06 September, 2013

Written on Wednesday 28th September

Written on Wednesday 28th August

I am going to let you into a little secret. I have spent the summer unemployed. If I hadn't been so aware of the professional implications I would have shared this with you a long, long time ago. I am not an overly proud person and I have been gasping to vent my experiences through my blog, but I knew the implications it could have for my future employment and I couldn't say or do anything to hinder my chances of securing a new role. But unemployed I have been and I could have written a trilogy by now based on my experiences and the emotions I have come up against day in, day out.


My story

So how did this come about? It’s no secret I was miserable in my job in Leeds, to the point I took the first opportunity out of there. And while the next job I took was a fantastic opportunity, somewhere I fitted in and people SAW me and I was actually paid more than peanuts...while it was all these things, it was a fixed term contract. 9 – 12 months, maternity cover. And I didn't really tell anyone that. To begin with, this vital fact was a small dot way off in the future, I was just so relieved to be out of ‘that place’ in Leeds that job security didn't matter to me, job happiness meant more. I didn't even tell most people that my new job wasn't forever, because I had such shit luck beforehand that I thought it’s just got to work out. How can I fit in so well somewhere and not be meant to somehow stay? And if it doesn't work out, at least I am not miserable anymore. So I took it.

Needless to say, I had never been happier at work, not once did I dread going in, I made good REAL friends with my team and beyond, people could see me for who I was and the only office politics was one tiny woman who had an issue when it came to brew rounds. I don’t know if the fabulousness of the place was offset by the hellishness of the last, or if I had just learnt to count my blessings, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t know such a good workplace existed, but learning that it did over time made the realisation that I actually would have to leave (which hit me around April of this year) quite upsetting. But I tried not to dwell, I kept my head up, I knew the situation for what it was, I got myself into it to get out of something else, and I was (and am)just so so happy and felt so blessed to have had that experience. I can honestly say my 9 months there were hands down the happiest in my career. Short but very very sweet.

Fast forward 9 months to April of this year and I knew I had to face reality again. I have always been independent and I have worked since I was 14 (part-time in a bakers, who knew I would end up such a baker myself!) I have barely had more than a week away from work since I started working full time 2 days after university finished. You can’t really call me a slacker, and so the thought of NOTHING after Dimensions TERRIFIED me. And my bank balance. We had only just got out of the Red, we were so happy to be back to black, we couldn’t face the thought of NO SALARY.

So, it was time to throw myself back out there. And what a 6 months it has been.

Reality

I have always been lucky with job interviews, knowing as long as I could get my chatty confident self in front of people I would be in with a good shot. So nothing could have prepared me for the never ending turmoil that followed. Interview after interview, presentation after presentation, hope after hope shot down as yet another person with ‘just a bit more experience’ pipped me to the post. I aimed high, I aimed low, I aimed way out West.  I lowered my standards, I widened my net, I offered my skills for FREE in half hour long presentations to potential employers who didn’t want me but wanted my ideas. I spent every spare minute, weekends, evenings, lunchtimes, trawling through job sites, speaking to recruitment agents, filling in applications, bettering my CV, pimping up my LinkedIn, making connections, following leads. I bought blazers, I bought shoes. I spent 2 or 3 days on 1 presentation for 1 potential employer – only for them to go for that person who wasn’t as passionate but wouldn’t get bored, or who had 3 months more experience, or had less experience and who they wanted to give a chance. Would I ever win? Amongst all this, I had to wind my once full to the brim social life all the way down in order to focus on securing a new role.

At first I almost enjoyed it. I love the excitement of what next? I focussed on the potentially hugely positive change that awaited me. It was what I had to focus on to avoid feeling devastated at leaving the only team I had ever really belonged in. Sods law, right? I love the interview process too, the adrenaline, the hope of a future just in reach, talking about myself (ha!), showcasing my actual, real skills and realising I have the. It’s fun. At first.

At first, my friends had so much positivity for me “you are so employable, Han”, “someone like you won’t stay unemployed for long”, “so many companies will want to snap you up!” they said it because they meant it and I believed them because it SHOULD be true. Recruitment agents all wanted me on their books for the commission, all thought they could ‘definitely secure something for someone with your background’ and some of them even acted like I was one of them ‘haha you should see some of the CVs we have to work with, Hannah, you won’t have a problem.” Oh well thats good to know.

But eventually, I ran out of steam. They ran out of steam. My friends ran out of things to say. They couldn't understand it, they couldn't say it was going to be okay because here i was 5 months, 150 applications, 20 interviews, 6 presentations down the line and it wasn't fine. Even recruitment agents began to despair of me ‘you aren't still looking for work are you Hannah? I don’t understand it, I thought you would have something by now’ and the worst ‘Hannah! I have JUST the role for you, its a little further afield but the role is perfect. How do you feel about Southampton?’. TUMBLE WEED. SO MUCH TUMBLE WEED.

