Your first week of employment can be a real mess. You don’t know what to you with yourself, and you don’t yet realize that the patterns you start that first week tend to continue through your unemployment. That means it’s important to make good choices right from the start. Here are some things you should do right off the bat:
- Shave. There’s nothing sadder than a recession beard…except maybe that weird pallor the lower half of your face has when you finally shave off the recession beard because you have an interview. If you already have facial hair, fine. Otherwise, this probably isn’t the time to go for the homeless look.
- Wear pants with zippers. It’s really tempting to lie around in your pajamas, just because you can. It’s okay to do this for, say, a day. Maybe two. Beyond that, trust me when I tell you that this will not contribute to your effort to maintain a positive outlook. Get dressed in real clothes every day. It really does make a difference.
- Make a list of things you want to get done. One of the sucky things about suddenly being home all the time is that you don’t ever achieve anything. When you have a job (even a lousy job), you get things done. When you’re home looking for a job, it can feel like all you do is email resumes into black holes. You can help combat this by assigning yourself work and then completing it. A couple of months ago, I ripped out the awful carpeting in our living and dining room. It took a week or so to get it done, because being home with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old is pretty much incompatible with a project like this. While I was doing it, though, I was amazed at how great it felt. Every day, I could actually see the progress I made (specifically, I could see that the hardwood floors underneath were in astonishingly bad shape…but that’s a whole other story). Job hunting can feel so sisyphean that you have to find other ways to create that sense of accomplishment you got from work.
- Clean and organize. You’re going to be home a lot. It will be less depressing if your house isn’t a mess. This is the opportunity to clean out your closets, basement, garage, etc. You’ll start your next job with everything organized, and you’ll probably find a lot of stuff you can donate to charity as well. That’s good, because although unemployment sucks, there are people worse off than you who need that stuff. You’ll also get a tax deduction, which will help offset the fact that you’re going to owe taxes for that unemployment check you’re (hopefully) receiving.
- Clean up family photos. You know what’s hugely time-consuming? Scanning in your old family photos. Since you’re unemployed, you have time for this. Then they’ll all be on your computer. Then, when you get a job, you can get one of those online backup services (I love Carbonite, but there are others out there too). People always say that if their house burned down, they’d miss the pictures of their kids and other family members the most. If my house burns down, I won’t have that problem, because my pictures are all backed up (well, not all…but I’m working on it). I never had time for this sort of thing when I had a job.
- Leave the house daily. Seriously. Make sure you leave every day, even if you only go for a walk around the block. Here in Wisconsin, it can be tempting to hole up when it’s cold and snowy. I did that the first winter. It was not good. Don’t do that. You need air and sunlight and stuff.
- Brush up on your tech skills. If you’ve been saying you don’t get this Twitter thing, or you aren’t sure Facebook is for you or Google Wave is for you, now’s the time to try them out. It’s easy to stop keeping up with stuff…and before you know it, you’re way behind. Take advantage of this opportunity to see for yourself what the kids are doing these days.
- Be a tourist. A lot of cities have free discounts for various places on certain days of the week. I can get into museums here in Milwaukee for free once a week, just because I’m a Milwaukee county resident. That’s the sort of thing I never had time for when I worked full-time, and they’re much less crowded on those days. See what your city has to offer.
- Do something that feels decadent. Most adults don’t get big chunks of time off. Like it or not, you have one. Find ways to make it a treat—go grocery shopping in the middle of the day, or take a nap after lunch, or do whatever else you always wanted to when you were working. Right now, I’m wearing slippers and watching it snow. I never got to do that when I had a job (because I spent most of my time in windowless conference rooms, wearing uncomfortable shoes). There’s always a silver lining, but sometimes you have to remind yourself to look for it.
Note: I wrote notes for this list about two months ago. That’s when a friend of mine got his 60 day notice that he was losing his job. I got out a calendar, figured out when his first week of being unemployed would hit, and then planned this post for that date. Apparently, I reverse-jinxed him, though, because at 3:15pm on his very last day of work, he got a great job offer…so he won’t need my list after all. Sometimes the good guys win.
Photo by KellyB