Let me just start with this:
there’s nothing wrong with being more quiet and more sensitive.
I highly recommend “Quiet” by Susan Cain if you are an introvert or if you’d like to understand about someone who is. It’s one of my most favourite books because it has helped me deal with things that I thought was wrong with me when those “things” can be developed into a potential or to areas of my personality that I can improve on.
I am also eyeing on “The Highly-Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aron. Do let me know if you’ve read this book!
Just a disclaimer, this is not to say introverts or highly-sensitive people are special nor are they weak beings – someone who’s so fragile that you can’t even touch them. And just because someone’s an introvert, doesn’t mean they don’t like people. And just because someone’s an introvert, doesn’t make them highly-sensitive people – they just tend to be.
Everyone has their own introverted side; it’s just that some people are more dominantly introverts than others. AND, introverts can be emotionally resilient too; we just deal with it differently and in our way. That is why before you make any assumptions, I urge you to read and find out!
Anyway, what does that have to do with unemployment?
As a backstory, I’ve been unemployed for like, what? 1 year or something? This has been one of the roughest road that I navigated myself through and I’ve dealt with insecurities more than I have had in years.
I’ve applied to jobs, put my heart in my cover letters and have had almost-opportunities but turned down again; I’ve started doing freelance work and have had almost-opportunities but turned down again and again. I’ve practiced interviews and managed to get someone else look into my CV etc.
But to no avail.
If you are unemployed now, you can probably relate how difficult it is to even secure an interview. And to even get a job…
I’ve learned different ways to help me go through this difficult phase (remember this is just a phase!) but they’re all targeted towards the extroverted world that we live in. A lot of the times, I’d feel a lot worse because it didn’t work for me.
I mean, just thinking about how I’ll be one of those people who would have to wait a job only after 200 job applications (some go up to 500!) – that’s just daunting.
People say you have to go all out of your way to completely to get it. This isn’t to say it’s a wrong approach, but it is tailored for some people and not necessarily you. This isn’t to say that you should not go out of your comfort zone.
So here, I’d like to shed some light into the some things I’ve learned on how I have been filling my time practically (centered around being an introvert) being unemployed for a year and how I managed to stay sane in spite of that.
These aren’t hacks; these are practices that you need to be willing to internalise and commit to them.
Change takes time.
If there’s anything about us human beings in general is that we love to feel good – not in a narcissistic way – but genuinely content. If you feel good, you’ll feel more motivated to do good.
The thing about introvert is that we tend to have altruistic values – which in a sense is a good thing – but sometimes it can be too strong that you start neglecting yourself while putting your heart and soul into something or somebody else.
Remember, self-care is not just about loving yourself; it is also about recognising any toxic trait that you may have. This isn’t about “you being you” as we all are capable of making change for the better – that you are on a journey to find your best internal and external self. Self-care is holistic that you should not only focus on one but all aspects of yourself: spiritual, mental and physical.
During my unemployment period, I’ve noticed a pattern whenever I’d start getting anxious and moody. I didn’t necessarily feel alone because of absence of people; the result of my feeling of loneliness came from the fact that I didn’t have a sense of purpose or forget about my purpose. It is because I feel unfulfilled on days when I don’t write or do something to work on my personal project.
As a result, I’ll blame the external source when in fact, I was struggling with my self within. As an introvert, the problem usually doesn’t lie because you feel the need to socialise or network – in contrast to extroverts – but you just need to fill your time with something that challenges you, so you won’t overthink about unnecessary things.
Yes, we over think… like a lot. We don’t like taking risks too – at least not immediately.
If you’re a personal development cum self-care junkie like me, use your unemployment period as a means to create and learn something about yourself and to some extent, the world.
This is the time to put your energy and time into something that matter to you. Don’t go to the dark side; don’t focus on the negative energy – how you think you’ll be stuck in it forever – but focus on what you can do now realistically.
