Unemployment is a painful experience. At times it can feel as though no one wants you. You can feel that you will never get a job. You can feel like you're going to be stuck in your present unemployed state forever.
I know the feeling of unemployment. I have been unemployed before, and I wrote about one of my experiences in the book How to Build Wealth and at more length in the book Gainful Employment. Unemployment can be painful, but one of the most overlooked truths about unemployment is that unemployment can be an incredibly profitable opportunity.
When I was unemployed, I did the only thing that I could do - besides keep looking for a job. I made myself more valuable. That is right; I became more valuable while I was unemployed. How did I do that? I increased my education.
If you have read the book Gainful Employment, then you will know that there are four qualities that employers look for. Employers look for experience, education, personality, and character. If you have the four qualities that employers seek, then you have value and employers want you. It does not matter if the unemployment rate is 38 percent. If you have the experience, education, personality, and character that an employer needs, then you will be hired and you will be retained. Why? You meet the needs of your employer.
Knowing this, I chose to increase my education. I was actively seeking employment, but it was not forthcoming. So, I set out to learn more about my field. As my field was computers, and more specifically network administration, I asked the question "what education would help me to be more marketable to an employer?" The answer that I arrived at was Microsoft's MCSE certification. That certification consisted of multiple exams that, when passed, would confer the certification.
The MCSE was and still is a certification that employers actively seek when they want to recruit a Network Administrator. I believed that if I could attain the MCSE certification that I would have an easier time finding the job that I desired. I already had a Bachelor's degree in Information Technology, but I knew that the certification also carried a lot of weight as it showed specifics that an employer would need.
So, I set out studying for the certification. How did I do it? I did it cheaply. Remember, I was unemployed. I did not have the cash to spend to send myself for formal training. I did have enough cash to buy the books to study, however. And, that was what I did. I bought about a dozen or so books related to the certification and read them. I devoted myself to getting that certification and getting it cheaply because I knew that it would help me in the future.
Yet, don't let me fool you. Of all things that I've ever done, this might be the single most painful thing I've ever done. I have experienced no shortage of mentally challenging obstacles, but this was probably one of the worst, if not the worst. Why? I was unemployed. I could not find a job and it felt like life was passing by. I was already dissatisfied and depressed about not having a job. What could only make it "better?" Reading dry, boring, technical manuals - how satisfying!
Oh, and making maters worse, I failed one out of three tests and had to take them over. Instead of seven tests, I had to take ten - and I had to pay to take ten of them.
Still, I did attain the certification. What kept me going? Probably desperation - and this is important. I would NEVER have read those books and attained that MCSE certification without being unemployed. If I were employed I would have had far better things to do with my time that sit in a room and read boring technical books so that I could pay money to take challenging technical exams that I might not even pass for a certification that I would have probably had to have quit my then-current employer to get paid for.
That is why I can say that my unemployment was a golden opportunity. Unemployment FORCED me to do something that I would never have done. It forced me to further educate myself. It was mentally very painful and dissatisfying, but it was absolutely a positive thing in the long run, because I made the most of it. Within three months of finishing my certification, I had been hired to a position that required me to use the MCSE certification that I had acquired. If I had no MCSE certification, my unemployment would have continued, because I would NOT have been hired for the job.
If you do not both understand and feel that experience, education, personality, and character are the qualities that an employer looks for, then you will have a hard time wanting to better yourself while you are unemployed. It is so easy to fall into the trap of wasting time and feeling depressed. Yet, because I knew that bettering my education would make me more valuable to near and more future employers, I was able to set a goal. That did not mean that it was easy to motivate myself to study and pass the exams, but I had a goal that I could focus on. Even though I did not feel like studying, I was able to force myself to study because I knew that I would get a return on my effort and there was very little else that was productive for me to do.
If you find yourself unemployed, or underemployed, earnestly seek to increase your value to your next employer. It does not have to be your education, for you could do something that would improve your experience. Maybe there is something that you could not have done while you were employed that you can now do that you are unemployed. Maybe it would be so valuable that it will be better in the long-run that you were unemployed, rather than working. Maybe you'll look back in the future and say, like I did, "I sure am happy that I was unemployed, for I owe a portion of my career success to the things that I was forced to do while I was unemployed."
If you do not give it any thought, you might err and believe that unemployment has to be comprised of wasted time, depression, and endless job searches. After reading this you should see that unemployment could be one of the best things to happen to you, if you use it wisely.
Peter Suchy is the author of the books How to Build Wealth and Gainful Employment.