5 lessons from being unemployed

Every moment in life is a learning opportunity. I believe that the best moments of growth and education occur when you force yourself outside of your comfort zone, face your fears and live.

It’s been three months since I left my job of six years. I walked away from job security, a steady income, benefits and more. I did all of this to take a risk, smash my comfort zone and “reprogram” my life.

It was worth it.

Taking this risk was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. Of course, there are lessons that I learned over this period of time. Lessons that can benefit you.

Here are 5 lessons that I learned during three months of being unemployed.

Professional relationships are powerful.

Everyone has “technical skills”. Many people, especially those in highly technical fields stop focusing on building professional relationships. They bury their face in a book, or laboratory environment for the majority of the day and stop communicating with others.This is a dire mistake.

Face it. Networking is a pain. Most people want to ask you a few questions to see if you are qualified to purchase their product. If so, they pester you until you buy or tell them to take a hike.

Between the wasted moments of small talk, you WILL meet good people. People that realize that value can be created in a professional relationship. These individuals will help you along your way. It’s worth the challenge and frustration to find these people. Having a professional network was a major factor in finding my next opportunity.

Working from home is…meh.

While working at Vonage my commute was twenty seven miles each way. Depending on traffic and road conditions I could spend two to three hours in my car five days per week. Occasionally I would work from home and be far more productive.

As I write this I am hiding in my bedroom closet sitting on a large floor cushion. It’s not that I enjoy working from this cramped space. No not at all. I’m stuck in here because there are far too many distractions. My mother-in-law is watching CNN with the volume cranked up in the downstairs living room. My daughter is watching a ridiculous Youtube video of people opening surprise eggs in the loft. My office space is between these two sources of noise and I cannot concentrate in there.

I’ve realized that it wasn’t working from home that helped increase productivity. It was a change of work location. Now I find productivity increasing tremendously when I work from a local co-working space such as Gangplank. Every major city should have a co-working space. Find it, use it, and love it.

Traveling is the best education.

Did you know that English is considered a West-Germanic language? Neither did I until I traveled throughout Europe this summer. Scots, English, Frisian, Dutch, Low German, and German are all part of the West-Germanic language family. Our current version of English has many borrow words from latin languages, but at it’s core; it is Germanic.

Traveling can teach you a lot of pointless trivia, but it can also open your eyes to the world. When you travel you are given the chance to meet people from all walks of life and see the world from their perspective. These are lessons that you cannot learn from a book or the internet.

Plus, international travel is surprisingly more cost effective than you may imagine.

Changing careers is not difficult.

When other telecommunication providers found out that I left Vonage my phone didn’t stop ringing. I was in high demand based upon my knowledge of a specific platform. Of course, this is why I have a very restrictive Employment Covenant Agreement (Non Compete) in place.

I turned down thirteen interviews because the proposed role would violate my ECA.

It became clear that my best option at this point was a career change. I interviewed for various roles in sales, marketing, and technology leadership. I eventually choose to accept the opportunity with an amazing company in the midwest.

It’s easy to waste money when working full time.

Going out for drinks and meals with friends quickly adds up. While working full time many people fail to see exactly how much of their income is spent through leisurely activities. I have a few sources of residual / passive income which helped out during my break, however it was not enough to sustain my previous spending habits. I also had no desire to completely drain my savings account either.

When you do not have a steady paycheck to rely on, you are forced to budget and be creative with your spending. My grocery cost went down and I wasted far less food. I also changed my source of entertainment to walking the dog, and taking my kids to the park. It was a win-win situation for everyone.

What about you?

Have you recently been unemployed or on a sabbatical? Tell us in the comments below what you learned.