Life is about finding balance – not going into extremes of either sides. As much you wouldn’t like to be overwhelmed, you should also not strive to be underwhelmed.
As an introvert, I’d usually would need a moment of solitude to recollect my energy and thoughts – in my own way of course. You should find your way to make you feel re-energised.
In any case, I cannot emphasize enough how getting some sort of help from someone will lift off some burdens you feel off your chest.
It’s okay to have a bad day.
Your aim is to have more good days than bad days.
This starts from within and taking care of yourself.
This is an area which I will write about time and time again in this blog.
2. Develop a routine
Like waking up early!
This is probably the most helpful and effective way to get things done irregardless of your personality. I wholeheartedly believe that barakah and sustenance lie in the early morning. This makes sense as the brain works most efficiently and effectively in the morning.
If you’re a Muslim, your fajr will start out the day purposefully.
One of my biggest mistakes is to go back to bed after fajr because well… I don’t have a job, do I? This is when finding your personal project will come in. Read on.
Anyway, as they say, your day starts a night before and what I am trying to do now is plan my day a night before and write the details – yes, the details – of what I want to achieve the next day.
Setting your day around 5 prayers is the easiest way to start and most effective as your energy is centered around connecting with God. Muslim or not, you need to start thinking about the “why” behind waking up early.
I used to live a rushed life. But I’ve realised I get burnt out more easily than actually feel productive. So, routine is extremely important – I can’t emphasize this enough – so you’ll end the day feeling good and in turn will carry on doing it for the rest of the week.
Here’s a gentle reminder: you don’t have to hustle every single day. You’re human and you will need a break from everything. This is especially important for introverts and highly-sensitive people. Go back to point 1: self-care.
This is also why you need to start thinking about your personal project if you haven’t. So you’ll have something to be excited about every day. I’ll talk about this more in a bit.
3. Find a personal project and stick to it.
Take this time as a privilege to start setting your life priorities and negate ones that will not contribute to your self-care and personal growth.
Sticking to your personal projects is probably the most important thing that you’ll ever need, even if you’ll eventually find a job. This serves as a purpose in your life and so that you will serve a purpose to other people – get it?
This is your strong point, because you don’t mind working alone (in fact, you enjoy it so much) and you get energised in solitude. You need to find something that you’re willing to develop and not get washed ashore again and again when one thing doesn’t work.
This means, you’re willing to be exhausted because of it or for it, and you’re willing to be nervous and anxious for it. You’re willing to do it for free just as you are willing to receive money if someone gives you a credit to it. This is a place where you’ll also shine your extrovert side when you need to.
Even if it is something totally unconventional, just do it because you know you will be passionate about it.
Read, read and read. If you are not a bookworm – that’s okay – find a way or source where you’ll continuously learn.
This is the opportunity to shine your introverted side; don’t feel bad to use reliable online sources if they benefit you. The internet is a powerful thing. It is your choice on how you’d like to benefit from it (I swear there are tons of feel-good stories, self-help articles and communities that you can learn from people around the world).
Then, create, create and create.
4. Invest your money and energy to it.
Not all good things in life come free. I didn’t believe this until I tried them myself (like, there’s a lot of good things that are free and reliable right?) but if you want to make it as an investment, you must reasonably invest some money and energy to it.
In fact, those that you have to pay for will give you discipline and accountability so you’ll do it seriously – so that you’ll learn by executing them properly.
After you’ve settled with a personal project, use this motivation to find a part-time/full-time job or anything that you’re willing to do to get some income to support your personal project(s). You might actually enjoy the journey to search for your personal strength and use them to benefit yourself as well as others.
As this article is directed towards introverts, trust me on this: you will feel good about securing some personal project(s) that matter to you. You don’t need to chase the trends; you just need to find your forte.
One of the crucial things that I’ve learned about myself is that when I am committed to something that has meaning to me, I will committed to it by heart. But when it’s something that is out of my priorities, I just won’t show face because I know it will drain me out.
