On Being Unemployed, Six Months On

Having recently passed the six-months-on-unemployment mark, I’ve been thinking a lot about what this experience has meant for me. Overwhelmingly, my thoughts turned to whether or not I’m using my unintentional freedom to identify and further my career goals, improve my mental health, and expand my social network. Even though I still find myself without a job, I believe the answer to all three inquiries is yes.

After taking a rather circuitous route to becoming an accountant, I never identified the role I saw the degree playing in my career path. I assumed that at some point I would become a CPA, but beyond that, I had no plan. My intentions were always focused on the near future, on matters such as where I would live and how I would pay the bills. For some months after losing my job, my nearsightedness continued. I was content to travel, put off studying for the CPA exam, and tinker with WordPress.

In the fall, almost entirely by accident, I became an organizer for WordCamp Boston 2010. I was familiar with WordPress, but had not, as recently as October, heard of WordCamp. As I learned of WordCamp New York on the day the event began, I researched upcoming iterations of the community-organized gatherings for WordPress users and developers. Much to my surprise, one had never been held in Boston, but was under consideration by John Eckman and Amanda Blum. With an abundance of free time and an intense desire to become more involved with the Boston-area tech community, I offered my services to the organizers. My message to John must have been convincing, because I soon became part of a small group of individuals planning an event that would eventually expand to more than 400 speakers and attendees.

As I had never organized an event of this size before, I patiently waited for John or Amanda to ask if I could tackle one task or another. Throughout the process, I gained valuable insight into the effort involved with making such a large gathering a success. That knowledge notwithstanding, the connections I made during the conference have proven wholly invaluable.

Without my CPA designation, there is little I can do in the accounting realm, and there is a pronounced shortage of positions available for accountants whose experience lies predominantly with non-profit and financial accounting. With that understanding, I decided to pursue freelance web development opportunities as a way to augment my unemployment income while I study for the CPA exam. Already this appears to be a wise decision, as I have received a number of requests for proposals to implement WordPress as a content management system, while a friendship with a WordCamp Boston volunteer has led to my involvement with his tech startup. Though the former offers only tangentially utilize my accounting background, the latter will rely almost entirely on this skill set in my role as Head of Business Development.

As I wrote previously, losing my job was an immeasurable benefit to my mental state, and the time granted by this opportunity allowed me to identify my career goals and act thereon. It is clear to me now that my ability to combine accounting services and technology consulting should be my focus going forward as there lies a niche I can readily satisfy. Continued involvement in Boston tech gatherings will only further expand my social network and provide valuable learning experiences, reinforcing my belief that I have ultimately benefited from unemployment.

2 thoughts on “On Being Unemployed, Six Months On”

  1. I might be heading into the unemployment situation soon – have you been that fulfilling all along the way, or have you had your moments of 3am-terror-of-regret? It's good to read about people using their time wisely. Looking forward for hearing about your progress.
    P.S. My friend recently ended her 3-month (volunteer) unemployment and she is full of energy at her new gig with even more clarification about her career direction.

    1. I'll be the first to admit that at times, I severely lacked motivation. There were moments of anger and self-doubt, but those emotions only lasted through the first few months. After realizing that the job search would be a difficult one given current economic conditions, I began looking at what else I could do that would marry my accounting career with my non-accounting passions. Essentially, I sought non-traditional uses for my education and training; I looked for ways to build on the strengths my generation was endowed with.

      The best lesson I learned from this extended period of unemployment was to get involved with something. It doesn't have to be a big event-planning endeavor, but anything that lets you focus on your skills and abilities, while providing a social outlet at the same time. Simply being involved, active, and out of the house did wonders for my mental state and self-worth. All of that led to my new career direction and long-term goals.

      That being said, searching for a job is still an important aspect of my daily existence. I am fortunate enough that I do not have a mortgage or rent payment due monthly, so the monetary pressures that exist for many are largely not a stressor I encounter.

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