How To Be Unemployed (Without Going Crazy)

This week, a whole new generation of college graduates enter the working world — armed with diplomas, a thirst for success, and an alcohol tolerance like no other. We’ll spare you the sappy quotes of graduation speeches past (insert biting, yet humorous observation on the outlook of society and the need for a zest for life, here), but rest assured they’ve heard plenty in the way of warnings and advice. 

And, while we have no doubt that each and every one of you breaking into the workforce are more than qualified for your dream jobs (okay, that was a joke), we’re going to be honest: Despite the fact that you are intelligent, hard-working, deserving people, there just aren’t enough jobs to go around — some of you will join the ranks of the unemployed. Plus, there’s that whole life-isn’t-fair thing. While we wish we could use the magical powers of the Internet (or, that new 3-D printer invention) to summon careers for each and every one of you, what we can offer you is a shoulder to lean on, and a little bit of expert advice. After all, we’ve all been there — and by “there,” we mean our bed, watching countless reruns of Sex and the City, wishing all those recruiters would understand how totally awesome we were. 

So, to do all of you job-seekers a solid, we hit up HR execs and happiness experts to bring you our ultimate guide to surviving unemployment. Read through to get started on your brand new life, and crack open a cold one while you’re at it. Because, hey, it’s not like you’ve got a job to get to.


After our (multiple) stints through the vices of unemployment, we now consider ourselves venerable experts in passing time. You’ll find that as your friends, roommates, and lovers head off to spend the day gainfully employed, hours turn into days, days turn into weeks, and a simple commercial break can feel like a lifetime. You’ll now be longing for the structure of Excel documents, lunch breaks, and mundane meetings. But, rest easy, because there are (temporary) solutions. 

Get Your Rest: This may seem counterintuitive, but just think — when else in your life will you have the opportunity to get every minute of the beauty sleep you need? Not only will a solid eight (or 10, or 12) hours help you feel refreshed to tackle cover letter after cover letter, but you may finally banish those undereye circles that plague your salaried friends. Plus, the more you sleep the less time you’ll spend watching infomercials (and splurging on the Forever Comfy). 

Tackle Your Netflix Queue: Are you constantly feeling out of the loop while the rest of your friends riff on The West Wing (Oh, President Bartlett, you ol’ curmudgeon!)? Now’s your chance to catch up on everything you missed at your 9-to-5.

Break Out Of Your Routine: According to Anne Kreamer, author of It’s Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace, being unemployed can be isolating and scary for even the most grounded and secure person. “One of the best things to do is expose yourself to something new that brings you in contact with new social groups,” she says. “Volunteer at an animal shelter or find a free lecture series that interests you.” It’s okay if what you’re doing isn’t directly focused on gainful employment — it will help you become an explorer of the world and maybe even expose you to a new direction you hadn’t even considered.


Okay, we’ll start off by admitting that this section is a double-edged sword. It goes without saying that obviously everyone who’s unemployed is doing everything they can to get a job (well, except maybe that guy who hangs out at the park with a hookah and a bag of potato chips at one in the afternoon), but there are a few things you can do to put yourself a cut above the rest. 

Determine Your Priority: This may seem obvious, but you’ll never come across as the best candidate for your dream job if you haven’t determined exactly what your dream job is — and what you want out of it. Kreamer advises sitting down and being honest with yourself about your primary motivation for working. Are you looking for a large income? Maybe to learn something new or advance in your current area of expertise? Focus and identify your objectives before you do anything else.

Networking — Yes, You Really Have To: It’s one of the most basic rules of career searches, but for most of us it can be more than difficult, not to mention awkward. Kreamer urges overcoming the inherent reluctance to “bother” people, and instead be gracious, but a bit assertive. “Instead of saying ‘I’d love to get together sometime,’ say something more like ‘Do you have 15 minutes to talk next Tuesday afternoon?’ When you get concrete it forces the other person to do so in return.” If you absolutely can’t bring yourself to hit the industry event circuit (guilty!), you can focus on creating a work ally at the companies you’re applying to. Nando Rodriguez, Senior Social Media Recruiter for Ogilvy Public Relations, recommends this when you don’t already have a contact or friend. “We all have access to LinkedIn, so target someone within the company who isn’t involved in the hiring process,” he says. “Reach out to find out what the day-to-day is really like or ask about the work culture. That person will then become someone who can help direct you to the right contact or to help you become more than just one in the pile.”

