The Secret Upside To Being Unemployed

Gail BelskySomething happened last week that has made me call off the hunt for right now: I am flooded with freelance work. I'm up to my eyeballs, which is great -- not only from an income standpoint, but also because it's given me some perspective.

After the sobering barrage of comments to my last post about contingency work, much of it complaints about age discrimination and long-term unemployment, I'm glad for the break, and for the chance to reflect on this whole career reinvention thing.

Reflection No. 1: You can't work full time and reinvent yourself full time.
Patricia Smith, a career coach with New Directions, in Boston, told me that job-hunting is a four-day-a-week endeavor. When you're working full time, as I am now, that's impossible. So I need to remind myself of my original goal: shifting to a more sustainable and rewarding version of my old editing and writing career. It's a strategic move, not a seismic one. But even if it were, I only have so much time in a day, and as long as I have a lot of work, it's going to be a slow process.

More: Biggest Barriers To Successful Career Changes

Reflection No. 2: Being self-employed has real benefits in this job market.
Given my age, the state of the current job market, and predictions about the next one, I shouldn't just turn my back on my 11-year freelance career. People may not like it, but the use of flexible workforces-consulting networks, project employees, independent contractors and temps-is a growing trend, according to Tracy Burns, CEO of the Northeast Human Resources Association. "The more fluid environment is pushing the corporate mold," she says.

It means no insurance or steady paycheck, but I haven't had either one for years. (My husband, thankfully, has both). It may also mean less money, but freelancing is a supply and demand business, so hopefully that will change. (Plus, if I switch career paths entirely, I might have to start at a lower level, anyhow.) And while there's no job security in contingency work, I don't think anyone has that safety net anymore. Working for yourself, in fact, may give you more control over your future, not less.

More: When NOT To Hire A Career Coach

Reflection No. 3: Finding the right "fit" requires knowing who you are.
As long as I've got money coming in, there's no reason to rush a job search-and every reason to slow down. Since I can wait, any move I make should be a happy one, according to the coaches I've talked to, in order for it to be long-term and fruitful. It should be a good fit for everyone.

I thought finding a good fit was a priority for me, and yet I realize now that I've paid little attention to it. Recently, I took one of those personality tests that tell you what your work style is, and what you're suited for. But this one, the Role Fit Survey, by a company called Manifesting Talent, isn't intended for jobseekers; it's for employers to see if applicants are a good fit for the position.

I saw the test as a chance to see what would be a good fit for me. The questions covered everything from how organized I am to whether prefer I writing to talking. The results showed that I'd make a better pipe fitter than an editor (it was considerably higher up on the list of gigs I'm apparently most suited for), but they also revealed some traits that I've pushed aside when I've looked at job postings. Traits that make certain jobs a bad fit.

For instance, I don't naturally enjoy dealing in details, which apparently, lots of people do. I make sure everything's done right, of course, but it's not something I want to spend tons of time doing. So last week, I found myself looking at a particular job posting, one of the first requirements listed was copyediting - a job that requires a lot of crossing t's and dotting i's. There were other requirements that involved detail work, too.

A month ago I would have applied without thinking twice. Not anymore. If that employer ever gave me the test, they'd know what I know: it's not the best fit. And right now, with the interesting mix of work I have coming in, I'm not looking to do anything that doesn't feel right.

What about you? Do you see any benefits to not having a full-time job?

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Angela J Shirley

I am glad it worked out for you. What I found with the freelance work are the fees involved to get at them. So I look for my own work. I do have my good days and some other type of days, but I refuse to pay the high fees. If I did, I would be basically paying them what I earned. Also, freelance work does not often pay the rent and other bills. Personally I feel it should be backed up with a regular paycheck just in case the freelance works goes away or reduces. But who am I to say it cannot work. Yes it can work and for those that found a way to make it fit for them, congrats.

December 12 2013 at 7:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"So last week, I found myself looking at a particular job posting, one of the first requirements listed was copyediting - a job that requires a lot of crossing t's and dotting i's."

From her bio - Gail Belsky is an editor, writer and project manager for online and print.

So Gail is a writer and editor that doesn't want a job that requires t-crossing and i-dotting. Continued unemployment=no big surprise...

June 27 2013 at 4:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jo Jo, sr

There's an awful air of apathy in this country right now. Many people aren't looking for work because there isn't any. Calls to job ads go unanswered. Employment agencies call you in and don't even see you, they just have you update your profile. No one is shopping, no one is getting a paycheck, unemployment doesn't allow for extras. This is outrageous. The 1st lady hired Beyoncé and Adele to sing at her birthday party and conservative talk show folks are being fired. Is anyone out there looking out for America anymore?

