Flourish when you should be falling

Australian bush scene

View on a recent hike with the Engineer

How strange that today’s ‘daily prompt’ from wordpress is “flourish”. It’s a good word for what the last few weeks – unemployed and not even an interview yet – have been for me.

This week has gotten me down, really feeling like a failure who can’t get her head together with this job search. There are so few roles; there is no feedback when I get the “unfortunately, you have not been successful….” email; there is, also, no plan B. I have to get a job.

So today, to shake my self out of the rut, I went for a jog. And it made me realize that I kind of am flourishing…..

I’ve been walking a lot recently, just to get out of the house, but normally I go just for a 20 minute jog or so (and then lie down and die, obviously). Today, I jogged for 50 minutes. 50 MINUTES! I’m slow as an arthritic snail, but holy moly – I’ve never jogged for over 30 minutes before in my LIFE.

So barring my heart-rate training watch messing up and giving me an extra 20 minutes (believe me, I checked, I seriously thought it was a mistake), I am fitter right now than I’ve ever been in my life. Unemployment sucks but I guess not for my cardiovascular heath!

Which got me thinking of other ways I’ve been flourishing in this enforced time off. I’ve been painting again for the first time in years. I’ve learnt to make pasta and bread from scratch. I’ve de-grouted the shower (yay?). And I’ve been writing – this blog, and short stories, a novel. And reading and learning from other bloggers. Thing is, even if none of this goes anywhere – I’ve somehow, without realizing how, created these very full and weirdly meaningful days. On Saturday last, the Engineer and I were driving to go on a hike when I got an email with a rejection (seriously, on a Saturday folks?). I threw the phone back in the car, shrugged, and we walked for a few hours through the beautiful Dandenongs in Victoria – and I actually didn’t give the job a second through, just being in that beautiful place.

Don’t get me wrong, I want a job – I like to be busy and I love the work I do. Plus money is handy for eating. But in between applying for things, gosh darn it if I don’t feel the most creative and fulfilled I can ever remember.

Reflections of an unemployed Wednesday

I got my first job at the age of 16. I was a check-out chick at the local supermarket. I worked with my best friend, having wandered into the store after school one day, talking to the manager, and getting hired right off. I have never been unemployed since then, and now I’m 32.

*Pause while Panther gets a calculator*

That is quite literally, half my life. I’ve looked for jobs before, but always from a position of being employed.

Which might explain why I am so freaking bad at being unemployed. I cleaned out the grout in our shower today. This is not a legitimate hobby! 

But it does make me think that I am among the very, very privileged unemployed. Firstly, with the Engineer being all engineery, we in no way face a fiscal crisis. We can survive on his paycheque – and thrive, really, I’m all frugal from the post-graduate student days. I’ll share some tips I learnt from those days in an upcoming post. And I’m not long-term unemployed, which by all accounts is a vicious cycle that devours souls. And this is the first time I’ve been in this position! And, especially for my American readers, in Australia you don’t lose access to health care,  and we have a minimum wage here that is above the poverty level (just. But still). So when I get a job (fingers crossed) it will be livable. I really, really, am in a very privileged position.

With a very clean shower. Oh and I walked for an hour and a half today. And yesterday. And Monday. On top of a jog or two. I. Need. New. Hobbies. If nothing else, I’m out of showers to clean.

If anyone has tips on how to stay active and busy, I’d love to hear them! Or you know, showers that need a clean…..


Unemployed Monday – the Worst

The title says it all, I think. I got to 9:13 AM this Monday morning.

I tend to sit down at the desk around 8 AM, and start the job searching. Check all the websites, linkedin, any emails with alerts.

I start applications for any that look likely, make a note of due dates.

And by 9:13 AM this morning I was out of options. Nothing I can apply for unless I want to join a well-known fresh-juice store as one of their ‘freshers’. I found one job I thought I could apply for but as I went through the online registration, you had to check a box indicating you’d had direct experience for over three years in a fairly obscure area. I couldn’t check it, without lying – so when I clicked next, a pop-up came to inform me that I would not be able to continue apply as they had to have candidates with that experience.

So I’ve just eaten some chocolate covered licorice (only lollies in the house). What the hell will I do with myself all day? I can’t even leave the house! We’re getting a major household appliance delivered today, thanks landlord!

