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Happiness During Unemployment

by Cathy Jimenez

Is it possible to find happiness during unemployment? Science can help us answer this tough question.

For most of us, unemployment is not fun at all. I recently found myself out of a full-time job because of “business reasons.” Don’t get me wrong, I understood why I had to be let go–but it still didn’t change the fact that it felt awful.

Now I’m on the hunt for another full-time job, but it sure hasn’t been easy. When you receive rejections left and right, how do you stay happy and motivated?

Here are a few tips to apply the science of happiness while hunting for a new job.

Keep busy (with freelancing)

Shelley Shepard Grey once said, “Idle hands make fretful minds.” While unemployed, the goal is usually to find a new job as soon as possible. However, if we don’t have other interests to keep us active during the job hunt and waiting period, that’s when doubt and sadness can creep in.

In the age of the internet, have you considered taking on part-time gigs? Nowadays, freelance jobs are becoming more prevalent. In fact, I found my job as Happy Brain Science’s Happiness Coordinator through a freelance site. What I do in this role is quite different from my previous role as a project manager/people manager. But I highly enjoy the work, it keeps me busy and productive, and it helps me earn money while I look for additional sources of income.

Some people I know have even switched to full-time freelancing! This article from Inc. describes a survey that found freelancers are happier than traditional workers.

2015 independent survey sponsored by the Freelancers Union and Upwork found that freedom, choice, and flexibility often equal happiness. There have since been three other surveys validating the data that freelancers are indeed happier than traditional workers.

ReportLinker found that freelancers are more optimistic and happier than traditional workers. They found a resounding 84% of workers stating that they find a real purpose working in the gig economy.

It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows in the land of freelancing, though. There are still problems that can plague a freelancer, such as variable income (no work = no pay) and/or lack of in-person interaction (for remote workers). You would eventually have to weigh the pros and cons of working in a traditional vs. freelance setup. (For anyone working remotely, we offer these three tips for working from home happily.)

What is important is that you’re keeping busy and replacing fretful thoughts with positive ones.

Write down your best possible future

Have you ever heard of a vision board? For those who haven’t, it’s a board, wall, or other display that shows what you want to achieve in the future. Writing down your best possible future is similar to having that vision board–but instead of images, you use words to reflect your goals for the future.

This is a way of visualizing the future you want and making it feel alive right now. Creative visualization is a tool that is widely used in psychology; in fact, an article written by Dr. Abigail Brenner, M.D. lists the benefits of consistently visualizing your goals.

Writing down my best possible future helps me feel optimistic–and if I am optimistic, I feel happier. I still need to put in the work to achieve my goals, but vividly imaging what I want and creating a list of objectives and action steps is a start. It can be as simple as, “apply to 5 new jobs today,” or “get a new freelancing gig,” but what’s important is that each action I take gets me one step closer to my ultimate goal–landing the best job for me and my family.

So what is your ultimate goal? Write it down now, start visualizing it, and take positive steps to your best possible future! For more details on this process, please read this highly informative post.

Learn new skills

I’ve been in the IT industry for 16 years and my skills have grown over time. I was a programmer, then became a team lead, a manager, a project manager, and a customer manager. Each role gave me a chance to learn new skills, and these skills paved the way for more opportunities.

How does that relate to finding a new job? In a world where innovation occurs very frequently, being lifelong learners makes us more employable. What we learned as students and fresh graduates may no longer be what’s needed in our industry. So what do we do? We learn new skills.

Now that I’m looking for new opportunities, I’ve been finding ways to learn new things. Familiarity with Asana project management software needed? I found a way to read up and practice on the tool. Coaching skills required? I’m now reading books about it.

The knowledge and skills that we gain will remain with us forever. By investing in ourselves, we can make sure we’re ready for a great job that’s just around the corner.

What’s next?

These are just a few tips that you can apply to find happiness while unemployed. There are so many approaches that help boost mood and results.

You may want to consider working in another industry–or starting your own business like a few people I know have done. You can reach out to friends on LinkedIn for recommendations; heck, you can even contact recruiters on a whim! You may also want to read this book review about “Transitions” to help you navigate this major change in your life. In any case, I hope you will take action to nurture happiness during unemployment.

I wish all of us the best of luck as we try to find our next best opportunity. Times may be tough, but I know we are tougher!

What other tips and tricks can you recommend for anyone who is going through the same situation? Share your own experiences and let’s discuss!

Quick Update:

I am happy to say that as of the time this blog gets posted, I finally found a new full-time job! I had to compromise on some matters, but I am happy to be back doing what I love the most–project management.

To anyone who is going through unemployment at the moment, I wish you all the best. Happiness during unemployment is possible; you can do this!

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