March 13 2013 at 1:23 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

This has to be a political scheme to make the prez's administration look like they are doing something good about unemployment. We have millions of people unemployed and the only recommendation is to hire someone to help the unemployed reinvent themselves. If you are unemployed and have no or little income it is difficult to find funds to hire help of any sort. Sad that one of two cases are used by the media to try to show how everyone can get out of unemployment.

March 12 2013 at 9:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Nice to have a spouse that can pay the bills so you can do things your way.

March 12 2013 at 9:06 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

the worst part is that most of these "freelance" people are still collecting some kind of unemployment benefits!

gotta love how even the media is driving this country right into a wall...

we can not keep affording these entitlement programs, PERIOD! spending FAR more then we take in is simply NOT self sustaining! and taxing the 5% who already pay for almost 80% of EVERYTHING and EVERY service already, is NOT the answer!

March 12 2013 at 6:26 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tradebiz99's comment

Good point..

March 12 2013 at 6:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Being unemployed is never good. This article is misleading. Right from the start this person had work freelancing. Others are not that lucky. I am not saying that when you are in your 30's it might turn out well, you will get back on your feet get a better job. But when you are in your late 40's early 50's your to young to retire and to old to get most jobs out there. It does happen but it takes that age group longer , and God help us by then all of our savings are gone.

March 12 2013 at 6:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The "NEW" America, how wonderful it is to NOT work! She must be a union member! These are the kind of people that now litter our country, and we're seeing the results as we move closer to being like the failed Social Democracies of dying Western Europe.

This country prospered quite well for a long time with an unemployment benefit period of 20 or 26 weeks. Drawing unemployment benefits is now considered an "occupatio" by many, and no matter how long the period, "America's Greatest Mistake Ever," want to keep extending the benefits period, after which many go right onto federal disability plans. We are becoming Wester Eurpope just as "AGME" has planned from the beginnng!

Here is the NEW America:
TANF (food stamps) is just one of several welfare programs operated by the federal government to provide cash, food, housing, and health care assistance to poor and low-income Americans. Today, taxpayers fund roughly 80 different programs at a cost of nearly $1 trillion a year for these purposes. These include:

12 programs providing food aid;
12 programs funding social services;
12 educational assistance programs;
11 housing assistance programs;
10 programs providing cash assistance;
9 vocational training programs;
7 medical assistance programs;
3 energy and utility assistance programs; and,
3 child care and child development programs.

How many of the government’s 80-plus welfare programs include a work requirement? Just two.

March 12 2013 at 3:18 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tmoschetti's comment

tell me where i can apply to these programs and do i qualify.
i am a single person making $1200 a month gross.
i am not entitled to ANYTHING.
btw my mother died at 32,my granfather at 56,my grandmother at 39, 2 uncles at 40 and 45. all worked,none got a thing back from SS.
i have medical issues that prevent me from working more than i do.
republicans dont want birth control or abortion,but they dont want to pay for the children.
these programs are for the children.

March 12 2013 at 7:47 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to virginia's comment
Jo Jo, sr

Apply for Social Security Disability.

March 13 2013 at 1:28 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down

I know people in their middle 40's who were laid off in 2009. They were general laborers. This was at and during the peak of the downward plunge. They have now given up all hope of ever working again. When they apply for any job, no matter how menial, they are never considered because:

They are too old.

Their credit rating has been demolished because of a shortage of money at the time they were laid off and because they have used up all their savings. If they had homes, they have been lost.

They are overqualified, or under qualified.

They have "too big" a gap in their work history. (This is particularly cruel under the circumstances)

The "jobs programs" are either unfunded or entirely absent.

The "job training programs" are either unfunded, entirely absent, or do not include white people if it can be avoided.

The real unemployment number is 14.2% and is nearly the same as it was in February, 2009.
U6 Unemployment Rates portal/

March 12 2013 at 12:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The good thing about being unemployed is that at least you don't get to work at a job you hate. The bad thing about being unemployed is no money, insurance, etc. Face it, there's a one percent chance of me getting a job in my field, so it's either be employed at a job I hate (because lord knows I have a better chance of dating a model than landing a job in my field) or be unemployed with no money coming in. It's a lose-lose situation.

March 12 2013 at 9:49 AM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

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