Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2017/ Six Months Unemployed

Six Months Unemployed

Last week marked the six month anniversary of my unemployment. To the extent that I am in anybody's thoughts, it is with regard to my job search. Even Stack Exchange is in on the dogpile. "Are you still actively looking for a job?" their email asked, and then when I didn't reply they gave up on me, changing my job status from "actively looking" to "open, but not actively looking".

I started a jobsearch circle in January, sent out two emails to the group, and haven't done anything since.

I had two interviews in 2016, and zero in 2017. That is not surprising, since I have not submitted a job application since March.

Clearly, I am not actively looking for work.

I can come up with all kinds of excuses and rationalizations for this, but I can't come up with anything convincing. I can't even figure out what to put in this blog entry -- whether to make it long and boring, or whether to split it out into individual boring entries. I am stuck. Stuck, stuck, stuck.

The most important thing I want to write is an apology. People have been supportive, and have tried to help by offering me job leads and career advice. I took a risk by reaching out to people I knew for support, and people have been uniformly kind to me. That should not be taken for granted.

At the same time, I have been incredibly averse to following any of these leads, or any of this advice. That seems ungrateful, and it probably is. For that I am sorry.

As you might have deduced from past entries around unemployment, my attitude towards employers and the working world is cynical to the point of toxicity. I look at job postings and I get angry. I log into LinkedIn and I want to punch my computer. I applied to those two jobs in March and came close to having an anxiety attack. Employers are not that bad and the people who work for employers can be nice, but the job search process and many of the structural issues around this job market are getting my hackles up.

Furthermore, I have lost confidence that I would be able to hold down a job even if I got one. The last time I worked five days a week, eight hours a day was during my undergrad. I had one disastrous stint attempting to be a programmer, and then a few years of summer work at our campus computer centre. Beyond that everything has been part time work and/or contract work. Given that I clung to my old job for eight years you might think I could keep something new, but you would be wrong. My hours and work ethic at that position was a dysfunctional mess. I got very little done each day, but spent so many hours wasting time at my workplace that I had little time or energy for anything on my days off. I don't want to go back to those habits, but those are the habits I got. So the idea of working five days a week (and getting up early in the morning to do so) feels like hell.

Naturally, people then presume that I would be better off doing contract work or owning my own business or doing consulting. On the surface that seems reasonable, but over the last six months it has become utterly clear to me that I am terrible at working from home. I am angry and embarrassed at how poorly my home-based technical projects have been progressing.

And that is just the start of it. I have been putting barrier in front of barrier to me actually getting paid work.

So what have I been doing? On paper I am working on my technical skills, doing some projects that are both beneficial for the community and would look good on my resume. In reality I am wasting a lot of time reading blogs and Twitter, occasionally going for bike rides, and attending meetups.

In particular I am not volunteering at all, which makes me angry. If I cannot contribute my energy in exchange for money, I ought to at least contribute my energy to a worthy cause. But volunteer commitments have a bad habit of taking over my life, and I don't want to take on more commitment. So I am living a selfish life.

Maybe the underlying issue is simple: I am not desperate enough. When I was working I deliberately earned twice as much money each month as I made in expenses. The principle was to make sure I could live for two months on each month's salary I earned. I did not achieve this goal, but I came close enough that I can probably live for another year or two without running out of money. So I am much pickier than I have any right to be.

As far as I am concerned I am already fairly unemployable, and although a long stint of not working is just going to make things worse, I am hoping that by keeping some technical tasks in the mix, I can make it seem as though I have been building my skills during my unemployment. I am deluding myself into thinking that this is a good time to take some time off, before my rent and medical expenses go up. I may never be able to afford time off again in my life.

Thus, I am squandering away my days, and not putting in the work to address the underlying causes of my stuckness. At some point that will have to change. The question is whether I bother doing anything about it until I am desperate, and whether I can actually find reasonable work when that time comes. My fear is that I will end up either destitute or in a job I despise. I have some time now to build a better outcome for myself, but I am not taking advantage of the opportunity.

I will leave things there for now. Maybe I will elaborate on some of these points in future blog entries. Or maybe not.