Overcoming Unemployment Challenges

Jeremy BiberdorfBy: Jeremy Biberdorf

June 4, 2012June 4, 2012

Overcoming Unemployment Challenges

As many of you know I’ve been unemployed the whole time I’ve been running this blog. It actually goes all the way back to August. So that’s pretty close to 10 months. Time really does fly when you’re having fun and running this blog has been a lot of fun.

I admit I definitely haven’t been aggressively looking for a job that whole time. In fact when I left my last job I was making more money from my side business than at my job. So I figured I was set and losing my job wasn’t a problem at all. Working from home seemed like a real possibility.

As luck would have it, shit hit the fan on the following Monday. Basically Google did what they could to keep the small man down. Ok I’m not very small, but my website income was pretty small time. With the click of a mouse, all my best producing websites were penalized.

Fortunately, I had some decent money saved up and was still getting income from other traffic sources. That might’ve given me a false sense of security though. I knew that I was fine for a while financially, but the effect on my long term finances didn’t really set in. I wouldn’t have money for a Betterment IRA or other investments.

I would glance at the job posts occasionally but I was more focused on trying to recover my Google rankings and make that my full time career. The desire to be my own boss led me to find some excuse about any potential jobs that I should have been applying for.

I applied for the odd job over the months, but I didn’t put real effort into it. If anything it was just to show my girlfriend and family that I wasn’t just sitting on my ass ignoring a possible job.

The Turning Point In My Unemployment

That level of comfort took a change for the worse when my girlfriend and I broke up. Things are a lot more expensive when you’re paying for everything completely on your own. No more cheap rent. No more half priced cable and internet. No more savings on food.

Facing this financial reality was a bit overwhelming. I knew with the increased expenses, the pressure was really on to increase my income and soon. This financial problem combined with the stress of losing the most important person in my life was all too much. Add in some drug abuse, unhealthy eating and lack of exercise and it was the perfect storm for a bout of depression.

Ironically, it was the financial pressure that got me back on the right track. With all the motivating financial stories I had been reading on blogs, I really wanted to have similar success. I realized I wasn’t satisfied just continuing to coast. I realized I needed to search more inspiration and strength, and make things right.

Dealing With Personal Problems First 

So now I had the motivation I needed. The problem was that the depression was still going strong and it seems like this dark and scary development won’t be ending anytime soon. It was easy to see that I had to deal with that before having much chance at employment. If not I was going to avoid applying for the better jobs and have little confidence in any interviews.

Obviously I had to smarten up about the drug abuse. That was going to eat away at too much of my savings and further distort my mental state. Geez I’m cringing at the thought of my mom reading this paragraph. Sorry mom! She caught me back in high school. So it wasn’t exactly a big secret, but I’ve hid it from her over the years. Now it’s been 2 months clean which is honestly the longest time, probably since I started. Thinking of it like that, I really had a problem with it. Well enough of that crap.

Then things started tying in with my recent post about putting your health before your finances. To completely get my mind in the right state, I knew I had to make other major lifestyle changes. Gradually I started making regular exercise and healthy eating a priority. That was the main focus but I also tried to get more social contact and more time outdoors.

With my new found drug-free energy, I really tackled this problem from multiple angles. I started taking vitamin D supplements and also fish oil extract. Both of those apparently help a lot with moods and provide all kinds of other health benefits. I even got some anti-depression medicine prescribed. I have since decided that I am not comfortable getting hooked on that stuff instead.

Now that I’m being so open about this all, I’ll admit that I’m also going to a weekly group cognitive behavioral therapy thing. It’s giving me a great new perspective on the problem. I know it runs deeper than just this latest stressful situation. So I need to learn how to better cope with it from now on.

Well I’m happy to say that I’m making a lot of progress and confidence is higher than it has been in a long time.

Seeking Government Help

Amidst dealing with the personal problems, I sucked up my pride and applied for employment insurance benefits. I knew that would buy me a bit of time to deal with my issues. I’m not entirely sure why I waited so long to apply. I think partly I thought my side income was too close to their maximum for acceptance, but really I probably just didn’t want to be forced to apply for jobs regularly.

Forced job applications was actually just what I needed to kick me in the ass though. Instead of being picky and only applying for ideal jobs, I took it to another level and applied to all the suitable jobs in my industry.

Doors Opening Up

My first bit of success was landing a part time SEO contract for a company offering Whistler accommodations. Before I had been avoiding any contract work, telling myself that it would just take away from my blog work and they would expect too much. I now see that this was the wrong way of looking at it. I pushed aside that prejudice and kicked some ass in the interview.

