When I was a kid, I loved reading “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. For those who missed out, these were fictional stories written in the second person where you could make decisions as if you were the protagonist. The wrong decision inevitably resulted in death or disaster while the correct decision continued the story. If you were lucky enough to keep making the correct decisions, you were rewarded with a happy ending. Not long ago Netflix released a film based on the same concept.
The “Choose Your Own Adventure” genre is like unemployment in a lot of ways: you get to make your own decisions—many of which can lead to disappointment if not disaster—and seemingly small decisions can have a major impact. For example, I landed an internship once by having a loud conversation with my ex-girlfriend on the subway about torture (of all things). The director of a nonprofit organization that helps torture survivors was sitting right behind us, liked what I was saying, and offered me her business card. If I had chosen to whisper or discuss a more normal topic, this opportunity would never have presented itself.
This is not to say that we have full control over outcomes as unemployed people: we don’t. Although it’s a bit of a digression, I will emphasize that I can’t stand cockamamie crap like the book/movie “The Secret,” which is the modern-day equivalent of selling snake oil. People love being told what they want to hear: that they can somehow change the universe by simply adopting a more positive attitude toward whatever ails them. It’s much easier to believe this than accept the fact that, while you can control your attitude and actions, controlling the actions of others is another matter. The sobering truth is that most unemployed people are at the mercy of the economy, which ‘acts’ in mysterious ways, and the whims of individual employers. This is not an adventure that most people would choose.
The good news is that there are choices available to the unemployed. The most obvious is the choice of how to spend one’s time, which is more freedom than most working people have. I say: spend the time not only wisely but boldly. Go camping in the middle of the week and write your career mission statement by light of campfire. Take a road trip to different networking events and change clothes in the car (and don’t forget deodorant). Spam all your friends for job leads or offer to work for them directly (at least you know you’ll like your boss that way). Submit phony resumes to call out employers who tell you “the position has been filled” when you know they are lying. Call employers who reject you and make them defend their decision. Go to interviews for jobs you don’t want for the sake of practice. Go on dates and treat them like job interviews.
Or go on job interviews and treat them like dates. It’s your adventure. Just don’t get sued. That would be a bad ending.
Previous posts in this series:
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