How to continue feeling awesome while unemployed

I recently got laid off. Not only was that already hard, but I got laid off from a position that was everything I wanted and a company that I absolutely loved. To me, it’s hard to feel like I’m worth much if I’m not contributing to something.

But instead of feeling like crap, I turned this “low” part of my life into a great opportunity of growth and development. Here’s what I’ve been up to in order to continue feeling awesome while unemployed.

1. Figure out a life plan.

Well, at least some of it. What are your life goals? What do you want to accomplish in the next few years? I never really thought much about my life plans until two former colleagues turned 30 and 60, and told me they’re each planning the next 30 years of their lives – and I should do the same. After all, I don’t want wake up one day when I’m 30 years old and think to myself, “didn’t I want to do this and that before I turned 30?” 

So I outlined my life plans: my career plan and personal plan. Starting with my ultimate goals and then figuring out the path to get there.

Career plan

The goal is to run my own nonprofit marketing agency by the time I’m 30. Or become some sort of strategic director or big decision-maker for a kick-ass marketing agency that really embodies my values. To accomplish this…

~2013 to ~2015:

  • Volunteer/do pro bono work for the types of nonprofits that I’d want to work for
  • Get involved in the nonprofit industry by attending events and networking
  • Learn the marketing needs of nonprofits
  • Obtain a job where I can learn all facets of marketing so I can apply them to nonprofits
Me, Amy, and Martin at Lean Impact's launch in SF

Me (center) at Lean Impact’s launch in SF

~2015 to ~2017

  • Work full time for a nonprofit or nonprofit marketing agency
  • Continue to build my expertise in nonprofit marketing

~2017 to ~2020

  • Become VP of marketing or senior account manager at a nonprofit marketing agency
  • Understand functions of an agency

~2020

  • Launch my own nonprofit marketing agency (unless I am totally in love with the agency I would currently be working for! The point is to be able to drive an agency and have great ownership of its growth and success.)

Personal plan

Get married by age 30. That’s all I got so far.

2. Continue to learn.

There’s a TON of websites nowadays that let you learn new skills for free. And they’re super cool and hip and web 2.0. There’s courses in photography, Photoshop, yoga, coding, copywriting, and more. Why should you consider taking a course? 1) to be productive and 2) to make you a stronger job candidate.

I’m currently taking this course on Udemy to learn Excel pivot tables because the type of marketing position I aim for requires this knowledge. I’m also reading a book on viral marketing called Contagious by Jonah Berger.

Here are some websites that offer courses.

Udemy: Unlike other online course websites, the courses on Udemy are all created by experts. Some are free and some are paid.

Coursera: My friend Jaydi and Vivian are taking courses on Coursera. It offers all free courses from universities around the world.

Skillshare: Anyone can teach anything on here – from fashion to culinary arts.

Codecademy: Learn to code 15 mins each week.

Treehouse: More coding.

3. Volunteer.

Whether you’re planting trees with Our City Forest or doing pro bono marketing or graphic design for any nonprofit or installing solar panels on top of a low-income home, there are tons of awesome things you can do while you’re unemployed. And there’s just as many reasons.

First reason: New skills and knowledge. I’ve always wanted to know more about renewable energy. I’m no engineer. But while helping the solar nonprofit Power to the People with marketing, I’m learning a ton about solar energy and its impact.

Second reason: You’ll feel good. Who doesn’t feel good when they help others?

Third reason: New connections. When I became unemployed, some of the awesome people I volunteer with immediately recommended job opportunities at their companies! When you volunteer, you’re surrounded by kick ass people!

Fourth reason: When a potential employer asks you what you did while you’re unemployed, you sound like a friggin rockstar for volunteering your time. You can now even add your volunteer experience to your LinkedIn profile.

Well there you have it. Despite losing my amazing job, I was able to remain just as happy during my unemployment by doing these three things (also being surrounded by friends and family of course). I hope this was helpful to you regardless if you’re unemployed.

Final note: Even though you feel awesome, you should still continue looking for a job.

Lip balms and dreams

In March 2010, I went to a green expo at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, where I figured out what I want to do with my life.

At the expo, there were over a hundred eco-businesses, including Clif Bar and Equal Exchange. While wandering from table to table, I stopped at a booth that was selling environmentally friendly lip balms. Fortunately the Founder was there, and instead of reading the labels of the nicely presented products, I asked her what’s so great about these lip balms.

She replied that they’re eco-friendly. I asked her to explain, and she followed with a very, VERY long explanation that consisted of words like molecules, atoms, ozone layers, and chemical terms I don’t know how to spell. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.

There I was, the perfect customer with chapped lips, a high interest in sustainable products, and money to spend at this expo… but she couldn’t turn me into a customer because I just had no idea what this lip balm is all about. The problem isn’t that she doesn’t know her own products, no, it’s that she didn’t know how to convince me to buy it.

This is when I realized I wanted my marketing career to focus on sustainable products and businesses. There were so many awesome earth-friendly, sustainable products at that expo that are way better than their mainstream counterparts. They were all products that can truly make a difference in issues like global warming and waste management. However, how can these products become popular if no one knows about them? Or the business owners don’t know how to sell them?

I realized then that I want to use my skills, experience, and education in marketing communications to help businesses like the lip-balm-lady’s. I want to help these businesses and organizations-who are doing good for our planet and our communities- grow and thrive, so their impact is even greater.

So, that’s how I came up with my career goal: to run a boutique marketing agency that focuses socially responsible, green businesses and social justice nonprofits.