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Maria Ines Montenegro
Maria Ines Montenegro

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Unemployed for a month

After I got laid off, I decided to write down my experience while being unemployed. It was my first full time job as a backend developer and the company went through some restructuring; hence, my first time being fired as well. Having no job all of the sudden was quite scary and uncertain. I felt sad and unmotivated for the first few days but nothing a crying and journaling session couldn't fix. My main concern was establishing a routine that could help me stay productive while job hunting and not giving in to laziness. So I made a journal where I kept track of a daily to-do list and recorded some insights I discovered while struggling to stay disciplined and motivated. Through this post I'll be sharing what I learned as the weeks went by.

1st Week

Day 1

Should I set an alarm? Should I take a week or some days off before I start looking for a job? Should I take a shower? These are some of the questions I asked myself the first Monday I was unemployed.

I strongly believe that having a daily routine is essential for your productivity and even mental wellness. As I was going to be without a job, God knows for how many months, I felt the need to establish some ground rules in order to stay active.

RULES:

  1. Wake up at 7:30 am
  2. Take a shower right after waking up
  3. Sit down at a table (not the couch) to get things done: online courses, job hunt, freelance
  4. Write a journal entry
  5. Go to the gym at least 4 times per week

I decided to take a week off just to focus on redefining my short term goals and think about what kind of job I wanted to apply for...

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2nd Week

1st day of my routine

Didn’t get up early…well I did but then went back to sleep because I was very tired. Turns out the more you sleep, the more tired you are.

1st day (for real)

I followed my rules and I actually got things done. I enrolled in an online course and finished updating and fine-tuning my resume for future job applications.

The rest of the week ran smoothly; I got to read lots of articles, apply for some jobs and prepare for interviews. I live in Guatemala, interviews for CS related jobs are not typically the whiteboard ones and mainly consist on sharing what you've learned. Part of my preparation was going through my resume and making sure I felt comfortable talking about every single item. For me, writing down paragraphs to synthesize my working experience is very useful as I tend to get nervous when speaking to interviewers. Having a structured and complete narrative is crucial so I also practiced answering common personal interview questions such as strengths, weaknesses, challenges I've had, and most importantly explaining why I was currently unemployed. These are some posts that helped me prepare:

3rd Week

Got my first interviews! Some observations:

  • Review basic concepts about every skill you put on your CV (in my case, I didn't remember some basic stuff about databases)
  • Admit when you don't remember or don't know something
  • Don't be so awkward (try to hide your RBF)

Interviews can be draining. Especially if they ask you heavy introspecting questions such as: What would your best friend say about you? How would you describe yourself? and so on. Although personally I don’t like answering such questions, I find it useful to every once in a while actually do think about your qualities and the relationships you are cultivating. Another thing to have in mind while being interviewed is the work environment; take a look around and imagine yourself actually being there on a daily basis.

I was feeling kind of overwhelmed…I negotiated a freelance, had to keep doing an online course, and was currently on two job processes. Some days I didn’t have anything to do and just roamed on the internet and other days I got lots of emails and phone calls. I tried to keep everything organized, kept my to-do list up to date and scheduled all the appointments on my calendar.

4th Week

During this week I kept waking up at a reasonable hour, not always at the same time though. I focused on getting some final paperwork and completing some evaluations for a job offer. Huge part of this month was making decisions; what freelances to pursue, what jobs to apply for, and ultimately, what job offers to consider and negotiate. Even though I spent plenty of time running errands, I always made sure I sat down at a table with my computer at least once a day to go through my to-do list and write on my journal. I kept reading and listening to podcasts but also made time to reconnect with some friends.

Takeaways

Dealing with uncertainty has always made me uncomfortable and anxious. During this month I experienced living day by day and being ok with not having a clear plan. I learned a lot about myself through job application processes; from deciding what kind of job I wanted now, to reconsidering my personal qualities and reflecting upon past mistakes. Self-discipline and organization were key in order to accomplish my goals; this is what worked for me:

  • Establish a routine (this can be an iterative process)
  • Use a calendar and reminders
  • Update to-do list
  • Journal everyday

But mainly, no matter how you structure your days, my advice is: don't overthink and just start getting things done.

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