I recently attended a library workshop organised by a CILIP special interest group. To begin we had to go round the room introducing ourselves, including where we were from. It was mainly university library staff with some library school students (who also all had employers too) and a couple of public librarians too. Then we came to my turn to speak;
“Hi I’m Laura. I’m not from any organisation as I’m unemployed at the moment”
Not my greatest professional moment. Although I’ve put on brave face and kept up a positive persona, at that moment I wanted to run for the door.
For most even the shortest spell of unemployment can cause stress about money and the future, leading to depression and feelings of low self-worth. Not having a job slowly chips away at your soul when you love your career and what you do. The last few years of my life have been almost wholly defined by my career in libraries and information. Our jobs construct a large proportion of our identity. For me being a librarian is about more than just the job however the longer you don’t have a job the harder it becomes to identify as a librarian. It’s easy to fall down the route of depression and self-pity but thankfully I survived my short period of unemployment with the help of the following strategies.
- Structure – One of the hardest things about not having a job is often the lack of structure and routine. I found it easiest to treat job hunting like a regular 9-5 job with a lunch hour. Although it didn’t always work perfectly it helped to set an alarm for the same time everyday and to take a lunch break away from my computer. I always walked to and from work, so I started my day with a short walk to put myself in the right frame of mind whilst job hunting at home.
- Flexibility – To succeed in finding a job readjustment of your plans might be required. Compromise is likely to be important especially if you’ve been out of work for a while or don’t have the luxury of being able to take your time to find the next dream job. You may not need to compromise but I recommend thinking about what area you would be willing to compromise on. If you can’t move for a job then you might want to broaden your search criteria to include non-traditional roles or non-traditional environments. Or if your heart is set on working in particular sector then think about how far you are willing to relocate. The dream for me would have been an information related role in Liverpool as that’s the type of work I love, in the city I love. Unfortunately as that is unlikely to happen anytime soon, it has been a choice between the location or the job. My compromise has been letting go of specific ambitions about a ‘dream’ job for the chance to live in a ‘dream’ city. I was offered a great job but the location wasn’t right so I turned it down because I knew I wouldn’t be happy. In the end I’ve found a job I’d never considered before which offers the chance to live in a city that I’ve always wanted to move to.
- Positivity – Positivity is required to survive unemployment. Unemployment makes everything seem bleak. The lack of jobs. Putting everything into applications only to never hear anything. Rejection emails. Having no money. Visiting the job centre. It is all quite rubbish but finding small ways to stay positive helps a lot. Volunteer to gain new skills or take up a new hobby to fill your time when not applying for jobs. Anything that helps give back a little self-worth will help in the job hunt. Remember that you never know what is just around the corner. A week ago I was filling in my job seekers book and feeling depressed about the fact I hadn’t even been paid job seekers allowance for all my troubles yet. Now I have a job to start next week.
I won’t sugar coat the reality. Unemployment has been a rather rubbish experience. I’ve only had to do this for 6 weeks, and I’m aware others have it a lot worse, but it has felt like a very long time. Tomorrow I will send my job seekers allowance book back to the job centre and hope to never have to explain to the staff there that a librarian does more at work than give people books.
Good luck to anyone reading who is struggling with unemployment at the moment. I hope there is something good just around the corner for you.