This might make you mad.
There are certain things that I, personally, don’t want to hear during my unemployment. Feel free to think these things, but when you say them out loud, they come off as rude and sometimes mean. Here’s a sampling.
“Oh, I’d love to have that much free time!” — Really? Probably not. Thankfully, I was raised by parents who taught me how to entertain myself for hours (long car trips to see relatives, etc.), and I have a few hobbies. This isn’t free time you want, it’s forced free time. Nothing is fun if it’s forced.
“Well, have you applied for anything?” — Yeah, all the time, and actually, applying to jobs is part of the requirements of my unemployment insurance. I’m not a slacker, I’m unemployed. There are conditions for that latter thing. Also, I’m not stupid. I understand that the usual way you get a job is to apply for one.
“Maybe you should stop being picky and just apply to everything.” — I don’t think I’m being that picky, but I have a master’s degree in a specialized, sort of academic field. I would really, really, really rather get a job that’s kind of related to my degree (and the massive amounts of debt involved with obtaining it) than get a $7/hour job doing something I could have done without 2 years of graduate school. I think that makes sense. Also, I have a rule: any job I get must make more per week than my unemployment pays me. I want a job, yes, but I need more money than I’m getting now.
“I know how that goes. I was unemployed for a month a while back.” — Short-term joblessness and long-term joblessness are two different beasts. I have been unemployed for 10 months, so I’m in it for the long-term. After about the 5 month mark, I stopped being entirely hopeful, and it stopped feeling like a fun vacation for which I was getting paid. I understand, people, I understand that you’re trying to relate something in your life to something in mine, because I do that all the time and it’s a very helpful technique when talking to strangers. But I know that this story usually ends with, “And then I found my dream job, so I know you’ll find yours!” I have not reached my happy conclusion, so that makes it hard for me to relate to your story.
Please try to understand that being unemployed has made me grumpy. I already had a tendency to get snippy with people, but it’s been magnified since I passed the 5 month mark back in October. I know that people say these things with good intentions, and that you, my friend, might have said one or more of these things to me. I’m not mad at you. Just be aware that I am trying my best to keep my head above water, and I’ve heard all the advice I can stand.
On that note, here’s what I want people to say when I say I’m unemployed.
“That sucks. If there’s anything I can do, please let me know.” — Because it does suck, and I’d like to not have to pretend that it’s sunshine and flowers for once. A sincere offer of help goes a long way, and it shows me that you don’t necessarily want to shove advice down my throat, which I definitely appreciate.
“I have a couple of contacts in [your field], I can pass your information along.” — Not everyone is going to be able to say this, but if you can, please do!! We all know that people get jobs mostly because of who they know, and evidently, I don’t know the “right” people. (However, I love the people I know. You are right for me.)
“Do you want to hang out sometime?” — Probably! I am out at clubs and stuff a lot for my awesome hobby (I promise I will tell you guys about it soon), and I’d love to meet up. Then maybe we can hang out during the day at some point. One hour, maybe two, of human contact during daylight hours can make my entire week better.
“You are awesome, and I know you’ll find something.” — Don’t even care of it’s just lip service. From time to time, I just need to hear that, eventually, it’ll get better. I’ll find *something* and be able to look back at this and hope it never happens again.
You don’t even have to say anything when I tell you I’m unemployed. You can pretend it’s a job in itself, which is sort of true. Most of all, try to remember that I have these conversations a lot, and I’ve heard, “Chin up!” so many times that I want to punch someone in their chin. I love you all.