When I graduated with my masters in marketing last spring, I accepted a position with a company in Miami. I had interned with the company during my last semester, my bosses had admired my entrepreneurial spirit and social media skills, and when I finished school, I got the job.
Naturally, I was hesitant about moving from Tallahassee and about leaving my family, my boo, and my business, but I wanted a life outside of the food truck. And, my boyfriend (now fiancé) and I had been talking about expanding the brand to south Florida anyway, so we saw the move as a great opportunity to scope out the competition and gauge whether the truck would be a good fit.
Well, as it turned out, the job wasn’t a good fit. And 78 days into the position, 12 days away from health-insurance eligibility, I was fired. I was escorted outside where I gave up my garage key and the CEO wished me the best. I was humiliated and kept saying “I left everything for this company. I have nothing here.” And I was facing unemployment without any family, friends, or income to lean on.
That was three months ago, and today I’m working for a new company in south Florida and planning my food truck’s expansion. Believe me, I know that unemployment sucks. But, as I learned, maybe it’s the universe creating something better for you. Here are three of the best things I learned about coping when you’re out of a job.
1. Talk to Your Network
Tweets, emails, and texts are great tools for communication, but sometimes, the old-fashioned pick-up-the-phone mode of operation is best. I never was the best at answering the phone or returning friends’ calls, but—well, I had plenty of time to work on that while I was out of a job.
I sent emails to my network to find out if anyone knew of any job leads, and by doing so, I found two women who helped coach me through my unemployment. One woman is a vice president at a public relations firm with a loving husband, three children, and a work-life balance I hope to have one day. The other woman is a PR professional-turned-lawyer who reminds me of a real-life Olivia Pope.
When I called these women and told them about what happened, they understood immediately. Their advice was simple: “It happens. But don’t let this define you.” Both women encouraged me to look at my circumstance as an opportunity to find something better.
They didn’t tell me what I should do, but gave me the breadcrumbs to find the way. And it was being able to hear their voices—not read their words in an email or a text—that gave me clarity on what I should do to move forward. So when in doubt, call.
2. Find Your Peace
I’m all for any (legal) activity that’s going to give you peace of mind when you’re going through a period of transition. Personally, I found peace in BodyRockTV, a website with insane instructors dedicated to fitness, and my Moleskine journals.
I discovered BodyRockTV on Pinterest at 4 AM the Wednesday after I was let go. Initially, I thought the workouts were too intense, and the thought of lifting anything but a glass of Chianti seemed blasphemous. But after a week of being a total recluse, I woke up one morning, walked to my neighborhood park, and (barely) completed two of the 12-minute workouts. My shirt and shorts were drenched, and I could barely stand without my legs shaking, but I felt better. Something about burpees and tricep dips gave me a sense of pride. I kept thinking, “Yes, I accomplished something. I didn’t quit.”
I’ve also been writing in Moleskine journals for about three years. I discovered them in Borders (moment of silence) and they’ve been my faithful confidants ever since. Because when I was in Florida, away from family or friends to lean on, I wrote—and cried—every day. Whether I was writing about ideas for the future, combinations of wedding-guests lists, or my fears of not finding another job, I released every emotion I had into my journal.
I know, I know—writing with a pen and $10 journal isn’t for everyone, and yes, doing high-knees exercises are pretty painful on your thighs and butt. But finding your peace (or, as I like to call it, “woosah”) when managing stress, no matter how you do it, is absolutely necessary to stay positive during a period of unemployment.
3. Don’t Stop Giving
By the second week of my unemployment, I’d figured out I needed to do something other than work out and apply for jobs all day. So I decided to volunteer for a presidential campaign office in my neighborhood.
The tasks ranged from registering voters to knocking on doors in the blazing south Florida sun. One day, while volunteering, I met a 78-year-old man who told me he wouldn’t be able to vote because his license had expired. New state laws required that he show a birth certificate, and he didn’t have his.
I spent the next three weeks helping him track down the right officials to speak with, and then I pitched in to help pay for the processing fees because he was living on a fixed income. And on November 6, he was able to walk into his precinct with a current state license and vote.
It’s easy to be consumed in your ordeals and obstacles, especially when you’re worried about how you’re going to afford monthly bills. But I believe that when we help others by giving our time and talent we become better for it and are encouraged to be ambitious ourselves.
Take it from me: You’ll need that network, inner peace, and perspective to get through the low points of unemployment. I was unemployed for 40 days until I found my current job. I couldn’t be happier now, but I remember the highs and lows of each day of uncertainty. The awkward telephone interviews, the, “You’re great, but not a good fit right now” conversations, and the rejection emails from the local smoothie bars—none of it was fun.
But I got through it, and so will you. Just keep on swimming.