In 2013 I graduated from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations. I had plans. I would pay off a small debt, buy a car, then eventually land, but most importantly I would become a rockstar foreign diplomat or maybe I’d be stuck in a nice cushy office in the UN conducting research on International Trade and. It’s 2016 and I’m no foreign diplomat nor am I employed by the UN. But I’m an entrepreneur.
After sending over 170 applications to countries all across CARICOM for positions that I was over qualified for, qualified for and under qualified for I remained unemployed. I wrote, called and begged organizations such as the OECS for the opportunity to work for free in order to keep myself occupied and to continue to grow my knowledge and experience in the field but my requests were not even acknowledged.
Until recently I was still a bit shaken up about the unexpected turns of life. But I’ve learnt that every season is essential and to be embraced. I’ve since come to recognize that unemployment may have been one of the most fruitful seasons of my life because it gave me the gift of time; time that I used wisely.
Here are a few things I did – a few things which bettered me and prepared me for the opportunities to come; a few things which caused me to come out of unemployment like a champion:
I Read Often
Reading was often my escape. At the start of the journey I loved fiction but as I started to grow and figure out exactly how I was going to get out of the rut that I was stuck in my reading became more streamlined.
I had decided that I would become an entrepreneur and so I focused most of my reading on entrepreneurship and the components which made it what it was. I read approximately 7-10 articles a day on websites such as Entrepreneur, Inc and Fast Company. I also read biographies and autobiographies of the men and women in the game whom I admired. I read as many books on Steve Jobs as I could possibly find simply because he’s my favorite entrepreneur. I also read books on emotional intelligence, leadership and branding and marketing. These readings helped me to get a feel on the various avenues to be explored and this, in turn,helped me determine what I would focus on.
I Learnt To Build Websites
After I decided on entrepreneurship, I had to figure out what exactly I would specialize in. Somewhere in the back of my mind I decided that I would become a branding and marketing expert and that part of the packages that my company would offer would include website design and development. Even though I had never written a line of code in my life, it appealed to my sensibilities. So I opened a Google page on my browser and “googled” a few Web Design and Development Courses.
There were paid and unpaid courses but I eventually settled with a company called Treehouse. Their courses were beautifully streamlined and for someone who had not a clue about what she was doing it was a great start for me.
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One of the things instilled in me from home and church is the importance of service. Many may have benefitted from my service but I was also impacted through serving others. Volunteering gave me an opportunity to get out of the house and to interact with various personalities but it also gave me an eye to see problems and a desire to find solutions for these problems.
I Discovered What I Was Made Of
This wasn’t something that I made happen. It simply happened because of the circumstances surrounding me at the time. When you’re broke and not content with being broke you will dig up gifts and talents that you didn’t know existed in you.
Unemployment pulled out things of me that I didn’t know that I had. I didn’t know that I was as resourceful as I was. I didn’t know how valuable my network was until and I didn’t know that I had the discipline and chops to sit and write a book. I believe that if I was employed the book would eventually come but it wouldn’t come with the swiftness that it did.
I was desperately seeking a way to make money and I saw book sales as the way out. Had I been financially stable I would probably still be waiting for the perfect conditions.
I Did Lots of Free Work
I had studied International Relations and a lot of Economics. Nothing in my courses said that I would be good at strategic branding or building websites. I needed to build a portfolio of work that would allow me to charge for my time and expertise in the future. To accomplish this, I scouted companies that I felt needed my services and I offered them for free. This allowed me to practice my craft and to settle on my signature.
After three years of doing free work, I finally decided that I had come to a place where what I offered was valuable enough to charge for it and I had a beautiful portfolio to prove it.
If you’re unemployed you don’t have to do exactly what I did. There are other things that you can do to fill up your time. You can learn a new language, you can learn to sew, or you can learn to play a musical instrument. This post is for the purpose of saying, if you’ve found yourself unemployed, don’t be discouraged. This could be a season essential to preparation for the things to come in your life.