Recently, I laid bare here how, after receiving an expensive college degree, my dream to be a wildlife biologist had gone bust. The first year after failing to find a job as a wildlife biologist was the hardest, and I was in a deep depression. I had to find a way out.
Over time, I began to crawl out of the pit I found myself in. I’m not yet a wildlife biologist, but I’m moving forward in other ways, and it has literally made a world of difference. I hope some steps I took will help you if you find yourself in the same situation.
Find a Therapist
When each day seems like a dark cloud and you don’t have any motivation to do anything anymore, you need to talk to a professional. If you’ve never gone to a counselor before, it seems like a weird thing to do. But even just talking to someone else about problems you can’t tell to your friends and family (or that they wouldn’t understand anyways) lifts a huge burden off of you.
Even if you don’t have a lot of money to spare, there are always ways to find low-cost – or even free – counseling. You just have to look around for it.
Realize That You are Not Your Job
The biggest hurdle for me to get over was accepting that I am not defined by my job. I had spent so long and become so invested in learning how to be a wildlife biologist that it became who I was. I literally thought of myself as “Lindsay, Wildlife Biologist.” Then, when I started my new job, I became “Lindsay, Cleaning Lady.”
By divorcing myself from the idea that my job was who I was, I suddenly opened the door to new possibilities. I could be who I wanted to be, not what I did for a living.Suddenly, being a cleaning lady was just my temporary day job, and I could be Wonder Woman if I wanted.
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Find Others in Your Situation
I’ve always been a shy person. There’s a reason I moved to Alaska when I was 18 – there are not a lot of people there! It’s not natural for me to reach out to others. I still get nervous talking on the telephone. I still sweat bullets when I go to meetup events where I don’t know anyone.
None of my close friends (all two of them) know what it’s like to be in my situation right now. I could talk all day about my feelings, but they will never truly understand. Instead, I turned to the internet, because you can find anything there.
What I found was amazing: there are thousands of blogs, stories, podcasts, YouTube videos, and more. All of them were with people in my same situation, dealing with unemployment and underemployment. Even though I’m a shy person, I started reaching out to these people by email.
All of them have been incredibly helpful. I’m even becoming friends with many of them in real life. I've never had so much support around me in my entire life, and it's been incredible.
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Start a Side Hustle
One of the biggest game-changers for me has been starting freelance writing and blogging. I would have never considered it before – I wasn’t trained to do that. But I was broke, underemployed, and written a lot in grad school. Why not try something new? I didn’t have anything to lose. I only had a renewed sense of purpose and a great second income stream to gain.
Freelance writing isn’t for everyone. But unless you’re in a coma, you have skills that you can charge money for using.
Start your own small business with your skills, whether it be as a DJ, a photographer, a graphic designer, a virtual assistant, a pet-sitter – the opportunities are endless!
When you’re underemployed, making a paltry paycheck, and not receiving any gratitude for your work, starting a side hustle can completely change your outlook. Suddenly, people are willing to pay you a good amount of money for something you created yourself, and they’re happy to get it! When I have a bad day at work, I can always count on my clients to make it better.
And if you work hard at it and grow it over time, you may even just be able to take your side hustle full-time and be your own boss!
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Remember… This Won’t Last Forever!
When you’re stuck in a mountain of hopelessness, it seems like it’ll last forever. It won’t. As long as you’re moving forward and trying new things, something will change. And, if you play your cards right, you’ll come out with even more skills, and become better and more resilient than you were before.