Unemployment, Month 5

I have now been without a regular, full-time job since April. That’s more than four full months. Now, before I get started, I need to make it clear. This thing was mostly my fault. I voluntarily left my job, thinking that finding work would be easier than it has turned out to be. I am still convinced that it was the right decision, but I never saw just how hard it would be, both on me and my family.

If you have never been unemployed, I urge you to avoid it if possible. Every single day, I browse at least a dozen job search engines. I have applied for well over 40 full-time positions, and filled out a brand new resume for each. I have been interviewed eight times. Four of those times, I’ve made it to the very end, the final stages of picking a candidate. And all of them have passed.

Some have been more brutal than others. I made it to the final three out of hundreds for a position with the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. While the final interview went well, I got the idea that I wasn’t getting the job. And when I didn’t, I wasn’t too upset about it. But two in particular were gut-wrenching. I applied for a position at Aristotle and had a lights-out first interview. The second interview went well, and as I walked out, the marketing director told me she would recommend me for the spot. Sounds great, right? This was two months ago, and today I can’t get them to return my emails. I have no idea what happened, but it’s clear I’m not needed there.

The most recent was much worse. I applied for the executive producer position at a competing station, and had another great interview. However, a non-compete clause from my previous contract kept me from joining immediately. The news director informed me that he wouldn’t even approach my old station unless he was sure he wanted to hire me. And days later, he did approach them. But when the two sides couldn’t reach a deal, the news director asked me to request that the non-compete clause be dropped.

That was a tough conversation. I basically had to ask my boss of seven years to get his bosses to break that agreement. I have a great relationship with the Fox GM, and I knew my request would put him in a tough spot. But I did. And a week later, he told me I was clear to join the new station.

That was a great day. I called the news director (who I thought would be my new boss) to tell him. He sounded shocked, but said he’d call me back later. The next day, he does call me back. And he tells me that he offered the job to another person…just moments before I called him.

I don’t think I’ve had a greater moment of anguish. I wasn’t even angry. I was stunned. I had no words. I probably sounded like a drunken teenager after he gave me the bad news. In my mind, nearly four months of joblessness was coming to an end. And in one moment, I was violently yanked from my spot in the sun and tossed back to the darkness of square one.

It takes a toll on you. And your family. The stress in our home has been much higher than usual. I thank God for my wonderful wife, who has been more understanding than I could have ever deserved. But every single day is a battle with pessimism. Every day, poring over bland screens of job listings I’m only vaguely qualified for, brings new doubts and new realizations of hopelessness. And then there’s the lack of self-worth. The depression. The anxiety. It will make you question everything you ever thought about life. About God.

To those who don’t have faith in God, this probably sounds like I need to be committed for suicide watch. And honestly, I can see how this situation could lead to horrible thoughts like that. But I know everything is going to work out for the best. And I know I and my family will be much, much stronger for what we’ve endured.

I am a top two candidate for a writer position with a foundation downtown. The job would be amazing, the pay and benefits would be beyond what I’ve ever had and the career would be fulfilling. I’m not nearly as excited about this job, however. Probably because the experiences of the past few months have tempered the unbridled optimism I used to carry like second nature.

The final interview is next week, and I’m going to be great at it. I’m going to give them the right answers, I’m going to make them smile, I’m going to make them feel good about me. How do I know? Because I’ve done it before. Because I am good about getting people to like me. Because I am outwardly confident, easy-going and friendly. I’m going to bury the negative thoughts and cynicism that have assaulted me for months, and for one hour, I’m going to shine. I am as sure of this as I am of anything.

And yet, I can’t be tickled or exuberant or arrogant like I used to be going into these situations. And that’s the whole point of this post. For me, unemployment has made me a more subdued person. It has suppressed the boundless joy I used to know. It has held back the almost irritating chirpiness that used to define my perspective. Being jobless has, in a way, taken a part of my identity.

I’ve debated for about an hour on how to close this post. I of course treasure your thoughts and prayers ahead of my interview next week. And I definitely hope that you gain a new appreciation for things in your life you may have taken for granted. I guess the best way to wrap up here is to thank you for reading this. This isn’t one of my typical posts where I make a stance on an issue or tell a funny, self-deprecating story. This is just what I’m going through right now. This is what I needed to write.

Keep your head up.


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