Graduating in the summer of 2010 and not finding a job for over 2 years was the most challenging period of my 25 years to date. It took me to some dark places and fanatical lows. Fortunately I never fully allowed for the dark dog of self-doubt and depression to take hold. Yea I fell down many times and certainly took my time getting up but a voice deep down always told me to power forward.
With hindsight I can see that the period of hardship has shaped me and made me a stronger person. As I look back I can really see the formative function that adversity plays in life. We've all heard those famous quotes about what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, but its only once you've really been pushed and got to the other end that you can really understand the proverbs.
There were many times during the period of adversity that I nearly gave up. But thankfully I had the strength of mind to use my free time for good - the resolve to try and make a bad thing good. I used the lack of work as a period for self-exploration and self-reflection. This allowed me to find out who I was, what I wanted out of life and who I wanted to be.
This period of self-reflection and exploration allowed me to realise that had I left uni and gone straight into work I would have been deeply unhappy. I know I would have been unhappy with my job because I've come to realise that I was going down the wrong career path. I had chosen to study law at university not because that's what I wanted to do but because society and those around me told me so.
So whilst the 2 years was one hell of a traumatic roller coaster ride it did me a whole lot of good. It allowed me to really find myself. To the point where I can now move forward with confidence and emboldened with the personal conviction that I am now doing something which I want to do. Had I landed a job straight out of uni life would have been easier in the short term, but less so in the long run.
Because of my nature had I landed a job straight after uni I would have stuck with it even though I wasn't happy in it. But it's obvious that something like that is dangerous; you're storing up trouble for the future. Certainly it wouldn't be unreasonable to suggest that it would probably have ended up with me going through some sort of mid-life crisis.
So in effect my quarter-life has hopefully inoculated me against any possible mid-life crisis. So have your mid-life crisis and iron out all the issues in your life, make any necessary changes and then forward with your career with confidence. Coincidentally a recent study has found that we humans may have inherited the mid life crisis from our primate ancestors.
The study also suggested that periods of personal crisis have a biological root that actually play an evolutionary function. Certainly I would agree with this suggestion. As I experienced after university I can attest to the functionality of pronounced lows: they give the opportunity for self-reflection and self-exploration which allows for a reorientation of life and life goals.
Periods of crisis, whilst hellish at the time, can be a blessing in disguise. So if you're an unemployed young person don't fight against the difficulties you may be going through. Embrace your period of challenge and adversity as bizarre as that sounds. Keep pushing forward and be ready to learn the lessons that life will throw up.
Life will take many twists, turns and dips and my experience has told me to be in charge of your affairs whether things are in the up or going down, just don't give up and the trouble beat you. Fight it and you will succeed. My cartoon illustrates this:
1. Part 1: Entering the real world
You've left the sanctuary of school, college or university and suddenly you have to get a job. But with things as they are and the usual challenges of youth you may not find your job and place in society straight away. That's normal, so don't get too worried. But at the same time it's not uncommon for young people to see all their friends take off into the future as they land a job (note the hare).
And all the time you're left on the side looking for work. But don't let that bog you down. I've been there and I know it's hard but don't worry about them, what they've got, achieved or where they're going. It's your life and you live it. If you do just stand fixated on others and consumed by the green eyed monster you'll go nowhere.
2. Part 2: The dark dog of doubt and depression
If at first you don't succeed it's natural for you to take a fall. You may even stay down for a while and even retract into your shell. But you can't just sit in your shell and be consumed by doubt and introspection forever. This would be the downfall of anyone. So the key is to get up and keep on fighting. They do say after all: if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.
3. Part 3: Embrace your freedom and get out there
Yea you might not have a job. And yea everyone else you know all have a job, but that doesn't matter. You are who you are and it's you and only you who will make things happen. So don't worry about others or be consumed by doubt. Rather, get out there; make some noise, agitate, network, up your skills, read and just make yourself known.
That's what I did. I knew I could either just sit there and feel sorry for myself or take on the world and make myself and my skills known. Don't wait on all those job applications and recruitment agencies to get back to you, get out there and make things happen.
And finally, as with the famous story of the Tortoise and the Hare, it's likely your friends who've sped off up the career path will come careering off in the future. Whilst you, having made more conscious and calculated choices, could well overtake them in a few years. So hang in there!