Self-Care and Uncertainty in Unemployment

The topic of self-care has been on my mind a lot recently, notably because unemployment has given me a lot of time to think about such things.

I’m into my sixth week of unemployment and it’s going… alright, considering the circumstances. I’m starting to hear back from positions I’ve applied for, and my days are fairly routine.

Waiting for call-backs on my job applications has been tough; setting a routine has been the remedy.

The Dreaded Online Job Application

Applying for jobs online is extremely easy and convenient. I can search for jobs in my area, based on specific criteria, and generally pull several dozen results within seconds.

The resume, cover letter, and informational questionnaire can all be submitted at the click of the button. But that’s not the problem.

The problem is what comes after I’ve submitted an application. I try to follow-up on my applications, but how do I do that if I’ve submitted it through a third-party job board like Indeed.com, or if the company doesn’t list an appropriate contact for the open position?

I’ve used LinkedIn to find recruiters/hiring managers for that company in my area, but even sending them messages about my application feels… less than ideal.

But that, apparently, is the world we live in. Mostly anonymous job applications sent into the ether. A handful of companies have been courteous enough to at least tell me when they’ve reviewed my application, but this does not seem to be the norm.

Most of my legitimate job contacts have come through a recruiter. This guy is not simply a headhunter. He is a talent placement specialist in every sense of that phrase. He’s reviewed and helped me revise my resume, coached me on interview tactics and the intimidating questions like salary expectations, and has really advocated on my behalf with some great companies.

In fact, if anyone in the Mid-Atlantic region is looking for a job in software development, product management, or systems analysis, I will gladly recommend this person to you.

He’s been great. The tougher part of my day-to-day comes outside of job applications and interviews. What the hell am I supposed to do with the rest of my time?

Learning and Adopting a Self-Care Routine

I try to be productive around the house; laundry, dishes, cleaning up. Now that it’s getting warmer, I have tentative plans to start some yard work and outdoor projects in my time off as well.

However, it’s hard to feel useful when I’m idling through my days, just waiting for the next phone call or for my wife and son to get home.

I honestly struggled with this a lot for the first couple of weeks. I was so focused on applying for jobs that I wasn’t hearing back from, that by the time my wife got home and asked how my day was, I felt like I didn’t have anything significant to tell her.

I had applied for a couple jobs, and… then the day was over.

I needed a routine, but more than that, I needed to live each day purposefully.

I talked about my new writing routine a couple weeks ago, and that has been a huge help. After taking my son to daycare in the mornings–which forces me to get out of bed like a real adult–I come home and try to write my WIP or on this blog for an hour or two.

This allows me to not only accomplish something early in the day, but to do something that is valuable to me, reminding myself that I can still provide such value.

I’ve started doing a few other things throughout my days to live purposefully in unemployment.

Learning through Codecademy.com

Codecademy is a fantastic online learning platform for people who want foundational training in software development or systems analysis. I had taken some introductory courses in HTML and CSS years ago.

Through my last job, I had started to learn SQL to query the company’s database and create data reports for the organization. I enjoyed learning SQL, and I wanted to continue and brush up on those skills while I had the time.

Fortunately, Codecademy has a Data Science learning path that focuses on SQL, Python, and translating those frameworks into business analytics. I’ve gotten through the SQL portion, which was very familiar, and I’m looking forward to moving onto learning Python, a completely new coding language to me.

General Health/Fitness

I’ve maintained a fitness routine in some form since I was fifteen years old–now more than half of my life.

My last job had a great fitness center in the office that I used for free. While I was on paternity leave (and not going to the office), I had a short-term membership to a local gym.

Now, however, I have no money. Or at least little enough that I can’t justify a gym membership. Fortunately, my wife is amazing and understands how my mental health can be negatively impacted when I’m not staying physically active.

So we started doing yoga, using Sarah Beth’s YouTube channel. We began with a 30-day challenge (which we’ve already broken, but we’re trying!), and we want to continue exploring the different styles of yoga this practitioner offers.

Seriously, go check out her channel if you’re interested in starting (or continuing) yoga. She explains the movements very well and is not as… stereotypical as a lot of yoga channels can be. Her teaching style is great for people who know nothing about yoga.

I also do 25-30 push-ups every day. It’s not the same as a full gym set, but it keeps the blood flowing and reminds me that I shouldn’t just be sitting in front of my computer all day.

Taking my dog on two 15-25 minute walks every day also helps.

Support Group

I didn’t know I needed an unemployment support group until I joined one.

I was not the only person laid off from my company, and one former colleague started a private group on Slack for some of us to keep in touch and provide any support needed in our respective job searches. It has been surprisingly helpful and comforting to be in the same boat with these people, some of whom I worked with directly, others only on occasion, and a few not at all.

We update each other almost daily on interviews, new companies we’re applying for, or recruiters we’re speaking with, all in an effort to keep our collective unemployment as short as possible.

It’s been immensely encouraging to be going through this process with other people.

Self-Care Routines Alleviate Uncertainty

Unemployment is full of uncertainty, but building and sticking to a routine has helped me remember that it’s not all doom and gloom.

I absolutely still have concerns about our family’s financial stability while I remain unemployed, but at least I’m taking care of myself in the interim.

What’s your self-care routine, unemployed or not?

Steve D

One thought on “Self-Care and Uncertainty in Unemployment”

  1. I write and check email from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m., then job hunt from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m… It’s harder to feel guilty if I am hunting rather than tossing and turning with worries… And I agree that modern job hunting leaves a lot to be desired. I miss being able to cold call a company, to follow up without being labeled a stalker, and to have a better profile of what is happening in the local community… In the effort to be or “look” like a company is being objective and fair, applicants are left to wonder if a job was even really there…if there were too many applicants… or if they judged the position wrongly…Can’t fix what we don’t know is broken!

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