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Unemployment: The Best Job I Never Had

Last week, there were reports in the  media that companies are not hiring unemployed people. Apparently it has reached the point where , the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating, trying to figure out whether it's widespread and could violate federal job discrimination laws.

Personally, I think that this not hiring somebody because they have lost their previous job is short-sighted. As I am now unemployed, you may think this is self-serving, and perhaps it is. But I think that being unemployed for an extended time has actually improved my employability in several ways.

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Like most people, I was distraught when I first lost my job. Not only was it during the worst recession of my lifetime, my situation was even more dour; my Canadian citizenship presented other challenges to finding employment in Phoenix. However, I never gave up hope.

Part of this was that I received a decent severance and my wife and I had some savings to fall back on. In addition, my wife's employment helped keep us financially afloat.  I also knew if worse came to worse, I could pack up and return to Canada, where finding employment would be easier.

A bigger part was the face that I looked at my unemployment as an opportunity, not a threat. I knew the economic crisis and my immigration status poses immediate obstacles to finding employment in the short and medium term. But instead of panicking, I used the time my unemployment offered me to reevaluate, and ultimately re-brand, myself according to my abilities and my passions.

As a result, far from being a weakness to cover up, my unemployment is a strength to promote. Here's why:

Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life. —Eckhart Tolle

It Provided New Opportunities

More than anything else, unemployment gave me the opportunity for self-reflection and ultimately self-realization. During my unemployment  I have really got in tune with myself and understand what makes me tick. It  has forced me to think about what I want to do and where I want to be.

In addition to freeing my time, unemployment liberated me to look at my world from completely different perspective. I had the opportunity to take risks and try things that I wouldn't have done before. If I had remained employed in my job. I would have remained a skilled policy analyst who always wondered why he never felt fulfilled.

Being unemployed and without much hope of finding a job gave me the opportunity to start looking at things a different way, and more importantly to find my true passion. It was the perfect chance to start investigating my passions and fine tuning my interests. As a result, I am a different person than I was before, or imagined that I ever could be. And while I am financially poorer for the time being, I am happier and more self-assured that I would have ever imagine.

It Improved My Skills

When employed, I was paid to do certain things. Some I enjoyed and am good at (i.e. what I was originally hired to do). Other things that became part of the job, but which I wasn't passionate about. Being unemployed allows to tho limit the second type of activities and focus and on the first type. In effect, it helped fine tune my strengths

Unemployment also gave me the opportunity to learn new skills that complemented my interests and passions. As a research and policy wonk, I had well-developed research and analytical skills. This is what I was hired for, and this is what I did 90% of the time. While it was comfortable being an expert, I felt that something was missing.

Loosing my job allowed me to address this void. and developed and deepen skills that I didn't already have. I had dabbled with blogs before, but I really didn't know much. Today, thanks to developing all these skills, I run, several blogs and have helped others build theirs. I have also become adept at hosting an promoting events. Finally I have learned how to engage people and build communities. These are all increasing important skills in the workforce and all were skills that my previous jobs did not give me the opportunity to develop.

It Strengthened My Network

Being unemployed is an isolating experience. I lost contact with most of my work colleagues and even a few 'fair weather' friends. I could no longer rely on my job title or employers name to meet other people or attend networking events and conferences.

Unemployment gave me a deeper appreciation of the friends and connections that stuck around. It also made me more discriminating in deciding I had to do it based on my skills and personality. This made the connections deeper and more meaningful. More importantly, unemployment gave me the opportunity to meet people who I would never had met I had I stayed in my job. These people have become invaluable members of my tribe.

Unemployed also gave me the opportunity to connect with people online and realize the true power of social networking. Through my blog and sites like Twitter and Facebook, I have connected, and become friends with several people not only in Phoenix and Vancouver, but from around the world. These connections have provided me with opportunities I would never have otherwise had, inspired me to do things I would never have considered and deepened my knowledge and understand of subjects I am passionate about. And unlike my previous employment based networks, many of these social connections will follow me wherever I go.

Far from being a set-back, unemployment was a great learning and development opportunities. it encouraged me to re-discover myself and reorient my career path to align with my skills and passions. I won't lie and say it was a bed of roses. Indeed it had several downsides, including financial stress, familial tensions and general uncertainty. I will be ECSTATIC when I find my next job. But in the end, the experiences i gains from unemployment truly were the best that money couldn't buy. I am now a more self-assured, highly skilled and better connected employment than ever before. Far from being a black mark, my unemployment was a blessing in disguise.