“April is the cruellest month . . .” At least it is to many students. No, not the ones who have to study T.S. Eliot — I am talking about those who are only weeks away from graduation and still do not have a job lined up.
There is something haunting and terrifying about facing a specific date of unemployment. This is not a phenomenon limited to students, either. Not every person finds themselves unemployed immediately or after the traditional two weeks notice. Some people face mandatory retirement — which is fine if that’s what they want, but not always what every person wants. Sometimes employees can foresee the shuttering of their failing employer in the not-quite-predictably near future. Here in DC, where a lot of work is done by contractors, it is not usual for someone to be informed that the money is not there, or the program has been discontinued, and that when their current contract ends X months in the future, that will be the end of their employment.
For the student watching the date of commencement approach with no offers of employment or the wage-earner who can count the number of paychecks left to him, each day torn from the calendar can feel like another step down The Green Mile. At this time of year, I see it every day: panic wrestling with resignation to see which one will win. Is it not like an impending execution? Do their hearts not flutter every time their phone rings, as if it might be the governor calling with a pardon?
Except . . . being unemployed is not death. It only feels like death. But they are not equivalents; each has its unique advantages. Unlike unemployment, actually being dead is not usually painful; but unlike death, unemployment is usually not permanent.
Painful yet not permanent . . . so, really, unemployment is more like winter. And we all get through winter, and then it’s spring again. So those of you facing the terror of imminent unemployment need to keep that in mind, or the anxiety and the despair might just keep you from doing what you need to do to get back to a place of growth. Make the most of the time you know you still have. That does not simply mean “don’t give up”, though it’s important that you don’t. It also means you need to work harder and more creatively at finding your next job than you have been, because (a) what you’ve done so far hasn’t worked, and (b) you’re on deadline — it is always harder, practically and psychologically, to find a job when you are not working. Make a point of doing more research, more networking, more connecting, every day. And think of ways to broaden your idea of the work you can do. Can you take on a temporary job, or volunteer in your field while taking on a workaday job just to pay the rent? Sometimes aiming for a specific ambition can keep us from considering other paths that might get us where we want to be. Push yourself, be persistent, and be creative, and something will grow out of it. That is what April is all about.