1 Unemployed, Discouraged, But Not Hopeless | The Billfold

Unemployed, Discouraged, But Not Hopeless

Laid off. Let go. Terminated. Fired.

However you want to spin it, I am jobless. I’ve only been without a job once, and it was completely voluntary when I first moved to New York. I am 31, and I have worked since I was 16 (14 if you count my lucrative babysitting career). I didn’t like my job selling luxury goods because it made me miserable, but it was better than not having a job at all.

I had been feeling stuck in my career and knew I wanted to move on to something more fulfilling for a while. For the last several months, work was unbearable, due to do both my unhappiness and the way I was being managed. Our weekly team meetings felt more like a rundown of who screwed what up. Rarely a day passed when one colleague didn’t make another cry, intentionally or not. And a management shakeup early last year added a new layer of unneeded stress, as well as unreasonable expectations. My coworkers were good people, but the environment was completely dysfunctional for a variety of reasons I won’t go into right now. I didn’t have the best sun-shiny attitude, but I delivered.

I quietly confided in a colleague that I was looking for a new job, and the cat was soon let out of the bag, because during my review, I was told that the company didn’t want anyone on the team who didn’t want to be there. Duly noted. A month after my review, I was taken into our bathroom and was told that I was going to be let go.

The wind was knocked out of me. I was told that I couldn’t tell anyone, and that I had to go about my business for a couple of days. My tears and clean desk were a dead giveaway, and people figured it out anyway. They were surprised, but not totally in shock given the dysfunctional atmosphere. It was a perplexing to come to work and not be able to talk to anyone about what was happening with me. I finished my work and tied up loose ends, grateful that I didn’t have to leave my colleagues with any unanswered questions. The whole thing seemed mishandled, as if they felt like getting rid of me would lift a dark cloud off the company.

It’s a strange, emotional time. I’m relieved that my time there is over, and that I can concentrate on moving on to something I (hopefully) love. I’ve emailed and spoken with a few recruiters, one of whom said I sounded like I was “floundering” because I couldn’t answer the “where do you see yourself in five years” question, which is just what an unemployed gal wants to hear. It made me feel like I’m destined to be jobless forever, although I know that’s not the case—that not everyone has their life figured out. I know what I’m good at: I have years of experience in communications, customer service, social media, graphic design and was consistently the top sales person at my company. But stories about high unemployment rates and people being out of work for months, if not years, freaks me out.

I took the first couple days to decompress, and now on the hunt again. I’ve made a point to not sleep in until noon, and am making sure I still exercise. My network in New York is small, but I’m contacting whoever I think might be able to help me. One fear I have is that I’ll be compelled to take the first job that’s offered to me, and I’ll end up hating my job again. I don’t think my next job is going to be perfect and life-changing (unless I end up opening that cat cafe), but I want it to be somewhere with an outstanding company culture and where I’m doing something I actually believe in.

In the meantime, I’m fine with babysitting and temp jobs and spending part of my time volunteering at an animal shelter. I’m also looking into volunteering in the social services field. I’ve thought about going into social work, but a master’s is required for that, and I’m not going to make that financial commitment without getting my feet wet first.

I filed for unemployment, but I won’t have any sense of relief until I get that first check. I’m paranoid that it’ll be disputed, even though I verified that I would be able to collect. I’m lucky that I have a tiny bit of savings, but I’d rather not see it drained. My supportive boyfriend and I were planning on moving in together this year, and it’s nice to know I have the option of subletting my room and moving in temporarily with him. All is not lost.

So, positive and helpful Billfold readers—any advice on how to handle this with grace? Do I try to get a job at Magnolia and live off of banana pudding? Panhandle on the subway? Anyone hiring? Any New York City temp agencies anyone can recommend, or have any other suggestions? I’m happy to send you my resume at any time.


Maggie Hamilton lives in New York City and is an avid pie-baker, cat-stalker, and park-runner. Write her at maggie.hamilton.nyc@gmail.com or stalk her on her new blog: maggiejobsearches.tumblr.com


43 Comments / Post A Comment

Wait. They told you in the bathroom…? Whaaaat?

Maggie Ham (#2,571)

@dj pomegranate Yesssss. It’s a small place so it was either the basement or bathroom. I was sitting on a folding chair and I’m pretty sure my boss was on the toilet.

