I got my first job before I even completed university. In my last semester, I started applying to a bunch of places, including the Ministry of Education. I never seriously considered being a teacher, but I knew I didn’t want to do research, and I’d spent a lot of my childhood years fantasising about teaching, so my brother suggested giving it a shot, especially since I had the personality for it. To be honest, I never really thought a foreigner like me would get a position in the civil service, so I applied without much expectation. And to my surprise, I got in. This was back in 2009, when the recession had just hit the working world, so a job in hand was a job worth keeping. I hadn’t heard any replies from any of the other places I’d applied to, so without much thought about the long-term implications, I accepted.
For 4 years after graduation, there was no looking back. First it was contract teaching, then a year at the National Institute of Education (where I got paid to study – best deal ever!) and then three years contracted to a school. There wasn’t much time to do anything but work, and there wasn’t much opportunity to think about any other form of work. Last September, however, three months before the end of my contract, I weighed all my options and decided I wanted out. I’d learnt a lot from my time as a teacher, but I wanted to try my hand at something different. What exactly I wanted to do, I wasn’t sure of, but I knew I needed a break from what I had been doing. And so I handed in my resignation and quit at the end of the year.
I spent all of January completely free. I didn’t want to think about work, so I didn’t. I travelled, I met family, I spent time at home, and all that time, I didn’t revise my resume or open a single job site. I was happy. Come February, though, some restlessness had crept into my system, and I started job hunting, not with any desperation, but with a healthy dose of curiosity as to the working world out there. I’d not thought about any other kind of job for 4 years, and just exploring was fun in itself. And then slowly, February turned into March and I got just a teeny bit panicky. Friends would ask what was going on with the job hunt, and I’d have to admit that I had nothing. I would tell them that since I didn’t have to do much to get my first job, I considered this “paying my dues”.
It’s now been a little more than two months since I started job hunting, and I still have nothing. Two months doesn’t sound like a long time, and I’m lucky to be in a situation that doesn’t put pressure on me, financially or otherwise, to start working again. Still, two months of searching, self-pimping, waiting and ultimately, not hearing back? It’s tiring. It’s discouraging. It makes you rethink that “above average intelligence” label you were given during your education. It makes you wonder how much more disgustingly self-congratulatory you’ll need to get in your resume. It makes you angry that you can’t get a job without experience, and you can’t get experience without a job. It makes you anxious about the future.
I guess it would be a different matter if I was going after one particular job and was willing to wait as long as needed for it to come along. The truth is, though, that I’m still not sure what I want to be doing. I do know that unless I actually do it, I’ll never know if it’s something I could do for the rest of my life. What I thought teaching was, and what it turned out to be, were two completely different things. I can’t just go by a job description; I need to do the work and see if I’m suited for it, which means my next job may not even be a long-term engagement. And so the cyclical problem continues.
My cousin recommended me for a freelance writing job about two weeks ago, and that has given me some temporary relief from the waiting around. To an outsider, I’m living the dream. I’m under no pressure to earn money, I have a home and a family to support me, and I have the freedom to do whatever I want. But the heart just isn’t made for long-term contentment, I guess. When I was working, I couldn’t wait to quit. And now that I don’t have a job, I somehow can’t wait to start work again.
I have to consciously stop every once in a while and remind myself to enjoy my present situation. To not hurry into my future problems. To appreciate what I have here and now and not bemoan what I don’t. To thank my lucky stars for the comfort and even luxury of my current condition. To cherish these relatively stress-free days, and to enjoy the company of people I won’t get to see much once I do start working again. To do the things I want to do and won’t have time for when I start a new job.
In other words, I’m working towards being gainfully unemployed.