Most of the Ask Afrobella questions I get are about hair and beauty stuff. So when I got this one, I was thrown for a loop a little bit. Here it is.
How are you? I am writing because it seems that you know a lot about a lot. Here is the skinny, the reason for my letter. I have been unemployed for the last month and I am a bit lost. I am twenty nine years old. I really liked my job but after my departure I began to rethink what I was called to do. I began to rethink my path and the course of my life and this has brought me to a crossroads in my life. I was one of those people who believed that you are what you do. I no longer believe that because after a month of no work I am still here. I do however feel undefined and I am on a path to find some definition.
I know that I want to do something with in the teaching field and I am working on going back to school to get certified as an English teacher. I also want to begin writing a book. I want to do something different. I never again want to just have a job and be in a position to do anything just for the paycheck. I know that there is no such thing as a dream job or maybe there is I donâ€™t know. But, I hoping that maybe there could be a dream position that enabled me to do what I love to do which is to teach people mostly children and travel.
Anyway Iâ€™m writing because I read your blog and I find it very interesting that you find time to give advice on what to do with fashion and hair and so many other things. Maybe you would have some advice for me too.
Hey Oretta, thanks for writing! Your e mail made me LOL at “it seems that you know a lot about a lot.” So not true. My husband’s gonna get a big kick out of that, and best believe I’m going to be using that as my new byline. But all jokes aside, I do try to stay informed, I seek out the advice of experts, and I try to think long and hard before I speak my piece. Which is why I had to take my time in trying to offer you some advice. Here’s the deal.
I’m one of those annoying people who have always pretty known what they wanted to be — by passion and by process of elimination. I suck at math, science, foreign languages, and business. The one thing I was really, really good at was English literature and creative writing, which at best means you can be a real, published writer or a professor. At worst, it prepares you for a career in food service and a lifetime of bitterness.
So when I graduated with my undergrad, I was scared. I went straight back to college ASAP and got my masters. I was so scared of facing the real world and the job market that I even considered staying in school and doing a PHd — lots of my friends were on that get-a-scholarship-and-stay-in-college-for-as-long-as-possible plan. But my university didn’t offer the PHd I wanted (few colleges offer a PHd in Creative Writing). Then I pretty much lucked out into the job I have now, and there you have it. So I personally don’t know how it feels to be at that crossroads you speak of, and I don’t want to front on some “I’ve totally been there” BS. Even though I can’t speak from experience, I have seen lots of my friends and relatives go through what you’re going through.
I’ve seen the effects of unemployment (and the consequent depression caused by extended unemployment) up close and personal. So I had to ask someone for advice. My big sister Petal came to the rescue!
I’ve mentioned her several times before here, but here’s an official introduction — Petal is my one and only big sister. And before you ask, yes, Petal is her real name. Petal Dawn. She’s brilliant — got two degrees under her belt and was well on her way to being a lawyer at one point. But then came across those crossroads you mention, where you find yourself rethinking the path and course of your life. Petal has had long periods of unemployment, between equally long periods of slogging through am-I-doing-what-I-really-want-to-do-with-my-life jobs. It’s taken her years to find THE THING we think she was clearly always meant to do. She’s selling real estate for Century 21, and doing fantastically, I am so proud and happy to say.
So here, Oretta, is some advice from my big sister Petal:
“You should view this period in your life in a positive way, and always look at the positives in your life versus the negatives. You need to be upbeat and focused on doing, growing, and getting things done. Feeling down, sad, angry, or dejected will sap your energy and turn potential opportunities away from you. Already you want to be a teacher, so you can build on this by looking at the following websites for more information on how to expand on this skill into a way to earn money & travel.
Peace Corps (if you are a US citizen)
You should check job sites, job fairs (both online and in your area).
Monster.com is very good and has many articles on career advice from choosing jobs to making a career change.
Use your local library or Chamber of Commerce to help you update skills and get reading materials for free or at reduced rates.
Revamp your resume using the advice at monster.com and make a “Job Search” hard copy file where you list all places you applied to for jobs, and on what date, and note the result so you don’t duplicate your efforts. Also revamp your interview outfit.
See what networks you have around you that can assist with your job search and let people know that you are looking for a job, especially those networks geared towards helping women. Sign up with employment agencies in your area. In the interim you will need funds to get you through, so see what part time job you can get at the library, the nearest technology store, or bookstore.
Don’t give up, don’t be afraid of being an older job seeker. Be consistent with doing all of the above and give yourself another month and things should have turned around.
Please keep me posted and who knows out of all of this may be the plan for your novel *grin.*
And here’s my two cents for what it’s worth.
If all else fails, and the bills are stacking up and you feel overwhelmed — sign up with a temp agency. I’ve known several people who have found long-term jobs through temping — my husband’s one of them! It took him months of eating chips on the couch and watching The Price is Right after graduating college before he peeled himself up to a standing position and made it out to a reputable agency. They sent him on at least four different wack-ass clerical jobs before he landed at the company he’s at now. And when he GOT to that company, they hired him to file accounting documents. Because he was friendly and had a great work ethic, they kept him for temping job after job, then they looked at his resume and realized hey! Our dude in filing is actually a computer specialist! Let’s give him a job where he can use his skills. Now he’s a major asset to their IT department. All because of temping.
Of course I agree with my sister — maintaining a positive attitude is key. But let’s be real, there’s gotta be days where you allow yourself to feel the feelings you might be suppressing, as well. I think this fallow period between employment could also be a great time for you to get back in touch with yourself. Get up, get out, keep yourself active and keep your mind sharp. Read the whole newspaper, not just the classified ads. Read as much as you can, period.
I recently met a guy who works in Vegas as a casino dealer. He has a list of the books he should have read in school — all of the literary classics we know of by name but have never actually read. And he’s reading them, one by one. “Even if I don’t get them, I force my way through the whole thing,” he explained. He was slowly limping his way through Kerouac and Chekov, and I thought that was really cool and inspiring that he was challenging his mind that way.
I’m not (yet) a published author, but I do have some small insight on starting to work on your book. Keeping a journal could be a good idea, and could lead to life paths you never considered before. I’ve got several journals, but my favorite has big blank pages so I can make lists, draw, scribble angrily, whatever. In your journal, plan out the kind of book you want to eventually write. Dream up a loose guide of the structure and the chapters and what happens when. Even better – go to a bookstore, look around at the books that are like the one you want to write. Note the publishing houses of these books. Start thinking of the book as a real thing and not just a pipe dream. Make lists of the writers and books that inspire you to write one of your own.
Sketch your future plans and dreams as big as you want to, but don’t set time limits on them. I personally think far too many of us make mental lists and set a clock by them. “I need to have a baby by the time I’m thirty-five.” “I’m 30 and I don’t have my dream job.” “I’m 40 and not married yet.” It’s important to own your age and wear it well, but placing those burdens on yourself can just weigh you down and set you up for disappointment. Not everyone’s life clock ticks at the same pace, if that makes any sense. It kind of reminds me of The Desiderata — the poem I practically live by.
“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
Keep your head up, keep trying, and stay confident that good things are coming to you. I really hope that helps, and please keep in touch and let me know.
I know there’s GOTTA be some readers who can identify with Oretta, so please throw in your two cents as well. Your comments are so often filled with great advice and insight. Please share yours with us.
Got an Ask Afrobella question? E mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It might take me a while, but I will try my best to answer you.