I’m unemployed, broke, balding, living with my parents, about to turn 30, friendless, depressed, and miserable. How can I possibly turn it around?
Originally posted on Quora, answering the question: I’m unemployed, broke, balding, living with my parents, about to turn 30, friendless, depressed, and miserable. How can I possibly turn it around. Follow me on Quora.
In 2007, I got laid off from my high paying biotech job and backpacked through Central America. I was 32 at the time. I took all the money I had and bought Apple stock on margin. It was a good year to buy Apple stock as this was the year the iPhone came out. I moved to LA with plans to fulfill my dream of starting a company. I’d always been in interested in tech and the Internet so I started on a solid year of wantrepreneurship.
In 2008, the market came unhinged, the economy experienced the worst recession since the Great Depression and I sold my stock at the bottom, taking huge loses. My start up business hadn’t panned out. I’d made very little progress on my idea, and eventually partnered with a friend to raise money for a Facebook apps company. Neither of us knew a thing about Facebook apps.
What little personal savings I had left was drying up as we started talking to investors. I didn’t have a job and was hoping to raise money to pay the bills and build a company. Then the financial crisis struck. No investors would talk to us. My friend had a job, I was pretty much out of money. By some miracle, unemployment benefits got extended, and I was eligible from having been laid off a year and half earlier. I don’t understand why.
I was now completely broke except for my biweekly unemployment checks which barely covered rent and food. I was 33 year old, hadn’t worked in a year and half and was ostensibly changing careers/industries yet had no experience in the new industry. I was looking for a job as the unemployment rate was rising at rate faster than it had in nearly seventy years. It was a historically bad time to be looking for a job, especially in an industry where I had no experience.
At one point, I couldn’t pay my cellphone bill. I had no idea, but Verizon has a payment plan when you’re back due.
I spent months applying to jobs and writing cover letters. I got coffee and met with anyone and everyone I could. This eventually led to an interview and offer from MySpace (at the time bigger than Facebook and a hot company). I was going to start the following week, then the offer letter got delayed one week. Then another week, then a third. Then MySpace put on a hiring freeze.
I couldn’t pay my credit cards, and creditors were calling non stop. At first I tried to answer the calls, then I just stopped. There wasn’t anything I could do. The news on the economy got worse and worse.
I kept applying to jobs and tried to keep a positive outlook. That was all I could do. My unemployment benefits were about to end. I didn’t know how I was going to pay rent.
A couple weeks before they expired, a friend of friend heard I understood social media and asked me to come in and present to her team. I drafted a strategy for her and presented for a couple hours. I charged $200, a nominal amount but it was a massive boost me for emotionally.
A week or so later, my neighbor on a whim passed on my resume for an open position onto a company where he freelanced. A month later I was head of sales at a top digital Hollywood production company (really the only one of its kind). I felt like I’d won the lottery.
This is just the short version. There were substantially more challenges and adversities I encountered than I’ve listed or have space to.
What I learned:
- You can only fix one problem at a time. Don’t go out and try to fix your life. Focus and solve only the biggest problem you have. Once you’ve fixed that, move onto the next one. So you’re not bald, broke, unemployed and friendless. You’re just unemployed. Go get a job and you’ve fixed that problem. Then move onto the next.
- Don’t create new problems for yourself. It doesn’t sound to me like you’d have any problem working in an office job. Are you crippled, maimed or cognitively impaired? No, then you can handle a job. I have to use my left hand for my mouse because of tennis elbow. I don’t think twice about it anymore. Don’t fortune tell problems or scenarios that don’t exist. As Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, most of which never happened.”
- Don’t define yourself by your problems. No ones life is perfect, far from it. Think of who you’d be if you didn’t have your problems. Probably the exact same person. So rediscover who you are and just start over from that point. When I was growing up playing hockey and we were getting whopped by another team, our coach would huddle us together between periods, tell the score was 0-0 and that our job was to win the next period, not the game. The game didn’t seem winnable at this point, but the opposing teams were always caught of guard in the next period by a team they’d mostly counted out. I don’t know that we ever lost a period after those talks, and we came back to win a surprising number of games from a big deficit.
- Create a routine. You don’t have a job. You’re job now is to get a job. Wake up early, have a morning routine and go somewhere (coffee house etc) where you will work at getting a job for eight hours a day. Now that doesn’t mean writing resumes for that long. It can and should include networking, reading, learning, informational interviews, improving job skills, etc. But create a schedule for yourself. You should make exercise and the outdoors part of the schedule. Research shows that exercise helps alleviate depressions and the NY Times just published an article on another study that shows .
- Reframe. When I was applying for jobs after being essentially unemployed for 18 months, I listed the 6 months of travel/backpacking I did as “travel sabbatical” on my resume. A director at one of the companies I interviewed at asked about my travels with envy. During my year of wantrepreneurship, I didn’t successfully launch the company I envisioned, but I did learn valuable skills such as blogging, social media, SEO and others. In my interviews, I talked about these skills and my successes, not the fact I couldn’t ultimately raise money and folded the enterprise. Use your time being unemployed, as a chance to learn new job skills, volunteer, pick up a hobby and/or travel. If you don’t think you have the money, a subscription to Lynda runs $25/month. There’s more there to learn than you could possibly cover in a lifetime.
- Get inspired. You’re far from the first or only one in your predicament. Countless others have overcome difficulties far worse than yours. It can help immensely to watch and read their stories. writes a great blog about personal development and shares his own ups and downs in his career. Nick Vujicic was born without arms and legs. That’s right, no arms or legs. He was bullied so badly that he contemplated suicide. He’s now a hugely successful motivational speaker. Watch his Ted Talk:
- Embrace uncertainty. This comes from Deepak Chopra’s “Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” which I’d recommend reading and rereading. It’s really only part of Deepak’s message, but one that ties very deeply to encountering difficulties. Acting from a place of fear or depression won’t do anything to help you overcome your situation.
- See the abundance. When times are hard, you see what’s missing and what you don’t have. The world feels scarce, because you’re focused on the scarcity. But there’s another side to it. Think of what’s abundant in the world. Make a list. You don’t have a job, but that can change very quickly. The U.S. economy is adding 200,000 new jobs a month! Why can’t one be yours?
- Become grateful. Practice gratitude. Read “The Magic.” You’ll start to see that how even at what may seem like the lowest point in your, you have countless things to be grateful for. When you see that and recognize that everything will change.