“Have you tried…” 5 Things to Avoid When Talking to the Unemployed

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m looking to transition from my work in education into an entirely new sector. While I’m making this transition (read: underemployed, soon to be unemployed), I’ve encountered many people who have suggestions on how I should be conducting my job search. Because these people are so annoyingly assertive forthright and open in sharing their opinions , I’ve been able to develop a concise, but encompassing list of five things you should avoid when talking to a job-searching unemployed.

1. Don’t suggest jobs that are against our morals, or perhaps, our very being.

I hit a bunny while driving once. I had to pull over because I was crying so hard. Suggesting a job at an animal research laboratory?  Probably not. For many people a job is simply a means to pay the bills, but for some of us a job truly is an extension of who we are and doing something  resulting in a glaring conflict with our morals is an impossibility. Suggestion side note: listing the salary as the most attractive job characteristic makes you look shallow. We probably won’t say it, but know that we’re thinking it.

2. Our last resorts are not the same.

The things desperate people do could fill annuls of the strange, but don’t assume that the job that you would be willing to take if bills needed to be paid is the same as the job I would take. I’d become a professional dog shit scooper before I’d work in telemarketing. Remember, this is the job that I will have to suffer through until the “right” one comes along, so don’t bother trying to reason. It’ll get you nowhere but the end of my shovel.

3. Refrain from advice if the situation is entirely unfamiliar to you.

If you’ve never been unemployed, you don’t get a say. If you live on the salary of someone else, shut it. To solely support yourself and be faced with the possibility of no longer having a job is frightening, but can be handled without your opinions on how it should be. Respect that while following a passion that leads to a nontraditional career may seem unreasonable or irresponsible, that passion is inherent. It’s really not our fault that you haven’t found something that causes an insatiable internal drive.

4. Don’t make the assumption that because we haven’t found something, we aren’t looking.

Writing an individualized resume for each job takes research, creativity, and time. A generic resume is a waste of everyone’s time. And while it may look like we are spending all day on the internet (we are), it’s not enjoyable to look at the employment section of 100 websites and find one suitable job worthy of applying for. It’s a daily reminder of how hard the job market is right now (Also, something to avoid saying. We know).

5. Minimize the cheerleading.

Unless we ask for a pep talk, don’t assume we need one. Yes, we may have just told you that we haven’t found anything yet, but it’s because you just asked: “Have you found anything yet?” Don’t assume that since we answer in the negative, that we are negative. These assumptions are frustrating and tend to create more anxiety than they alleviate. When you say, “You’ll find something.” you are reiterating our fear that SOMETHING, not the right thing, is exactly what we are going to have to settle for.

I Will Be Going Crazy Next Thursday

I had no intention of this becoming a writer’s blog where I lament about the struggles to produce pieces that I deem worthy of submission and am then reduce to trying to make myself feel better with motivational quotes and referencing long lists of similarly fated classics when my work is rejected.

But, as Aldous Huxley once said, “Hell isn’t merely paved with good intentions; it’s walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too.”

I have found that a writer’s blog isn’t necessarily as I described it above and I recently read this guest post by Sarah Mae on Jeff Goins’ blog. She makes an argument about writing within your limitations and letting go of your expectations of how a “real” writer creates. For her it included “…long winter days in a cabin by a fire with a dog.” As a mother and wife, she found this an impossible prospect.

While becoming a wife is somewhere in the low hundreds on my bucket list and a mother doesn’t even rank, my perceptions of a “real” writer have clouded my ability to write confidently. A proper writer needs a whiskey habit. They need to be surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals, not friends, as reassurance that the crazy thoughts that have persevered to paper are indeed genius. There must be an element of desperation beyond a passion for writing.

Now I am struggling with the possibility that while unstable enough to be motivated creatively, I may be too sane, too responsible, or too well-adjusted to write something good.

So, I’ve decided to plan a mental breakdown. I’m not looking to go bat-shit crazy, just far enough that I can enter the realm of legitimate writer without developing an addiction or committing a heinous crime. Something questionable, like Kerouac taping pieces of paper together to write On The Road in one big scroll, but not so far as Joyce and Finnegans Wake.

I’ve considered constructing a novel in Sharpie on the wall, but I’m not willing to go devil-may-care with my security deposit, so…

I am open to suggestions for this event, of course, as there are certain characteristics of a “real” writer that are inherent to me. Like the need for validation. I will also take suggestions on the best varieties of the distilled kind, as I’ll need alternative forms of payment as leverage when it comes to an editor for my resulting work.