A bit over a week later, I had another employer showing some interest. In this case, they had been advertising the position at a much lower wage than I would’ve accepted. Plus they were hoping to have the person handle office admin duties. Well, to fulfill my employment insurance obligations, I applied anyway, but I was upfront about the low wage problem. I also explained that they wouldn’t find an office admin with sufficient SEO knowledge to do much good. It turns out that they appreciated that straightforward approach and could tell that I had the skills to help them.

With my improved confidence the interview was a breeze again. Nothing was going to hold me back this time around. Towards the end of our chat, I was offered the job and I negotiated a wage pretty close to what I was looking for. The only catch was that it was only 30 hours per week for now. Hey that works for me since I had the part time contract and also my blog to run. They even decided that they would let me focus exclusively on SEO and try to hire someone else for the office admin work as I build up their marketing.

The Keys To Success

In my case, the biggest reason I was able to land a job was my change of mindset. I made headway in dealing with my depression and convinced myself that I had the skills to take on these jobs. Confidence goes so far and it can really hold you back if you’re lacking it.

Being more open minded was extremely important too. I could either fight with all the other applicants who are applying for the very best jobs or I could give other jobs a chance. Instead of being in the middle of the pack, I put myself in a position to be the frontrunner for the jobs I landed. Both employers pretty much knew they wanted to hire me even before we met for the interview.

In both cases, I thought the job didn’t seem ideal at first, but both employers are great people and I’m excited about these jobs. Now if I do my job well, this can expand the opportunities or end up being a springboard for something else down the road.

Other people may need to overcome other obstacles, but I believe a variation of my challenges is affecting a vast number of other people who are unemployed.

Unemployment can be very discouraging experience. It is all too easy to get stuck in that rut and let it prevent you from putting your best foot forward. Don’t let your skills and education go to waste just because you don’t feel confident enough. So if you can, try to address anything holding back your confidence. Then open up your mind and work hard applying for lots of jobs.

Young people, middle-aged people, old people- there are plenty of people around the world experiencing employment problems. However, don’t lose hope. If you stay positive and keep at it, you’re bound to find someone willing to give you a chance.

Have any of you had any struggles with unemployment? If so, how did you overcome it? What would you do if you lost your job and couldn’t find a new job right away?

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Jeremy Biberdorf
Jeremy Biberdorf

About the Author:

Jeremy Biberdorf is the founder of Modest Money. He's a father of 2 beautiful girls, a dog owner, a long-time online entrepreneur and an investing enthusiast.

68 thoughts on “Overcoming Unemployment Challenges”

  1. I just interviewed Julie Clow of The Work Revolution fame on our podcast. She talks about creating your own opportunities during the interview, which sounds like exactly what you did. Sweet work.

    1. Yeah I guess that’s pretty much what I did. By selling him on my skills to get his business booming, he was able to accept the need to have someone doing SEO exclusively.

    1. Thanks John. It’s great to have the support of all of you awesome people. The same goes for you. You’re always welcome to reach out to me. And best of luck with the retina problem and with the upcoming novel.

  2. TB at BlueCollarWorkman

    You really had a lot going on — I remember the girlfriend breakup thing — it’s amazing that you really pulled through it all and still are pulling through. It’s pretty inspirational, man!

    1. Really I just didn’t have enough going on. Being high and depressed kinda overran everything so that I never had proper motivation to deal with the other stuff until it all built up.

  3. J –

    I really appreciate you opening up completely. These transparent posts typically are the most inspirational and insightful. I’m really glad you found something. Seeing the success of this blog, I have no doubt you’ll succeed in your other endeavors. I also have no doubt we’ll be working together in the future.

    1. Thanks man. I’m fortunate to have you all leaving such kind messages. I do hope we eventually do some work together. I think between us we could build up something pretty awesome.

  4. My husband went through a period of unemployment about a year ago. I saw first hand how unemployment can bring about depression. It’s important to keep the confidence but it’s so hard to do when you are wondering “what next?”

    I guess the good thing about unemployment benefits is that you are required to apply for jobs. My husband had to apply for two a week and you’re right, eventually someone will give you a chance.

    1. He only had to apply for 2 each week? I personally think that’s a little too light. I had no idea what the actual requirements were so I was applying for 2 most days. If I was going by the 2 per week quota, I likely wouldn’t have applied for either job that I landed.

