After I was fired from my very first job out of grad school, I was devastated. Choosing this job was something I agonized over so when I was let go, it crushed me. It affirmed every concern that I had had about selecting that job over the other offer I had received. I had planned on spending at least 5 years at that job, learning all I could while advancing up the pay scale. I thought when I left, it would be on my terms, not theirs.
I suppose that’s not entirely accurate. They offered me the option to quit or be fired. Because I had no savings, I was going to need unemployment money so I took the fired option. It crossed my mind that it was going to be more difficult to find a new job because I opted to be fired but the need for income definitely outweighed that concern. Looking back, I still think it was the right choice but I would have done a few things completely differently.
The Three Choices I Would Have Changed
For instance, I opted for COBRA. I’m not sure why but at the time, I was panicked about not having health insurance (I still am). Even though I am very healthy and cautious, I had a sickening feeling that the first day I went without insurance would be the day something would go catastrophically awry. I plunked down my credit card and paid for 3 months right then and there. The biggest reason this was a mistake was the fact that the card had a $0 balance. Also, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pay it off right away. So rather than starting my unemployment with less debt, I increased it.
What I would have done differently: I would have purchased what I could or investigated cheaper options.
I also chose to go back to school. In a fit of…I’m not sure what, I decided I wanted to be a social studies teacher. I applied to a program and was accepted. I did well, too (got As in both my classes) and I seemed to get along well with the students. But I used going back to school as a way to hide from my problem rather than face it head on. This wouldn’t have been so bad except I couldn’t afford to pay cash for the classes. So I took out loans. Once again, I increased my debt during unemployment instead of decreasing it.
What I would have done differently: Take classes pertinent to my chosen field and degree and paid cash for them. If I couldn’t afford to pay cash, find a cheaper option.
The third huge mistake I made was not looking for a part-time job. Since I was in school and had obligations to that, as well as spending every day looking for new jobs, I convinced myself that I didn’t have time for a part-time job. This was completely false. I just didn’t want to work nights and weekends, not when I had unemployment to carry me through. I was also afraid that if I had a job interview, the part-time job would prevent me from being able to accept on short notice. I also felt the part-time income would have detracted from my unemployment benefits. As a 24 year old, this made complete and total sense.
What I would have done differently: Gotten a part-time job. Part-time income would mean I wouldn’t have to rely on unemployment and, if I had an interview, I could have discussed with my part-time job.
Clearly, I didn’t know what I was doing. And the four months I was unemployed were pivotal in shaping the next 10 years of my career. I have made so many mistakes—and a few good choices—and I’m proud of where I’ve landed. But I want to share my mistakes with you. While I’m not ashamed of my mistakes and the poor choices I’ve made, I certainly don’t want anyone else doing the same.
Photo courtesy of Y.