Argh. I was hoping by the end of this rant I’d be able to think of something funny to wrap it up with and make myself feel better, but I’ve got nothing. Kind of feels like this is what life will be like for the next few months, I guess.

Now where’s that licorice………

Nitwit advice for the jobless – week two of unemployment in Melbourne

Organised pantry

Triumph of unemployment!

There is some terrible, terrible advice out there for job seekers. It ranges from the obvious (no spelling mistakes in your CV. Glad I googled that because I might have thought to try to be intriguing by misspelling my previous positions) to the kind of stuff that makes me roll my eyes so hard I reckon I pulled a muscle.

The Nitwit Winner for this week is the following – “Send your application early in the morning so that the employer will see it as soon as they arrive”.

As if the employer is sitting at their desk, bated breath, reading applications the minute they arrive. And choosing who they hire immediately, before the closing date. And remembering, through the whole process, that you were the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, applicant of 7:30 AM Tuesday morning. As if you aren’t better off taking as much time as you can to review your CV, make sure it’s relevant to the role, answers all the questions you can anticipate the employer might have, and get some friends to proof read your cover letter and resume. As if it matters what time of the day they read it! What if they’re not a morning person, and the coffee shop nearby has shut down, and the kids kept them up half the night? They might HATE you!

Jobs aren’t a first-in, best-dressed situation. It’s not the time of day, or the phase of the moon that wins you the job. There’s some luck, to be sure – but it’s not all luck that gets you over the line.

I’m not sure quite why this advice gave me the massive irrits this week – but it really did. Maybe because I’ve found myself with a lot of down time. I’m not applying for every single job advertised – I can’t, I’m not qualified, or just starting my career, or willing to drive to Mildura every morning. But all the resources out there about what to do when you’re looking for work assume you want a job, any job, and that it will take 8 hours a day to look for work.

Where’s the advice that says, “Exercise every day”. Or, “take up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try”. “Give the kitchen a really bloody good clean. Yes, even the oven”. Which is what I did this week, resulting in the most prettiest pantry of all times.

Most importantly, get out of the house. Every. Day. Just walk. Go have a coffee, or make a thermos of tea at home and take it to the park if money is a worry. But get out, get away, be away from the Searching.

If anyone else has some actual useful advice for surviving job-searching, I’d love to hear it!


Critical stats for week two:

  • Jobs applied for – two, woot!
  • Applications drafted – two
  • Locked self out of the house – zero!
  • Exercise – five sessions.
  • Seriously sore legs – both. Totally worth it.

Other unemployed bloggers for the win

I knew this blogging malarky was going to help! The lovely Josie Elliot, who writes very touchingly at If I’m Still Unemployed At The End Of This, I’m Quitting, (just about the best blog title ever) wrote a comment the other day with a gentle reminder that mindfulness, whilst not my natural state, is a worthy pursuit.

View from desk of the unemployed across rainy Melbourne

Unemployed views from my desk

That’s a picture our the window near my desk. It’s been pouring down in Melbourne the last little while (take that, drought!) and I get to see a lot of it through this window. Despite being very much in a built-up suburb, I have a view of a beautiful old tiled roof; trees; the sky and our little balcony.

And that is a fresh espresso from Natasha, our Nespresso machine. (You have to say ‘Natasha’ with a Russian accent – she’s by far the coolest, slickest thing we own, so she has her own personality and name. Cos we’re normal). I made it in my fanciest mug, and dug out the saucer for it too, and then I sat here for 10 minutes with the computer off, just enjoying the moment.

Which turned out to be a bloody hard thing for me to do, being one of those extremely fidgety people.

Searching for work, being unemployed, seeking new opportunities – whatever you want to call it, it can really sap your sense of self. No matter how you try to take care of yourself, or how wonderful others are, there’s a whole lot of rejection in this game. My general defense against that is to be really sarcastic and turn it into a hilarious story for others – but taking those ten minutes today, to just sit quietly – well, I don’t know if it helped, but damn, I like that view, and I’m way more aware of it now.

Of course I stubbed my toe when I stood up to get back to work; but that’s just me.

Updates; I just discovered today’s Daily Post challenge was about chance encounters – I thought this post qualified rather well!
Chance Encounter

Week two of being unemployed in Melbourne

Righty-ho. Day Six. The Engineer left for work (slightly bleary eye’d after a 7 AM alarm clock), and lo, I have re-begun my search for fruitful employment. I’ve decided last week was a wash, and this week is the actual real start.

