I was laid off at the end of January 2018. Although it wasn’t wholly unexpected, it still happened by surprise. After more than three years, through unremitting efforts, I finally developed a sense of belonging after taking over several projects and making some achievements at the company. Still, it was at this moment that I was let go by the company. I attended the last staff meeting; I wanted to say goodbye to everyone gracefully, but I choked without saying a word, and the tears flowed out. The president claimed afterward that he cried after the meeting; he made a memorable trip from Texas to Rice Town to pull me aside and said sincerely: “Don’t cry; wait for me to save the company in the future. I’ll call you back.” Although it was a blank check, I was comforted at that moment.
No matter what mood I fell asleep in the night, the first thing I felt when I woke up the following day and regained consciousness was always despair and emptiness. I have always heard that unemployment is one of the great adversities in life. The first challenge is that life suddenly loses its formula. When you wake up and don’t know where to go, you can wander around your home or online virtual world in your pajamas all day. I pretended it was a temporary vacation; however, after a moment of leisure, I immediately fell into anxiety about reality.
My first step out of unemployment was to get out of the house. I set a new schedule and went out and got home at the same time as going to work every day. The library became my office. Looking around, all kinds of people seemed to be calm and composed, and everyone had their mission. I sat there, not feeling lonely and having my own space, and my mood gradually calmed down.
Woman with a Mission
Looking for a job after being unemployed is frustrating, but the inescapable sense of crisis makes laziness have no place to stand. After I set my goals and made a plan, I tossed myself even busier than going to work every day, and I didn’t even have time to feel sorry for myself.
First, I identified a list of potential jobs and job sites. The first thing to do every day was to check these sites for job updates. If I found some jobs that matched my expectations and professional skills, I went ahead and applied right away. It is recommended that resumes and cover letters be tailored to each job’s specific requirements. However, due to limited time and energy, I usually attach an extended version of the resume, focus on the cover letter, and put the finishing touches on relevant strengths and experiences. A cover letter may only have a five-second chance among those who are screening materials, and it takes work to stand out. It needs to be concise and to the point, and the tone of sincerity and enthusiasm is just right. It is boasting, but the goal is to let recruiters feel that it will be their loss if they don’t give you a chance. Sometimes even after writing 1 or 2 cover letters, I was exhausted. I fully appreciate the pain of a writer who has no inspiration but must create.
Every cover letter is a seed of hope. If you don’t sow, you can’t reap. Many times after sowing, there is no sign of germination at all. Keeping a positive attitude and continuing to try again and again without paying back is the kung fu that job seekers must practice. Feeling disheartened and depressed is a common thing. However, you have to force yourself to get out. Otherwise, you will be stuck and unable to extricate yourself.
In addition to applying, I built a huge Excel sheet that brought together all the information related to the job search. The process of organizing the material itself benefited me a lot. First of all, I recorded all my professional experiences so far in the form of running an account, no matter big or small. When I browse job advertisements, I pick out keywords that describe my skills and then look for relevant examples from my experience. This document gradually evolved into a collection of stories through continuous sorting, mining, and refining. Writing cover letters and interviews is ultimately about telling your story. With the material of career achievements ready, job searching doesn’t seem so scary anymore.
When I was having trouble getting my seats right, I realized that this exercise would be more effective if I had done it while I was still working. That’s when there’s also an opportunity to build targeted experience and learn skills to close the gap between you and your dream job. It’s just that very few people can do it in times of peace. There is no remedy for being in a deep crisis. So learning was added to my busy schedule. Lynda.com (the predecessor to LinkedIn Learning) was one of the platforms I used the most. There were many high-quality courses in business administration, marketing, communication, design, and more. Taking the course gave me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, and I had more courage and self-confidence to move forward on the long, bottomless job-hunting road.
Network, Network, Network
Relationship building is not a special product of China; it is equally important in American society. But relationships also need to be nurtured daily. Cramping on cramming once you’ve become unemployed can’t help but appear too purposeful, and most people won’t take it too seriously. After losing my job, many people expressed sympathy and perfunctory by saying – “ I will keep you in my prayer.” My daughter’s friend’s mother is a professor in the Department of Communication and Media at a university, and I thought it would be nice if I could work there. So while watching my daughter dancing on the other side of the glass window at the dance school, I gathered up the courage to mention my current predicament and asked if there were any vacancies in their department. She answered nonchalantly, “Oh, you can go to our school’s website and check it out.” I was speechless. It was my old friends, old colleagues, and the members of the local Toastmasters Club that I had been with for three years that extended the support I most needed at that time.
In a sense, job, search, and courtship have many similarities. After sending out a love letter, i.e., the cover letter, to confess, I waited anxiously. It was as if a video recorder in my head was constantly replaying the past scene after scene. My eyes were fixed on the mobile phone that seemed to have made up its mind not to ring. The earphone line, usually tangled, was organized neatly on the table, always ready to answer important calls. Next came rejection, heartbreak, cheering up, letting go, moving on, and starting all over again. Maybe it was because the scar was healed, and the pain was forgotten. I think I didn’t feel so tormented when I was in love. After experiencing it, I decided to treat everyone who suffers from the same job search pain gently.
Perhaps for this reason, when I announced my status at the first Toastmasters meeting since I lost my job, members who had lost their jobs jumped out to share their experiences and feelings. A senior member came up to me and said, “I know what it’s like. Could you send me your resume? I’ll see what I can do.” Within a few weeks of mobilizing his entire network, he sent emails and phone calls in person until it created a pretty good interview opportunity for me. Another member, who had just found a new job after many trials and tribulations, immediately passed on her successful experience and gave me a copy of a set of cover letters and interview questions she had compiled. At that time, I was open to all interview opportunities, and it was an opportunity to train troops. Every time after the interviews, I was still excited; I would go to the original company and share the anecdotes with my old colleagues. During these fragile days, I lost a job and was given a support system that I didn’t realize existed.
In mid-March, my job search journey was getting better. In the two weeks of the final sprint, I got four interview invitations, four completely different opportunities, and then three offers that were different but not perfect. The confusion in the decision-making process was indescribable. To this day, I can’t help but wonder if I made the right choice.
Life is a Journey
After coming out of the adversity of being unemployed, I thought if I had known what it would feel like, I would have been less panicked. But again, life is not only about the destination but the process. Where you go depends on how you go, and that’s where hope lies. There is a wonderful journey when we take every step under our feet. It may not matter where the end is.