Defusing the I-need-a-job-freakout

Let’s be honest.  Two years ago, after I graduated without a job,  I had days when I freaked out.  Last winter, months after my friend also graduated without a job, she freaked out.  A few months ago, when my boyfriend realized that his under-employment was not sustainable, he freaked out.


We’re all bound to go through it: the “I need a job!” freakout.

It’s ok.

Freaking out can be legitimate. We all have bills to pay in order to maintain life’s necessities, like food and shelter.

Freaking out can also be therapeutic.  If you’re around a bunch of other people who don’t have jobs, it’s something you can commiserate about.  Aaaah freakout! Le freak, c’est chic.

But there’s a point where all that freaking out isn’t healthy.  And I doubt it’s making you happy.

I admit, not having a job can be scary.  But, it can also be incredibly exciting.  If it weren’t, why would some people work their entire lives, just so that they can eventually *not* have a job?  Think about that.  If you are unemployed or underemployed, you have something that most people want, something you will wish you could get back once you do find a job.

You have time.  And you can spend a lot of that time happy, excited, and inspired, if you spent less of it freaking out.

But I don’t have time.  I need a job!  Now!

That is exactly what my inner critic was yelling back when I was freaking out.  I had to realize that statement was an assumption I made made, not a fact.  In order to move away from freaking out all the time, I had to recognize the holes in my assumption.

Do you really need a job now, as in, today?  If you have a roof over your head and food to eat, the answer is no. Yes, you may need a job eventually, but there is a big difference between that and ‘now’.  How many months and days do you really have until you run out of money?  Come up with a number.  Also, identify what it would take to buy yourself more time, such as getting part-time work, selling some of your stuff, or finding alternative housing arrangements, like couch-surfing.  Knowing how much time you have and what your options are gives you more control (and thus less to fear) than an ever-looming ‘eventually’.

I feel guilty doing anything else that isn’t moving forward my job search.

Where is that guilt coming from? If it isn’t coming from the assumption that you need a job right now, which we addressed above, is it coming from a feeling that you haven’t done “enough” to find a job?  Well, let’s test the truth of that belief.  Have you finished applying to all of the jobs you’re interested in?  Have you sent outreach emails to keep your networked job search moving forward?  If so, congrats, you’re done with your homework.  Go out and play.  If not, do the things that absolutely have to get done today, postpone the rest, and then go out and play.

The point I want to make is that unemployment can be stressful, but only as stressful as you make it for yourself.  It can also be a period of eye-opening possibility, if you let it.  Give yourself permission to spend at least one day a week doing something you love, something that inspires you, or something that you just wouldn’t be able to do while working full time.  Those days will replenish the energy you need for your job search, and will leave you with fewer regrets once you do get that job.

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