Early retirement. Funemployment. Work holiday. It has many monikers–my favourite being Freedom 35–and I joined its ranks on April 1st. (No fooling.) At first I was shocked, horrified, tearful. I couldn’t believe that I, like so many others, was now a casualty of our economic state. But mostly, I was embarrassed. Because I was good at my job. And I possessed the misconception that only people who were bad at their jobs got laid off. I learned the hard way that this wasn’t true. It was a sad day for my employer to see me go, because I was competent, well-liked, and a hard-worker. But their hands were tied. The decision was driven by the credit crunch.
My first instinct was to find something new, immediately. I was panicked. I had started working when I was 15–serving up popcorn and potato chips at my community pool’s canteen. And I had worked ever since. I had never been unemployed. And in a need to define my self-worth and boost my recently bruised ego through my ability to successfully land another job, I applied for the first one I found on Charity Village. Within a week I had an interview. It was a respectable job with decent pay doing more fundraising for a not-for-profit. It seemed likely that I would be hired. And this prospect alleviated my building sense of dread of being unemployed in a recession.
But as the interview approached, I questioned whether or not I wanted the job or if I even wanted to be a fundraiser. I wondered if applying for the first job I found was just a knee-jerk reaction to my lay off. But, in these tough financial times, it seemed irresponsible to turn down work. I was brought up to believe that to be a good person, you had to be a contributing member of society–and this meant possessing gainful employment. And I grew up in a community in Northern Ontario where work was scarce–people were desperate for employment. Hundreds of people would apply for a single cashier’s position at Tim Horton’s. If you had a job you were one of the lucky ones. And if you turned down a job, you were an idiot.
But on the other hand, I’m tired of stumbling from one job to the next–like I’m in a career bouncy castle. I decided it was time to find the holy grail of employment: my dream job. In order to do this, I need to answer two things: What kind of jobs are available, and what kind of work do I find fulfilling, challenging, and stimulating. But how do you answer these questions without actually doing the job? And how do you make yourself known to employers when you don’t have experience in their particular field? With the bigger decisions in life, such as buying a car or a house, people shop around to find what best suits them.
So I’ve decided to do the same with my job—in a sense, I’ve decided to go on tour, or unemployment roadshow as I like to call it. I’m shadowing people at work to find out what they do, what sort of skills they need to do it, and whether or not it would be a match for me. In a sense, I’m still hopping around in the career bouncy castle, but this time I’m looking before I leap.
It’s kind of like bring your daughter to work day, but it’s bring your unemployed 33-year-old friend instead. It’s an opportunity for me to test drive careers, but also to explore the myriad of work (be it weird, wonderful, or ordinary) that people do everyday. And to find out what it is that makes people truly enjoy the work that they do.
I can be contacted here if you would like to invite me to work with you. (I live in Vancouver, BC, so unless transportation can be provided, I will have to limit my acceptations to the Lower Mainland.)