This week, I was determined to begin well, to set a schedule that maximized my job prospects, whilst respecting my physical and mental health. I also wanted some time to pursue a few dreams and hobbies. A healthy balance seems appropriate. (I may have read a bit too much information on surviving the job search over the weekend…….)

Timetable looked like this:

7 – half hour jog. Listen to inspiring podcast on mindfulness or some such.

730 – prepare lunch for the Engineer

8 – sit at desk to search for jobs. Background playlist – Mozart. For the intelligenceness.

12 – Pilates (note to self – figure out what Pilates is and how one pilates)

1 – lunch, probably of raw biodynamic salad, whilst listening to more soothing classical music.

2  – pursue other avenues of income – Airtasker, upwork, etc.

4 – other writing projects, such as this blog, or a short story on a brave princess who followed her dreams and came out on top. With good hair.

5 – prepare dinner

6 – meet Engineer at the door with a fresh Martini, with tasty stew bubbling in the background, and bright smile.

A healthy salad I didn't have on my second unemployed week in Melbourne

Witness my healthiness! Note this salad was had by my sister for lunch. I, well. I burrito’d.

The day has looked a little more like this…….

7AM. 20 minute jog, woo hoo!

730 Fall back asleep on couch as body refuses to accept the reality of the time of day, and the physical exertion.

9 AM wake up to post-it note on face saying ‘bye! I’ll grab lunch from the sandwich shop from Engineer.

930 – read job ads. Try not to cry. Turn on Metallica as you can’t cry to Metallica.

12 –  Eat lunch (burrito. Well, burritos, really. Biodynamic credentials uncertain) while watching episodes of Parks and Recreation.

3 – google ‘jobs in parks and recreations in Melbourne” .

6 – Engineer arrives home to find me in bed, reading, and refusing to move until the world promises to be nicer.

The following thoughts have characterized my day:

  • Why are there so many jobs for accountants and architects?
  • Wonder if there’s any chance a PhD in American history counts as ‘experience’ for jobs in architecture?
  • Due to budget cuts, no one has any parks and recreation departments any more. This is sad.
  • Thank god for Nespresso.
  • Mindfulness suuuuuucks. In ‘this moment’, I’m unemployed, unsure of my career direction, have several blisters on my heel and the sounds of the ocean are making me have to pee.

Critical stats:

  • Jobs applied for – zero
  • Coffee machine espressos consumed – six
  • Waves of existential dread – ten
  • Hugs from the Engineer – unlimited, bless his heart.

Day 5 – Week one of job-searching

Riiiiiiiight. Look, let us be honest here. It could have gone better. It could have gone a lot bloody better.

This week I have:

  • locked myself out of the house
    • for 10 hours
    • without proper clothing
      • Nothing inappropriate. Just some old ripped jeans and the pinkest, fluffiest house-jumper you can imagine.
    • without coffee
    • without 5c to rub together
    • on a cold day
  • caught a nasty bugger of a cold that’s had me in bed, asleep, for about 72 hours
  • made bread from scratch (you know, because)
  • discovered that ginger tea is amaaaaaazing
  • updated my health coverage details. $5 cheaper a month because I’m in Melbourne, not Canberra, woot!
  • cleaned out five drawers in the kitchen. How many amusing lego-shaped ice-cube molds does one woman need? The answer is 7.

You know what I haven’t done? Applied for any jobs.

I’ve updated my linkedin profile, fiddled around with my resume, set up electronic folders and started three or four cover letters. I’ve searched job sites, and even found jobs I should be applying for. I’ve got a list, too, of closing dates, to make sure I get things in on time. I’ve just been so addled I haven’t done that single defining feature of looking for work – bloody applying for it.

I’d like to cut myself some slack but really, a job isn’t going to jump out at me from behind a bush. Next week, right? I mean at this stage, just ONE application would count as a win.

But there’s something that feels pretty scary about sending off that first one, and I reckon I’ve figured out what it is. See, if I don’t apply, then I’m not being rejected from jobs. So long as I don’t apply, then I can live in a fabulous fantasy that a job is just around the corner. As soon as I start applying, I’ve started welcoming in crushing rejection on a near-constant basis. This week has been kind of fun, spent as it has been making sure I’ve got the right stationary and linkedin d0-dads. There’s not much that’s going to be fun about actually searching.

