Posted by: Katie | July 8, 2011

Keeping sane while unemployed

Intriguing post title, isn’t it? I don’t have the end-all, be-all answer to this question, and I don’t think anyone does. As in writing, I think it’s a case of see what others have to say and suggest, and take what works for you to make an individualized program.

It may have caught some of you off-guard to see this post title, but it’s true. I’m unemployed. At least, I no longer have a full-time job and I’m searching for one. I do still have a couple of part-time-ish jobs that will help buffer the unemployment insurance, so I’m not completely destitute and running home to live in my parents’ basement. But, thank my parents that’s an option for me if it comes down to it.

My full-time position ended last Thursday which is the end of the fiscal year in Iowa. I knew it was coming, and I did my level best to ensure the minimization of any time off between jobs. There is only so much you can control, however. I can control crafting exceptional cover letters and a resume tailored to each job I apply to. I cannot control the response to those applications. I can control how I present myself during interviews. I can’t control someone else being a better match to the institution. In many ways, I am giving thanks to the ten-plus years I’ve spent pursuing publication in the fiction market. It has taught me knowing the difference between what I can and cannot control, and how to react in a healthy manner to disappointing news.

It has also taught me to persevere through dark and demoralizing times. You have to if you are truly dedicated to grabbing the brass ring. When I graduated from my master’s program back in 2003, we were in the middle of one of the tighter down periods in the job market cycle in libraries. It took me over six months to secure my first full-time professional position after graduation. Suffice it to say, I’ve been job hunting for a significantly longer period this time around. Since I first got wind of the movement to eliminate the agency I used to work for, in fact. In the same period of time, I’ve had extraordinary opportunities come my way. Thank you to everyone who has had a part in those opportunities. You have given me hope during times I was in most need of it, and you still do.

Job hunting can make you feel like you’re only setting yourself up for rejection. It’s hard to have hope when you receive yet another rejection letter in the mail…or you receive no response at all. For those times, you need to find something to do to distract yourself. Last summer, it was writing a novel. This summer, it’s writing a novella, knitting, and attempting to grind down my TBR mountain. I sometimes think my family believes I have an internet jack implanted in my brain because I can have difficulty in disconnecting. At this point in time: no comment 🙂 That being said, it’s an amazing stress reliever to shut down the computer and ignore it. I’m also not discounting the stress relieving effects of regular exercise. It’s the fact I burn like a vampire I have to work around in the summer.

If you’ve got things to keep you busy, that’s wonderful. I’ve at times contemplated what it would be like to work from home part-time and work in a more structured environment part-time. My current situation is forcing me to dive into that scenario feet-first. I’ve spend the week since the full-time job ended in Chicago with my family as it was the 4th of July holiday, and we’ve got a number of birthdays around then, including mine.What I am finding is that I respond well to schedules and to do lists. I’ve recognized that for a number of years now, but with so much unstructured time staring me in the face, with a number of projects I’d very much like to achieve in the next month (if not longer), I can’t be sitting on my butt all day long. I’m still working on the best way to organize myself for the long haul, but for the time being, my stash of Post-It notes is coming in handy.

Finally, if you’re in a situation similar to mine, you likely have a lot of people asking how you are doing. Appreciate the concern behind those inquiries. There are times I want to yell at people to leave me alone and clam up in a darkened room, covered by my blankets. I don’t yell, but I sometimes give into the darkened room. Your friends and acquaintances, at least most of them, are only trying to be supportive, and may even be trying to tactfully find out the best way they can support you. Be honest with them, even if it’s saying “I’d rather not talk about this right now. How about we talk about this other subject instead?” For those of you also job hunting, good luck. Focus on what you can control, and work on letting what you can’t control roll off your back. One last piece of eternal advice from my mom, “go for a walk.”

PS – If anyone would like the template I use to track my job application status, I’ve put it up in Google Docs for download.



  1. I just found your blog and I’m a new follower. I’m an aspiring teen librarian and I can totally sympathize with you and I’m sending this post to my parents because they don’t always understand my reaction when I go the darkened room route as well.

    I’m still stuck living with them, which makes me feel ashamed a lot of the time. I shouldn’t be living with them – I should have been out of the house long ago. But all of these circumstances have been holding me back. I graduated from undergrad with a full-time job at a very small business….just us two people…and it was contractual. Yippee. Small businesses were the first to go with the bad economy and so was I. Then I got a job with my state archives, where, you guessed it…most of us were contractual…and I was paid less than my first job. Then I decided to get a student position with the national archives…yes it was a student job, but it paid a little more than my state job (though still not as much as my first job) and I got annual and sick leave. No benefits though. Then our project ended and me and three other students were kicked to the curb. I’ve been jobless since the end of April and it sucks. I finished my MLS in July and I’m still sitting in my parent’s house. I should have been able to make a living off my BA….now I have two degrees and nothing to show for them. I talked to a friend on Twitter who is in the same boat, yet her brother who didn’t go passed high school and had average grades, has a full time job and his own place while she lives at home with her two degrees. It’s sad. Anyway, sorry for the rant, I couldn’t help myself.

    The Musings of ALMYBNENR

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