Many juggling writers spend their days at work wishing they were home writing.
Sometimes the opportunity to have time to write comes along in the form of a layoff.
I was laid off last December, and while landing my next job would be nice, it’s not something I’m stressing about (yet).
Some people spend their days following a layoff frantically searching for work. They wake up, start looking, and keep looking until it’s time to sleep.
Perhaps that method has worked for some, but the people I’ve known who have done it burned out fast, and became stressed.
There’s only so much job hunting a person can do each day before feeling like their search is in vain.
If you find yourself laid off and wanting time to write, here are some suggestions for juggling the job hunt, writing time, and finding time for yourself.
Layoffs have become a fact of life for many. When working, if possible, set aside an emergency fund to cover the few months following a layoff.
Having the funds to help get through 2-3 months following a layoff lifts the stress of a scary situation, making it easier to focus on the job hunt and writing.
It’s easy to meander following a layoff.
Especially if you’re a person whose job defined you on some level, it’s easy to sit in front of the computer meaning to look for work or writing, but not doing much more than wandering the Internet.
It’s important to have a schedule.
Here’s what my day looks like since being laid off:
- Wake up — Have breakfast while catching up on e-mail and blogs.
- Check LinkedIn and other places for new job postings. Make an effort to apply to a job a day (and track it on a spreadsheet).
- Get in touch with a friend or two (because I have more time to see the people I love being around, and yeah…I’m more likely to land a job from a recommendation by a friend than being another one of hundreds — or thousands — replying to an online job posting).
- Workout (walking, running, or lifting something).
- Get out and do something or write.
- More LinkedIn and other online networking.
- Get out and do something or write.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
I could spend the entire day stressing about not having a job, or I can make a schedule and put my time to good use.
After my fifth or sixth layoff, I choose to enjoy my time following the pink slip.
I’ve had days dedicated solely to looking for my next job or to writing, but I try doing things in chunks.
Looking for a job once in the morning doesn’t cut it; while I’m writing or working out, somebody is posting what could be my next job.
While dedicating every waking moment to looking for my next job would depress me, I sweep through LinkedIn and get in touch with people a few times a day.
I take care of things in chunks, dedicating an hour or two to an activity without interruption.
Running errands, looking for work, and even writing here and there throughout the day can give you a sense of accomplishment if you’re the kind of person who liked scratching items off a to-do list at your previous job.
Automate the Hunt
I love the Indeed.com app for the iPhone. I’ve set up five different job searches, and throughout the day, I check the app for new jobs.
When a new job pops up, I e-mail the posting to myself so I can review the job and apply when I’m back at my computer.
Automating my search allows me to look for work anywhere (e.g. standing in line while running errands), leaving more time for writing and enjoying my time off.
With work and life taking up most people’s time, it can be hard for many people to get together with friends. Unless your friends are overtime junkies and eat lunch at their desks everyday, that hour in the middle of the day is a good time to get together.
Get out and see people when you’re not working. It helps with your writing, your job hunt, and your sanity.
Writing is lonely work; add to that being separated from the social interactions that come with a job, and it’s easy to become reclusive.
Make it a point to meet a friend for lunch at least once a week.
Lunches with former coworkers become a reminder of how lucky you are to no longer be caught up in office politics. Catching up with busy friends is great for everybody involved. This time can also be a good time to spend an hour with a busy family member.
While you’re more likely to find a job through somebody you know than applying to an online want ad, don’t make the lunch all about your next job.
Use the time to talk about what you’re writing, and make sure you give your friend plenty of time to talk about what’s up with them.
Some days, ignore writing and the job hunt entirely!
Go hiking, go to a museum…do something you enjoy that you normally don’t get to do on a weekday when you’re working.
Finding the next job and having time to write is important, but so is taking a breather.
Don’t feel guilty taking a few days each month all for yourself!
Volunteering can be a great way to put your writing skills to use and fill in that gap on your resume.
It can also lead to your next job.
Writing copy, assembling newsletters and flyers, and editing correspondence can all become portfolio pieces.
It’s a chance to show a whole new group of people how hard you work and what you can do.
Many people working for non profits started out as volunteers.
Even if your volunteering efforts don’t lead to your next job, you’ll have the satisfaction of helping an organization you believe in.
Make the Leap
If you have some savings and don’t need to find your next job right away, why not take a run at freelancing?
For a small investment, you can create promotional material and see if you have what it takes to be a full time commercial writer.
Use the time following a layoff to pitch articles and see if you can generate enough work to support yourself.
If you can survive several months following a layoff, why not use the time to write that novel you always talk about wanting to write?
If your goal is to one day support yourself writing, the time following a layoff is the perfect time to see if you have the discipline to write when handed all the time in the world.
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Most of us don’t want to be laid off from our jobs, but it happens.
It happens frequently.
It’s never a bad idea to save and have a plan in case it happens to you–having that plan just might lead to you living your dream of writing full time.