I cannot tell you how positive I tried to stay through all this, but I was so tired. So so drained. I was scared. I was anxious. I was stressed. Especially as this comes after such a turbulent year in Leeds. I needed a break.
My body hasn’t been well in months from the stress. I have been constantly busy, juggling my last few months, weeks, days of employment with searching for something new. ‘Searching’ doesn’t do it justice –what I have been doing is fierce, relentless, I am HUNTING. Yet man, did I stay positive. 

Even in my first week of unemployment, which was surreal as hell, I used every ounce of time to my advantage. I got up at 6 or 7am every day for 6 weeks, 7 days a week, with no job to go to. I stuck to my routine. I exercised, I showered, I got dressed, I made a desk for myself in our dining room and i tried really hard not to think of the girls at work, all chatting together about their weekends. I put in a solid mornings work every day until early afternoon, applying for every single relevant job out there, cold calling marketing agencies, seeking out opportunities to freelance, doing voluntary social media, looking into volunteering, scouring the websites of all the biggest local brands I could think of. Universities, shopping centres, colleges. I contacted various recruitment agents when they weren’t contacting me. I burnt myself all the way out fighting my unemployment, maybe a little too hard because my body hasn’t been happy with me for a while.

My afternoons were usually spent meeting people, going to appointments, finding excuses to go into town, running errands, anything to feel a part of things. And anything to make me feel at the end of the day like I had earnt my bread.

Coping


Knowing how to avoid depression I made myself have this routine, continued to excercise, I ate better than ever, after the first few weeks I didn’t drink even on weekends, became i know what this could have done to my self-esteem.  I did not ‘enjoy the time’ and ‘lie in’ as suggested to me by some  – as lovely as this would have been, I just knew that was recipe for one very depressed Hannah.  For the whole routine I had ever known my whole life had been broken. I had never had this much time off, not since the school holidays. What made it easier though was that my unemployment did fall in line with the school holidays. It felt a little more ‘normal’, a little less like I was out of the loop. But it still didn’t feel right. I need to work, it’s who I am, it’s who I have always been. Not working is more soul destroying that you can ever imagine, because it means no-one wants you. Despite all my positivity and productivity, depression did set in. Slowly but viciously at times.

Despite making myself stick to a routine I found myself less and less motivated, with each new application form that asked me to sell myself (and my soul) I found less and less energy for it. With each new knock back, it was harder to get back up. My reaction to calls and emails from recruitment agents turned from hope to dread – because I knew what fear and rejection lay ahead. With every day I lost a bit of myself. I found fewer reasons to be out in the world. Recruitment agents lost interest in me, my friends returned from holiday and got on with their lives, people forgot I was sat at home. Desperately wanting to work. Lonely. Isolated. Doing everything in my power to avoid depression. Suddenly, out of nowhere, on a sunny Wednesday, I would crumble from the pressure. As my money got lower, my soul got smaller and my confidence got less, these breakdowns got more intense.

I tried so hard to be strong all the time, especially for my partner who this also affected, but every now and then I just wanted to lie on the floor and howl and to have someone sort it all out for me. i felt hopeless, utterly hopeless. Whilst i know how extremely lucky I am, to have a supporting partner and family and friends, pride and my independence having taken the biggest hit of their life and do you know what? They did not need it. I already know how lucky I am. I already see the best in everything and make the best of every situation. I already know how to look after myself physically, mentally and emotionally. I already was doing all the right things, so why wouldn’t this hell end? Why wouldn’t someone just INVEST in ME?

Im going to let you into a little secret, I am still unemployed.  I didn’t ask for this time off, but sometimes, life has other plans for you, right? I must have needed it, I just don;’t know why yet. Which is why going into my 7th week and still unemployed with so much pressure on and very little hope, i haven’t stopped. I am still getting up every morning, bright and early, as if about to set off for work. Only work is my laptop and there's no one there to brighten my day. I am still staying in control. I am not succumbing to the temptation to just sod it all and go and spend my last money on WINE. But with every day that goes by, it’s harder. 

Sometimes I just want to get back into bed and stay there. Clearing up after dinner last night, it was the hugest effort to put one foot in front of the other. I am tired all the time. My body is shutting down. I am tired. I am drained. I need a break. And then I need a holiday. Last night i got into bed at 9pm and fell asleep instantly – there's no way I was actually tired, I had had a restful bank holiday, but i felt like hell. That isn’t who I am. Today I felt sprightly first thing but within an hour the hole in my tummy had grown so big I couldnt suppress my depression and I text my Mum with a worried 'I am struggling.' With each breakdown I have, the crying gets worse and the positive reassurance to myself gets less. I am struggling to force smiles to people, even to my Gareth.

I know its all going to be okay, but I don’t know when, and I'm worried about the pressure this is putting on my mind, my body, my relationship and my bank balance. I have worked since the day I left university, I am skilled, I am confident - and I should be in a job that i love and that deserves me. I don’t understand why my career has been so higgledy piggeldy and such damn hard work, maybe there is a lesson somewhere for me, but god knows i am trying my best.

I know the universe has other plans for me which is why things don’t seem to be panning out, and I know they will work out for the very best, but until they do I am going to keep faking that smile, keep my chin up, bounce back from every single god damn rejection and hope to come out of it even happier.


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