This means, when you’ve already had a personal project(s), you must plunge into it wholeheartedly. Whatever opportunity that may come your way when related to it – you must try your hardest to go for it.
This is the time to shine your extroverted side and push yourself from staying inside your comfort zone.
You don’t have to see, touch and feel the results now.
The fact that you are not driven by hedonistic values – that you are not driven by money and fame but purpose and intention – should push you even more.
Why do you think we love deep conversations and avoid shallow relationships? So use this strength of yours to plunge into something and tell yourself that it it gives your a sense of purpose.
This is not to say you shouldn’t want money, as that is totally unrealistic. I want money too, okay. The money and reward will come later, you say… and you’re right. Ultimately, as a Muslim, we have to constantly remind ourselves our rizq (sustenance) do not come from us but God.
5. Set a time and day when you’d go out and socialise.
As much as I love being at home (one of the things that I will miss when I get a job), I do feel guilty when I don’t make enough effort to go out or when I turn down to meet up with someone. As a reconciliation, I’ve promised myself to at least go out once or twice a week. This has benefited me in such a way that I don’t have to dwell in my sorrow for not doing enough.
Again, this might be related to your personal project(s) or simply because you’d like to catch up with a good friend over a warm conversation on a lazy Sunday or Friday breakfast. Either way, you will feel good and feel that you’ve achieved something even these mean nothing to other people.
6. Above all, stick to your principles, have faith and keep on praying.
On your pursuit of looking for a job, develop the mindset that this happens for a reason – everything happens for a reason. You’re not stuck; you just need to start doing something. Anything.
You might have heard this over and over again, because it is true. You must instill in yourself that there is something better for you out there if not that one thing that you’ve been waiting for so long. Maybe you’ve tried searching so hard – maybe so hard that you don’t even realise that you’re losing yourself.
Maybe you’ve been searching at the wrong place; this is why it is important to know yourself enough so that you won’t fall so deep into a hole. Then you’ll be emotionally consumed by that which will then waste your opportunity to get better.
This is just a test. Everything is temporary.
You will be be grateful for your unemployment period if you work on something – if you are willing to develop yourself within and learn as much as you can.
This is the time to learn and internalise self-discipline so that once you’ll find a job, you won’t be a slave to your job. What I mean is you don’t wake up a day with your job as a central entity in your mind. You wouldn’t want live a life that is not according to your best self.
This is the time to develop some purpose and rethink about your strategies on approaching to life. You’re a problem-solver, believe that you are. You love to create, believe that you will create something.
Pray more not purely because you want to get a job, but because you want to be better every single day.
The right opportunity will come to you at the right time if you believe that your life is planned by the Greatest and Most Loving of all planners – Allah.
Surrender to Allah – completely and unconditionally.
In a nutshell,
Always go back to point No. 1 (Self-care) if you feel stuck and lost. And always start and end with point 5 (Stick to your principles, have faith and keep on praying). Make continuous and consistent efforts in between.
I’d just like to end that this article doesn’t dismiss those people who have to work 2-3 jobs a day to make ends meet (you go girl! or boy…) and do it anyway whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert.
There’s no right and wrong of executing an adult life; you just need to know what it is that you’re willing to sacrifice and what you want to achieve in a long run.
But please please please… don’t forget to take care of yourself. Mental health is as important as physical health.
This article also doesn’t dismiss those who are still struggling to make sense why they are still unemployed (or why they’re employed to a certain job) or those who haven’t found themselves.
In any case, every one has a story and struggles to deal with. Our job as an individual who are blessed with more or perhaps, go through more struggles is to always be empathetic with one another.
You can never know what a person go through until you climb into someone else’s skin (Atticus Finch-wise ya’ll), use their body and soul to go on with their lives.
Contentment is an inner job; you don’t have to validate yourself by letting the external to make a more mess out of you.
If you have passed this phase, or you’ve been doing all these (and more): congratulations!
You are going to make it. Believe it.
Things will get better!