind of amazingly awesome. (He recently interviewed for a position in the music industry, which is his real passion and would be so much more personally fulfilling than his jobs have been in the past.)
For those of you looking for work, whether because you want to change jobs or because you need a job, any job, because your wife is having a baby in three months, at which point her salary will drop by at least half and you won’t be able to pay the bills (AHEM): At what point do you stop looking at the same Craigslist categories and start thinking outside the box? What other skills do you have, even if you’ve never used them professionally? Is your financial situation such that you could afford to take an internship in an area that interests you–ideally one that will expand your job prospects into an industry with more opportunities? If I may use a bit of fauxspirational business jargon: Are you thinking outside the box?
I without a doubt believe that the job market is a factor in many cases and that sometimes people just have bad luck, but I also believe in creative problem solving and taking control over things we CAN control rather than just sitting back and wallowing in our perceived victimhood. Being unemployed suuuuuuuuucks, I know this, believe me, but it’s also a chance to make a change for the better.
And that’s your Pollyanna speech for the day from someone who is trying not to panic that OMG I’M SEVEN MONTHS PREGNANT AND MY HUSBAND IS UNEMPLOYED AND WE’LL HAVE TWO KIDS WHO NEED CHILDCARE AND MY SALARY ALONE BARELY PAYS THE MORTGAGE AND WE’RE GOING TO BE HOMELESS AND PENNILESS AND NO ONE WILL EVER LIKE US AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER ET CETERA.
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