      But yeah, unemployment can be a major challenge mentally. Each time you don’t hear back from a company it’s another shot to your confidence. The longer that builds up, the more you start doubting yourself.

  5. Marissa @ Thirty Six Months

    Congrats, Jeremy!

    Hard work pays off eh?

    Knowing that you need help is the first sign of a strong character!

  6. Congrats on the job! While I haven’t struggled with unemployment, so much of this post sounds familiar. Great progress, I am happy for you 🙂

    1. Thanks Andrea. Yeah this kind of stuff doesn’t just apply to people are unemployed. I just got writing about finding a job and decided to be pretty honest about the experience. We should chat via e-mail again sometime soon.

  7. Anthony Thompson

    That’s a very inspiring story, Jeremy. Naturally, I never would have guessed that you were facing so many challenges. In any case, I’m happy that you’ve managed to come out on the bright side of things, and that you’ve gotten your swag back. Congratulations to you, and God bless.

    1. Thanks Anthony. I guess it’s just pretty easy to hide that stuff when talking to people behind a computer. Maybe that’s partly why I gravitated to computer work and now blogging. It gave me a chance to be myself without my inner demons holding me back.

  8. The Happy Homeowner

    This is a fantastic post and great testament to your strength & determination.

    I’m currently facing my own battle with not having a full-time job right now, so I know what you’re going through. Hopefully, this latest set of challenges will be behind me as I’ll know next week if I have a job that I really want!

    The key for me, as you’ve mentioned, is remaining positive and believing in myself. I love reading about another person who persevering in the same way! Keep up the great work and never lose that positive frame of mind. Great things are on the horizon!! 🙂

    1. Good luck hearing back about that job Happy Homeowner. You’re right that a lot does come down to just keeping a positive attitude. That can be easier said than done when facing repeat rejections. It is quite the test of perseverance especially when there aren’t many jobs in your field.

  9. Jacob @ iHeartBudgets

    Thanks for being so open and honest with everyone here. Really glad to hear things are looking up. It’s really cool that this community was inspiring enough to motivate you in a positive way to get moving in the right direction. I have definitely been inspired as well by you and others to keep at this blogging thing that I might help as many people as possible.

    1. Yes that’s one of the great things about this niche. The advice we give and stories we tell has the power to ultimately help people. So the more open we can be, the more people can relate with the situation. In the case of this specific story, I know lots of people don’t really talk about this side of it at all. People shouldn’t struggle on their own though.

  10. So late commenting!

    Those are some excellent strides in the forward direction! When my mom passed away, my job hours were cut and I eventually lost my job. So yes, I too know how easy it is for depression to set in. Especially when your personal life is not as smooth as one would like it. I think you’ve done an excellent job. Keep up the good work!

    1. So late replying! 🙂
      Those sound like some very tough circumstances that you overcame. My situation was more my own making. That depression sure can hold you back though.

  11. 1 – my spouse has been working north of the tree line and downing Vitamin D like none other.
    2 – job apps super suck. Having successfully applied in batches, then ignored them for months, I 100% understand what you’re talking about.
    3 – Good on ya for pulling things together.

    1. I guess people that far north would have a lot more need for taking vitamin D since they can’t get much naturally year round. Thanks for the encouragement Anne.

  12. Nice comeback from difficult circumstances. Interesting that you would address your health as a factor in getting it together. A lot of people never make that connection and don’t realize how much your physical health has to do with your outlook, which in turn has to do with your performance. If you feel bad, you certainly are bound to think in a negative manner which is not what is needed when taking on such challenges. Life can bring some pretty nasty circumstances and it certainly helps to be fit at least to some degree when having to deal with them.

    1. I’m glad that this connection was pointed out to me. Most people do think that physical health is completely separate, but that’s just not the case. To be truly happy and lead a quality life you just can’t afford to neglect your physical health.

  13. i am unemployed too, this August is the start of my 11th month of being jobless. i have been actively applying for jobs, to the point wherein i actually re-search the contact persons of these company – unfortunately i still do not have a job.

    i am frustrated but not depressed. what helped me fight back depression was to review my financial status (including paying off any remaining debts, with the goal to be debt-free very soon!), taught myself how to bake and cook (from scratch in 5mnths) disciplined myself for health eating and not indulge in impulsive consumption of food, i’ve also worked on my creative side (designing) and still working on an invention – and yes, i agree with resolving personal issues … that part until now, is a work in progress …

    being jobless is very difficult … currently, i have been reading blogs about people who document how they overcame unemployment …

    thanks for sharing your journey about what you have done in order to get through unemployment …

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