Out of the frying pan and into the fire: jobless edition
February 9, 2017 2:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm the poor sap who was in this situation last summer. The good news: I quit the awful job! The bad news: I'm sinking anyway, and don't know how to right the ship. (also: more snowflakes)

After lots of soul-searching, I finally saved up enough money and grew enough of a spine to quit my toxic, soul-sucking job a few months ago. I did it professionally (holding back the urge to moon my boss), and as gracefully as I could in that situation. Former boss made things astonishingly ugly for me up until my last day, but it's in the past now.

Anyway, I used my first month of freedom to get my sleep cycle back to normal. I got into a routine at the gym, readjusted my diet, and lost some weight. I went to the doctor. I started meditating. I signed up to volunteer for a couple of things. I went camping a bunch of times. I started seeing my friends again. I was going to therapy, making progress, and eventually got the sense that I was a normal, functioning human being again.

But the problem is, even though I've been aggressively applying to jobs both in and out of my field in the months since, and using every trick in the book that's gotten me in the door in the past (cold calling, LinkedIn, informational interviews, resume/cover letter boot camp, putting feelers out with former co-workers, etc)...nothing. No call-backs. Not even an single automated rejection e-mail.

Ordinarily, I'd tell myself, "Don't worry, you've been through worse!", but I feel like the hits just keep coming: I had to put out a few unexpected fires, and that drained my bank account more than I expected. The therapist I was seeing suddenly disappeared, and I've already cycled through two dud replacements (made worse by the fact that few shrinks my area who take my insurance are accepting new clients...so it stings a lot to get rejected in this area, too).

The election happening in the middle of all this didn't help much, either.

So I've kept up with the self-care (except the therapy part, for now), the exercise, and the whole getting out of the house routine...but I feel like shit all the time. And while I'm still working on job applications despite the apparent hopelessness of it all, I feel like I'm bashing my head against a brick wall.

Tell me, wise internet strangers: what else can I do here? I can't accept the possibility that I suck *that much,* or that my old boss put a hex on me or something. I want to believe there is a way out of this morass.

(NB: I'd really appreciate suggestions beyond "medication" or "go back to school" -- unfortunately, I've tried the former with disastrous results in the past, and I'm not in a good position, financially speaking, to do the latter.)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Try signing up with as many temp agencies as are in your area, just to get some money rolling in. A bonus is that temp jobs can lead to permanent ones - either through direct placement or by finding out about another job that exists at a particular company.

If there are no temp agencies (or no good ones) in your area it's fine to take a "survival" job at Starbucks or waiting tables. Lots of people do this.

Just something to think about - is your field particularly crowded and competitive, or very small and/or tight-knit where all the bosses know each other? Could this be why you are having trouble finding a job? Are there any different fields you could branch out to? It sounds as if you have skills and don't need to go back to school, though it might be worth your while (and not particularly expensive) to take a brush-up course in something like Excel if you think that might help you.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:36 AM on February 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm really old school and to me, one goes to therapy because one needs fixing. That you feel the need to undergo therapy perhaps mean that you're not as well adjusted as you think and perhaps that comes across in the way you sell yourself. Insecurity is not an appealing trait. I'll probably be castigated for saying this on this forum but it's good that you hear things from different perspectives.

That being said, it'd be good for you to take the first job (temp, retail, etc.) that will get you out of the house every day. This gives you a steady, of small, income and the stable grounding from which you should then start applying for a 'real' job in the area of your interest.

Being unemployed sucks. I feel for you.
posted by Kwadeng at 4:29 AM on February 9, 2017

I've experienced the job hunting stress, too. You're doing a lot of the things I would do and suggest.

FWIW, at one point I learned, though I was checking all the boxes, a job still had to be available. At times, a mystery and frustrating to say the least.

A "survival" job is probably the best thing for you now for reasons of steady cash and staying busy.
posted by mountainblue at 6:01 AM on February 9, 2017

I was you this past summer. Quit a job in June, spent July into August putting myself back together, and then September into October freaking the hell out because I'd blown up my life and oh my god I was going to run out of money and lose the house and I'm so stupid why did I do this and

And then I got a job, and it's pretty decent, and everything's fine. Through the freakout phase, I kept up with the self-care routine to try to hold myself together, and also, crucially, just persisted with job applications and job-search stuff. It wasn't easy; there was a strong sense of "I'm wasting my time, I'm doomed" but I trained myself to think of each application or meeting with a recruiter as buying a lottery ticket- any individual one isn't likely to pay off, but if you do a bunch of them, one of them undoubtedly will.

FWIW, on the practical end, I was really struck by how much the involvement of a decent recruiter changed the job-search game. Going through standard HR applications, I'd get screened out of all kinds of things that I was eminently qualified for. But with a recruiter vouching for me, I got good shots at a lot of jobs that it never would have occurred to me to apply for. Several of the recruiters I worked with were hot garbage (one of them was like a used car salesman desperately trying to sell me a bucket of shit), but when I got hooked up with the right one, that made all the difference.

Happy to talk by MeFi Mail if it'd be helpful...
posted by the phlegmatic king at 7:19 AM on February 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you haven't seen it already, the Ask A Manager site is a great resource for job seekers. Take a look at the topic pages for things like job searching, cover letters, resumes, etc. This will give you some insight into whether your current approaches could use some tweaking to get you some responses (at which point you can consult her advice on interviewing, etc.). Good luck!
posted by msbubbaclees at 7:42 AM on February 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding Ask A Manager, especially this post: If you're not getting interviews, read this. I know you mentioned you did a resume/cover letter boot camp, but I wonder if it may have done more harm than good - there's a lot of bad resume advice out there.

Good luck!
posted by jouir at 10:37 AM on February 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Leave the mindset that you suck. Think about why you think that, then figure out what you can do to diminish it. Turn it into a little dude in your mind that you invite in for coffee and slippers and a comfy couch. If he's distracted, he won't criticize you so much. It sounds ridiculous but those little guys got me out of major anxiety last weekend.

I've been unemployed for over 2.5 years and just this past weekend spent several hours brushing up on my job skills and industry news and had a great phone interview on Monday that led to a third in-person interview.

The two things I had to accept were:

- Shooting for a lower-level job than I'd been in before. I got laid off/fired/contract ended for my last several jobs, but now that I've been aiming for more realistic positions, I'm getting farther in the interview process.

- Throwing resumes at every wall and seeing what sticks.

Also, recruiters aren't really you're friends, they're salespeople who will drop you at any moment. HR for any given company will be way more productive.

Everyone I've ever talked about has urged me to go to meetups and networking events. It can be anxiety-inducing, but just go to a happy hour, bring your cards, have a beer, talk to people with jobs. Then follow-up. Ask people out for coffee, connect on LinkedIn.
posted by bendy at 8:47 PM on February 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Looking for a job with no feedback yet is so scary and sucks so hard, I'm sorry. Nov/Dec is a tough time of year to look, too. You're already doing a lot. Do you have a mentor? One thing that might help is to find a group of people also looking for work, maybe in your field as well? I work with a mentoring group where most people are looking, and it's good for building ties that will help even when you're working, and having a place where people have similar frustrations. Is there a professional organization for your field or related fields? Meetup group? Can part of your volunteer work be putting together events for people in your field, or events related to your field?

One of the things about finding a job is that you never know what will pay off until it does, and everything feels useless when it's not paying off. And everyone who has a job and tells you nicely its a matter of time and it'll be fine has a job already so. Find a group where you can vent about how futile it feels and celebrate when it does pay off?
posted by slanket wizard at 8:02 AM on February 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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