Many people who work to enjoy themselves in smart and interesting ways during unemployment find it can lead to positive life changes
She decided to put the “fun” in “funemployment.”
Ten weeks after Minneapolis advertising creative director Amy Pressnall’s position was eliminated during company restructuring, she realized that she had made job hunting her new full-time job. She was ready to take a break once in awhile, and missed being around coworkers.
Betting that there were other folks out there like her, Pressnall posted a message to her LinkedIn feed: “I’m thinking of firing up Friday funemployment field trips. Anyone interested?”
The response was overwhelming. Pressnall started a LinkedIn group that quickly amassed 50 members. They started meeting up once a week during the day to do things like play bocce ball, wander the galleries at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and just sit and talk, sharing stories and tips about recruiters, agencies and job leads.
It was like playing hooky without the guilt, Pressnall told Moneyish.
“Every Friday, the goal was to pick a place and just venture out and do different things that people in their offices are dreaming of doing,” she said. “I instantly developed a little bit of a community.”
It turns out that Pressnall is on to something, according to career coaches. The word “funemployment” sounds silly, especially since being without a job brings most people very real financial worries, and a layoff can feel like the end of the world. But many folks who work to enjoy themselves in smart and interesting ways while out of a job find it can lead to positive life changes — for their career and in life in general.
There are many ways to make time out of work actually work for you, experts say. “I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard people say ‘perception is reality,’” said career coach David Wiacek. “But it’s true. Layoffs litter the news on a near-daily basis. You can’t control the volatile job market, but, ultimately, you decide how you’ll react — with fear, grudges, and procrastination, or with a fresh perspective and renewed energy.”
The time it takes to find a new job depends on a lot of different factors, but many career coaches suggest it can often take about three to six months. U.S. unemployment has remained at a low 4.1% for months, keeping the number of people seeking work at about 6.6 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest numbers. About 20% of those without work had been searching for 27 weeks or more. And across the country, about 1.6 million people were laid off or fired during the month of February, the latest numbers available.
For Wiacek, “funemployment” doesn’t mean endless Netflix or expensive beach vacations you can’t afford — rather, he advises using that time to have some fun and continue to grow your network and professional skills.
Career coach Ashley Stahl recommends keeping a “joy journal” while out of work to track what makes you happy each day and look for patterns. “It’s an opportunity to reconnect with yourself and explore what truly inspires you,” she said. “There is undoubtedly a job out there that can align with your joy.”
Millennials often see unemployment in a different way than their parents did, Stahl said. “Many see it as an opportunity versus a burden,” she said. “Yes, they’re educated. Yes, they want a job to participate in society, but they’re often not buying into the belief that it’s all bad. They’re open to using the time off as an opportunity to grow, be it through travel or any sort of exploration in order to make a better choice next time.”
When the company where Minneapolis marketer Kate Kearns works eliminated her entire department last September, she found herself without a job.
Kearns isn’t a huge fan of the term “funemployment,” simply because she knows that financial uncertainty can feel overwhelming. But she did manage to find fun — taking a couple of days each week to spend with her 18-month-old daughter and even learning how to knit.
“I wouldn’t wish that amount of stress and uncertainty, and the hopelessness of not being able to provide for your family, on anyone,” she said. “That said, there’s fun if you can find it. I truly enjoyed the extra time with my daughter — I don’t know when I’ll ever have that opportunity again, to spend that much time with her.”
Kearns, who now works as a content specialist for a local food co-op, says she did gain things from the six weeks she spent without a job — and credits an upbeat Facebook post about her situation for leading to a connection and her new gig.
“One thing my unemployment gave me was time to reflect on my career thus far — what good decisions I had made, what I wish I had done differently, what I was and wasn’t looking for in a workplace and a supervisor,” Kearns said. “It gave me the brain space to do some professional soul-searching, establish short- and long-term goals, and set myself on a path to achieving them.”
Kearns quickly discovered that she couldn’t spend 40 hours a week job hunting without feeling like she was losing her mind. In fact, career coaches say it’s important to make sure that you don’t spend all of your free time job searching. Restarting or upping your workout routine is one great thing to do, said Wiacek. “Studies show that healthier, fitter people have higher rates of confidence and more success with networking and interviewing,” he said.
And when you network, coaches advise aiming for strangers: “Don’t keep asking people you already know if they have any job leads. That can be exhausting for both you and your loved ones,” Wiacek said. Stahl suggests going on LinkedIn, contacting as many professionals who inspire you as possible, and asking them to get coffee.
For Pressnall, founding her field trip group meant finding a community and learning about herself.
“I’ve attached myself to what I do for a living in a lot of ways, having that define me,” she said. “But this experience has just taught me to take pride in just being able to connect people.”
Now, she’s looking for someone else to take over the reins. She just accepted a new job offer — for a creative manager position she called the “perfect one for me.”
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