@Maggie Ham I definitely read that as ‘boardroom’ as first, which made sense, and then I had to go back and read it again

Megano! (#124)


RosemaryF (#345)

Get a library card. The library will save your sanity and wallet when it comes to cheap entertainment, whether it be books or movies or just people watching.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@RosemaryF YESSSSSS. This is great advice. I spent a lot of time at the library while unemployed for all these reasons, plus it was a way of getting out of the house while not spending money.

kellyography (#250)

Ugh your previous company sounds totally terrible, and I’m glad you got out of there. I would use this opportunity to make a wild change. For example, I’d apply for seasonable jobs in Antarctica. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but have never been able to because I have responsibilities here and can’t take an entire season off.

Also if you open a cat cafe, have a separate bunny room, and I will go to there.

@kellyography I actually looked into those jobs once, they require super high level qualifications. For instance, say you want to be a dishwasher — you have to have something like a a master’s degree in food service management and years of experience running a commercial kitchen.

I’m sure an Antarctic Cat Cafe would go over well with the researchers, though.

ghechr (#596)

Perhaps this was just a joke, but look into opening a cat cafe!

Kate (#1,408)

@ghechr Catfe!

Penelope Pine (#2,808)

Don’t start a blog under your full real name about job hunting where you explicitly trash your old job.

Unless Maggie Hamilton is a pseudonym. Then go ahead.

Cup of T (#2,533)

@Penelope Pine I had the same thought- potential employers can/will find that kind of thing!

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Penelope Pine Yeah, that seemed like a ….strategic error.

Mike Dang (#2)

You guys, because I have insider information, I can tell you that she doesn’t have to worry about this being an issue.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Mike Dang Phew! Thanks. So “Maggie” is actually a man in real estate in Chicago? As I suspected!

aetataureate (#1,310)

Uhhh, I would take the first job and worry about the dream job later, yes.

Maggie Ham (#2,571)

@aetataureate I go back and forth about this predicament everyday. Taking the first job is how I ended up at this job in the first place. Sigh.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Maggie Ham Hey listen, I don’t want you to have a shitty job forever, for sure not. But it seems like the problem with this job is that you told a coworker you were looking for a new one. Having a job while looking for a new job is actually . . . The ideal.

Alex From Mars (#1,990)

@Maggie Ham After not quite a year of partial employment (temp and short term contract work) I was desperate for a ‘real’ job again. I was ecstatic when I finally got a job offer and was going to take it based on the whole “bird in the hand” principle. When I thought about it though I realized that the only thing I liked about the job was that it was a job – the job description they’d given my recruiter wasn’t what they actually wanted me to do, weird vibe at the place, bad commute, etc. – and so even though it went against every bit of my deeply neurotic/pessimistic nature I turned them down.

The way I figure it is that yeah, I could have taken the one job and looked for another, but I know what it’s like working somewhere awful: it’s draining and terrible and you tell yourself that you’re going to look elsewhere but instead you come home and lie on the floor and talk to your cats and then have some wine (true story). I mean don’t reject everything that isn’t perfect, but don’t take anything just because it is there.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Alex From Mars Unless you really need to pay your bills. Then you take the “real” job. Or you re-evaluate your life and decide there is no such thing as a fake job, and do what you want, even if it means working two “not real” jobs.

TheDilettantista (#1,255)

@Alex From Mars THIS. This happened to me when I was job hunting–I took the first job that was offered to me, and every fiber of my being was SCREAMING against it (I was sobbing in my car after I accepted the offer, should have listened to my gut). I worked there for a month, and it was the WORST month, I hated everything about the place (except for my coworkers, who were lovely, except two of them left during the month I was there and most of them had been there less than a year and were planning on leave, so that tells you something). Luckily for me, the arts non-profit I work at now called me for an interview and hired me, so I happily gave my notice and moved onto an awesome job in my actual field. So it worked out but MAN, that month was hard.

chic noir (#713)

Proud cat lady here.

*pumps fist & removes piece of cat fur from lipgloss*

The cat cafe sounds totally cool and I think you could make it work in either a hipster area or brownstone&kids area of NYC. I’ve read that cat cafes are popular in Japan but I believe that cats as pets are becoming popular in the US if Instagram is anything to go by.

If you don’t mind my asking, what is the pay like for the average person working in luxury goods? I hear of men who sell suits making 90k. Is that real or hogwash?

If you want to get a MS in Socialwork I would advise you try working at a hospital that offers tuition reimbursement or one that is willing to pay for your degree if you give them a year for every year they paid.