So I guess I’m a bit of a coward.

Damn personal insights.

Day two and three – not actually much better….

Soooooooo I guess I wasn’t dressed warmly enough when I locked myself out of the house – I have spent the last two days curled up in bed with an awful cold. You know the one where you are worried your head will explode because your sinuses are so blocked? and when you can’t stay awake for more than an hour? And you use up all the tissues in the house? And your Engineer wakes you up after you’ve been asleep for 17 hours just to check you’re alive? Yeah, that one.

So, tomorrow! Tomorrow, the job-search starts properly for sure. Assuming I can drag my butt out of bed for more than half an hour tomorrow. Stupid virus, go away now! This is not how the first week was meant to go!

Day One, Total Disaster. Or, at least it can’t get worse.

I had plans for Day One.

I was going to redo my resume, peruse job postings, and fix up my LinkedIn profile. I was going to write a blog post with a carefully considered combination of wry humour and emotional insight.

Instead, I locked myself out of the house for 10 hours.

Through a series of sillinesses, I ended up staring at the locked entryway to the apartment, dressed in ratty old jeans with a hole in the crotch and a fluffy pink jumper; the latest New Yorker magazine in one hand and my car keys in the other.

9 AM, on the first Monday of My Super Serious Grown Up Job Search, and my house-keys were in the pocket of my jogging pants, while I was outside, freezing. AND DRESSED IN PINK. I’d grabbed the car keys totally forgetting I’d detached the house keys for a jog – which to be fair is my own fault for going for a jog.

As I didn’t have my wallet (I’d just been going to check the mail!) I also didn’t have my drivers licence on me, which meant I reckoned that driving the hour to Engineer’s work to grab his keys was a bad idea. I mean, lets face it, if on any day I was going to get pulled over by the cops …

I also didn’t have my phone to call Engineer. Even if I had, given it was his first day back, I wasn’t going to be all damsel-in-distress-y. Plus he might have laughed at me.

I drove the 10 minutes to the in-laws place instead. Turns out they don’t have spare keys, but they do have big hugs and they make a pretty awesome cuppa, so I hung out there for a while. Then, on to my mum’s (10 minutes from them), but she wasn’t in……..so I sat in the car in her front drive for a few hours. It’s a bit more hidden than the car park at home so it felt less like someone was going to try and have me arrested for vagrancy.

Eventually, Engineer got home and let me in. He laughed but also was rather sweet, thank God.

So what did I achieve on Day One?

Well, I cleaned the car, both inside and outside, and discovered a few spare New Yorkers, and an old CD I’d been missing. Plus, like five lipsticks. I also found a bottle of Shiraz in my boot which I guess I have for emergencies…..I didn’t indulge, but I tell you what, I thought about it! So I got my reading in, and a bit of light physical exercise.

My mother, bless her, would say that I didn’t accidentally lock myself out – but rather my subconscious was trying to find a way to avoid job-searching. I’m not sure what I think about that, and Engineer would say that I’m just a bit of a duffer and often forget keys/wallet/brain/name. Whatever it was, it was not a good start. How can I possible write that I have ‘high attention to detail’ in a job applications now?

At least tomorrow will have to be better.

It Begins…..tomorrow

Tomorrow, Monday 3 May 2016, marks the Officially Real For Sure start of my job search in Melbourne, Victoria. I’ve lived in Canberra since the beginning of 2012, working as a public servant.

I moved back home to Melbourne five months ago, and then spent three months overseas with my fiancee (yes, it was amazing, thanks. Yes, he’s also the reason I’ve moved back home. No, my feminist mother won’t ever quite forgive me for that. Yes, I’m totally sure that giving up a great job – and city – for him was a good idea). Easier for me to get a job in Melbourne than him to find one in Canberra, plus his work adores him and he adores it. He’s an engineer – and thus we shall refer to him as ‘the Engineer’.

So we’re back from overseas, and tomorrow morning the Engineer goes back to work and I must Begin My Job Search. And on the basis that this is likely to be a soul-destroying demonstration that I am way over-educated (PhD, what was I thinking??) and under-experienced (recruiter: ‘so, just what does a ‘policy officer’ do’ Panther ‘oh you know….. policy….stuff…..’) the only defense I have is a crap sense of humour and the desire to turn my experiences into hilarious stories.

You’re welcome.