'Enjoy the time off' and other crazy things people say to the unemployed
Sara Shiffman, a Chicagoan who has been looking for jobs in public relations for eight months, will be guest blogging occassionally on The Job Stalker about her quest to find a job in Chicago. If you like her, give the girl some props. Or better yet, a job.
Reactions to hearing that I am unemployed never cease to fascinate me. I'll even admit to being blunt about my status just to see if I can rattle people. Don't judge. I don't have a job; I need to entertain myself somehow. In my vast research, I have found the following categories of responses:
First are the slightly-envious. With them, the conversation always starts with some version of "Are you at least enjoying your time off?" The question is always followed by a wistful sigh and "I wish I could take a few days off, but we are just so busy at work right now," said in a tone tinged with just the slightest hint of green. As if unemployment is some magical nirvana like Neverland where a shirtless U.S. Men's Swimming Team waits on me and money grows on trees. And if you are so busy at work, why is the market still not opening up for new hires?
Another variation on this conversation starts with, "You should use this time to figure out what you really want to do with your life." Let's be honest, many of us were working at jobs that may not have been ideal, so at first glance this may seem like a great idea. The universe has granted us time to discover our true calling and go after it. But I'm still waiting for my great epiphany. So far all I've got is that my dream job includes a paycheck as well as some security. Not exactly the stuff of which a perfect career is made.
Second are the overly-sensitive. Those conversations usually start with "I know I should just be grateful to have a job, but...." As if just the mere hint that you are employed and I am not is going to make me shatter into a million pieces. Yes, you should be grateful to have a job, but when I lost mine I didn't suddenly lose my memory of what it is like to work in an office along with it. I remember all of the silly dramas and personality clashes and I can still sympathize when people talk about work. I will say, however, that with unemployment comes a new perspective on office politics, so if you are whining about stupid things I'm going to tell you. Be warned!
And finally, those that are unemployed themselves. Conversations with them start off something like "Did you hear that (insert name of company here) had another round of layoffs? What do you think that means for us?" Which is inevitably followed by a rousing chorus of, "do you think it will ever get better?" As if I didn't have enough to worry about on a regular basis - now I have to be concerned that it is never going to get better!
But the truth is that it will get better, and eventually those of us that are unemployed will find jobs, at least I hope. Until then, I will keep telling people I am unemployed just to see their reaction. Like I said, I have to entertain myself somehow.