Know How To Sell Yourself: Okay, so we totally understand the temptation to create the coolest, most eye-catching resumé out there — but c’mon. This isn’t Legally Blonde, and no amount of Reese Witherspoon charm is going to make your pink perfumed sheet seem professional. While each industry is different, almost all recruiters agree that proper formatting is the most important way to help your resume stand out from the pack — Rodriguez recommends keeping everything concise and neat. You’ll also want to leave out the cliché catch phrases (“Team player,” “Organizer,” and “Efficient”). Also, look into buzz words or language that is unique to the industry you’re applying. “Research has shown that when you use the same language [as your recruiter], the bond is formed a lot more quickly,” says Rodriguez.


We get it, this part’s a doozy. As we can personally attest to, being unemployed feels like sitting outside a party that everyone in the world has been invited to but you. A simple walk to the grocery store can be like a thousand tiny salted wounds — you become convinced that every person you pass on the street is more successful than you. Luckily, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. And no, it’s not just that bowl full of cookie dough waiting in your fridge. 

Know Thyself: It’s easy to get caught up in all the things you don’t have while you’re unemployed, but first you have to figure out what truly is going to make you happy and fulfilled. So many of us get caught up in a career track that we forget to stop and take stock of where we are and where we want to be. A break from gainful employment gives you the chance to do some major self-reflection and discover what you’re really looking for. As Dr. Danny Penman, co-author of Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World, advises, stopping to accept your fate and reconvene does not have to mean resigning yourself to your current fate. “It’s far cleverer and more subtle than that,” he says. “Take stock of life at the deepest of levels. Out of this clarity arises an inner calmness that allows you to start rebuilding your life and to move it in the direction you desire.” How very Gwyneth of you!

Lower Your Stress: Walk. Seriously. Exercise will help regulate your hormones and get rid of all that bottled-up emotion and worry about your future (or your next meal). Penman stresses: “This is the simplest lifestyle change that you can make to increase happiness. You don’t need to walk in the wilderness or even in the park. A stroll down Fifth Avenue at 5 p.m. can be just as magical.” If you’re ready to get super zen, you can give meditation a shot — it may seem too crunchy for you, but it can have unbelievable results on your psyche. According to Penman, the simplest way to relieve symptoms of acute anxiety or stress (think a racing heart, shortness of breath, and all that other stuff you feel when watching a Ryan Gosling flick) is to close your eyes and focus on your breath. Om.

Disconnect: Leave your phone at home once in a while and detach yourself from Facebook, Twitter, and your mom’s incessant text messages. You’ll be a better person for it. And, it’ll ease your Verizon bill.

Quit Drinking: Okay, don’t freak out — but tons of experts agree while it might not be a popular solution, it is a very effective one. “Quitting drinking is a powerful energy and happiness booster,” says Anne Kreamer. “Alcohol is a depressant, and when trying to build an equilibrium clear-headedness is always positive.”


This is the hard part, guys. Even if you’re raking in six figures, there are always things to blow your hard-earned salaries on (Vacations! Sample sales! Infomercials!). Short of inventing a money tree or opening up your own U.S. mint outpost, nothing will completely solve your budget woes. A couple things, however, will help.

Pull A Swaperoo: Making cuts to your creature comforts can make unemployment even harder to endure, but Anne Kreamer stresses the importance of taking stock of every single one of your expenses — down to your late-night Cheetos habit. Trim anything that isn’t necessary, and swap out budget items that can be downsized. Cancel that overpriced cable service and rely on a $10/month Netflix account instead, or learn to live with your local 24-hour fitness center instead of indulging in Kiehl’s lotion and steam rooms at Equinox.

Take Advantage Of The Government: Okay, so we’re not saying you should start skipping out on your taxes or anything, but become overly familiar with everything Uncle Sam is doing to help you out. There’s no shame in signing up for unemployment benefits or food stamps, and the extra funds can be a major lifeline. 

Get Realistic About Savings: For those of you lucky enough to have a savings account, now may not be the time to keep it padded. As much joy as you get out of putting your benjamins away for those Alex Wang pumps or that new flat screen, it goes without saying that now isn’t exactly the time. And, duh, no fancy five-star vacations. Your new favorite word is “Staycation.” Well, that and “Dollar Beer Night.”

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