What I Learned From Being a Broke, Unemployed Graduate
It’s a common joke in Finland that people who graduate from Universities graduate to be unemployed. Unfortunately more often than not this is very true. In my case as well as many other cases. I had a job when I was nearing graduation but in the end if I wanted to graduate by Christmas 2012 I had to finish my thesis and in order to do that I had to sacrifice a lot more time to the research and writing. So I quit a job as a sales assistant in a clothing store. Thankfully I already hated the job a lot, so quitting it wasn’t a big shock, moreover it was a positive thing.
So, I graduated and after New Year had gone by I found myself “standing on nothing”. At that moment it didn’t much matter because I still had plans. And money left in my savings account to realize these plans, like going to Paris for a long weekend. But after the trip the harsh reality started setting in when I had to start applying for all sorts of jobless benefits and proving to all kinds of entities that I really was jobless and completely broke. It was humiliating, on top of which the horrid winter and lack of money made life sometimes almost unbearable. I was jobless for a year and a half and I still remember that time as the most horrible experience of my life. All the memories of being attacked on a dark street twice in a row, being stuck on airports in a snow storm all alone, or all the terrifying flights in the world that I have had can’t recall the total mental desolation and depression as that time of being jobless does.
But I lived through it, like so many before me and after me have and will. During the time of being jobless you don’t have much energy or will to do much soul searching but after such a shaking experience you start realizing things about yourself that you haven’t noticed before. Like I realized that a big chunk of what makes me happy is having a purpose in life and a routine. So, having a job is absolutely necessary for me to keep my mind as straight as possible. I need the feeling of achievement! It doesn’t have to be every day, even the knowledge that I am moving towards a goal of some sorts is enough, whether that goal might be saving a sufficient amount of money to be able to realize a trip I have wanted to go on for ages, or a work goal, like a project that needs to be finished or a poster that needs to be designed, printed and sent. It’s not just the destination for me, I also enjoy the journey immensely. Starting from somewhere and seeing things grow and develop every day, that is the biggest hype for me.
I also noticed that even though the people in better positions always tell you it’s up to you to get a job, this is usually not the case. Especially in today’s very competitive employee markets where there are many more people than there are jobs. And everybody wants that one Assistant job while nobody’s willing to apply for the position of a waiter or a cleaner. It’s becoming more and more relevant who you know in this world compared to what you have achieved. Networking is vital, not just in business world but in the job markets as well. Harvey Specter said it well in the TV series Suits once: "I am a shark, I keep moving or I die.” That summarizes the world of work in the 21st century. You need to learn all the time, every day because the world is changing faster than people do. The ones who are not interested in learning or who hold on to that last fading hope of a permanent job (which already is a historical notion) are left behind. And it is becoming more and more difficult to climb back onboard when you’ve fallen off it. It’s brutal. But it’s evolution. The strong survive.
So, I learned a lot about myself and how the world works, especially the world of work and business, after I emerged from the deep sea of joblessness. But what did I learn from being broke? Only that I have a standard of living and I simply can’t go under that standard. I’ve always been good at saving money and I’m quite strict with money too. But if I can’t afford to go out with my friends, eat lunch in a restaurant couple times a month or travel few times a year my life is not worth living. I am a shallow and a materialistic person and I have always known that. That doesn’t mean though, that I wouldn’t respect and value clean and pure nature and the “soft values” like health, true friendship and family. Those are the bedrock of my life. But when people say “money doesn’t bring happiness” I have a little chuckle to myself. Because it bloody well helps!