Derbel McDillet (#1,241)

@chic noir Also, depending on where you might think of attending for an MSW, an assistantship with a tuition waiver is a very real possibility. Opportunities within an actual SW dept might be limited, but other departments, such as Advising, Residential Education, and Judicial love SW grad students because of the counseling focus.

chic noir (#713)

Most importantly, try to get a job with good health insurance. Most hospitals offer good health insurance.

Kzinti (#1,805)

“I filed for unemployment, but I won’t have any sense of relief until I get that first check.”

I’m curious about why you would get unemployment? I apologize if I’m just ignorant, but I thought unemployment was only for something like being part of a layoff, not just when the employer decides to let you go. Maybe it is different because I live in an at-will state?

@Kzinti You can lay off just one person. I think employers do this sometimes if their reason for dismissal is sort of dodgy and/or they don’t want trouble from the employee. I’m not an HR specialist but I think there is some gray area between firing someone “for cause” (like stealing or incompetence) versus just “not a good fit” — perhaps someone more in the know can clarify though.

aetataureate (#1,310)

What @stuffisthings said jibes with my anecdotal experience being let go because of incompatibility.

Here in Illinois (maybe everywhere, don’t know), when you file, they contact your employer to verify. I think employers sometimes just don’t protest the filing as a way to passively approve it.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@aetataureate And not get sued! It’s a lot easier to pay unemployment than go through a lawsuit that someone files for being unfairly dismissed.

Kzinti (#1,805)

@stuffisthings, @aetataureate, @josefinastrummer – Thank you so much for the clarification.

julebsorry (#1,572)

@Kzinti I’ve even been fired more or less for incompetence, but they called it “A poor job fit”. I was definitely able to get unemployment…as others have said, there’s nothing that stops you from filing, and it’s very likely the employer won’t contest it. I’ve even seen people get unemployment when they left a job voluntarily.

E$ (#1,636)

Oof, I hate that 5-year question. It seems like a no-win situation; if you sound too confident about your progress at the company, you’re a phony, but if you are too honest you get bitten for that.

Try Atrium Staffing for temping. They were good to me!

cowboykiller (#679)

@E$ Seconding this. Atrium was great to me. Also GreenKey and Miller Klein. The more headhunters/placement people you work with the better.

thatgirl (#1,965)

@cowboykiller Atrium! I’m currently working through them doing admin stuff, and I will totally refer you if you would like!

I walked in there the wednesday after I lost my job, and they had me out on assignment the next monday.

AlliNYC (#1,725)

@cowboykiller Atrium was great, GreenKey was even better. Solomon Page also sent me on some great interviews.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

A lot of large universities have their own temp agencies. I’d check with NYU, Columbia, Fordham, etc. You wouldn’t be in sales, but it’d definitely be a change. Plus, working in higher ed is fun.

E$ (#1,636)

@LookUponMyWorks whoa, I did not know this!

This is very relevant to my life right now … I just quit my job (I mean I kind of resigned a while back but my boss was trying to get me to stay on) last week and set my last day for the end of February.

Two days ago I received a tax reassesment to the tune of multiple thousands of dollars. So those two things in conjunction are … just … awesome.

But I have to leave this place, it’s incredibly dysfunctional. I’m starting some courses but I know that I need to be on high alert looking for a job right now (although I live at home, which obviously is a huge help) but I’m so drained from this job and the misery that is 8 hours of my day, 5 days a week, that I can’t summon the energy to do it.

Update my resume has been on my to-do list for three weeks now. Ugh.

@redheaded&crazy Excuses, excuses. Update your resume!

Blondsak (#2,299)

@redheaded&crazy Today is Thursday! Make it your 1 Thing [a suitable singalong title for this comment: I can't take you doing That 1 Thing You Doooooo!]

@Blondsak YES~ Okay! Okay. That 1 thing. That big looming 1 thing. no no, it’s a little thing. mostly.

vanderlyn (#2,954)

I hope, Maggie, that you have some ability to weather this bump in the road. (I can speak from personal experience that unemployment insurance is a big help.) At the same time, the lack of a professional network is a major problem that others reading should be aware of.

Advice for anyone, no matter the job: become a member of a professional association (e.g. ULI for real estate, IAA for advertising) and go to a bunch of events. Membership for younger people is usually nominal, and the upside is limitless. You meet people your age who can clue you in to open positions or prospective expansions, and you meet older people who can give you advice (or forward your resume to people they know). Do it!

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