On Unemployment

This is the first time I’ve been unemployed, having worked part-time from the age of 16 and full-time since I graduated from uni. I was lucky enough to secure my first graduate job a few months before Lehman Brothers collapsed back in 2008 and have been hopping from one job to another in the charity sector for half a decade. I specialise in strategy and project development, trying to move closer to an elusive environmental policy job with each move.

But just before Christmas I stepped down from a job I loved with a charity I really enjoyed working for, as they slimmed down their operations due to the financial squeeze facing most NGOs. Throughout January and February I’ve undertaken some part-time freelance work for an ace environmental campaigning charity and have been pretty preoccupied with moving from Brighton to Edinburgh.

Now we’ve been back in Edinburgh for three weeks and it’s stopped feeling like another holiday home for a visit. We’re here for good and ready to start building our life in this city, but it’s all on hold as we try to sort ourselves out professionally. The freelance contract has finished and I have no work on the cards. I’m learning fast that the recruitment scene outside of London (not just Edinburgh, but everywhere) is a far slower entity than in the Capital, and can’t imagine having a full-time job by April.

I’m so lucky that I haven’t been through this before and that I have the resources which make it infinitely easier to weather unemployment – some (rapidly dwindling) savings and family who are able to put us up until we get on our feet.

When you don’t have much money and, more crucially, aren’t sure when it will start coming in again, it’s difficult to justify spending anything. So it’s easy to wind up sitting in the house day after day, feeling a bit rubbish and binging on iPlayer and 4od (alas, the Netflix subscription has had to go). But that way madness lies. So, as well as looking for decent jobs to apply for and scouting out some relevant volunteering, we’ve been packing in these free(ish) activities to make use of all this time in Edinburgh:

  • A walk to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art for this year’s big exhibition, From Death to Death and Other Small Tales. There were a couple of great pieces like the room-sized spice tubes, but overall I thought it was a bit rubbish. There were at least six pieces to which the only adequate response was ‘you have a cock, get over it’. I wondered a few times if I was having a sense of humour failure, but on reflection I still don’t think very many of the exhibits were as witty as they thought. But it’s always a beautiful, friendly place to visit and afterwards we sat outside in the sun eating our home-made sandwiches.
  • A Sunday afternoon climbing the Pentlands with my boyfriend, my brother, his girlfriend and her chocolate lab. We splashed out on daysaver bus tickets (£3.50, bless you Lothian buses) and headed out to Hillend to do a two hour Capital View walk. Mainly I puffed and blustered about how unfit I’d become and that we were so lucky to have all this on our doorstop. After all that exercise we treated ourselves to a couple of pints in front of a fire in The Steading pub. We’re planning to do a big walk every week to help get fit, see more of the city and keep ourselves busy. God, we’ve even borrowed one of my Dad’s hillwalking books we’re so boring!Pentland_Hills_From_Caerketton_Hill_II
  • Spending time with family, especially my boyfriend’s nieces, Isla aged 23 months and Esme, all of four days old. We also got to hang out with Emily and her cutie Maggie.
  • Lots of dog walking around Corstorphine Hill. Three Bernese Mountain dogs require endless dog walking and we’re happy willing to oblige.
  • Reading loads. I’ve finally got around to The Green Collar Economy and Andy Wightman’s The Poor had No Lawyers, both environmental justice books I’ve wanted to read for a while. On the bus down south for a hen do I cracked on with Wuthering Heights which (shamefully for an English Literature graduate) I haven’t read. And this weekend I expect to be racing through Gone Girl for Blook Club on Sunday. All of these books I either already owned or borrowed from the library, like in the olden days.

Unemployment has been pretty fun actually, except for the constant background anxiety about money, boredom and failing to make a positive difference in the world through my job. It’ll all work out though…

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