After finishing up a maternity cover role towards the end of last year, I’ve been referring to myself as “happily unemployed”.  By this I meant unemployed by choice – I could go out and find a similar job to those I’ve done previously, but wanted to take some time out to properly consider what I should do next.  I decided 2020 should be a year of exploration.  Inspired by a number of talks at conferences I’ve attended and friends in my network, I wanted to try something new and different and see what happens.  There are certainly challenges in this choice, especially now given current Coronavirus crisis, but it’s definitely a learning opportunity, which I’m always up for.

Here are some of the things I’ve learnt so far:

Slowing down is good for your health.  When working full time in Central London, I often couldn’t be bothered to cook properly, as it took time and I was tired and just wanted to eat as soon as possible when I got home.  My diet has improved in the past few months.  Rather than eating pre-packed food for lunch (and sometimes dinner too), I’m now largely cooking meals from scratch.  I’ve impressed myself with my cooking abilities and the tastiness of what I’ve managed to produce.  The same goes for exercise – the extra time I have by not commuting is often spent exercising, which was generally the first thing that went out the window when I was busy or tired. And I’ve found that when you are largely in the same environment day-in-day out and not surrounded by colleagues, having different forms of breaks is vital.

Routine is helpful, but not the be all and end all.  My organised, structured nature very much craves the routine, clarity of actions and deadlines of a job.  At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t very organised with my routine for work.  It’s become better over time, but there are days where I don’t feel like I’ve been very productive.  I’ve come to appreciate that one of the joys of flexible working is just that: flexibility.  Maybe one day I spend more time doing more relaxing things than sitting at my computer.  But often I’ll do work tasks outside of “normal” working hours.  I now don’t feel guilty if I don’t have the most traditionally productive morning.  Taking time out just to think and reflect is a good thing.

Connection is important.  The thing I miss most about being in full-time employment is being in a team.  Working on your own is challenging, but it’s also given me a chance to connect with people in a different way.  I’ve consciously taken time to catch up with friends and former colleagues over coffees and lunches, something that often got pushed to the bottom of the pile amongst a demanding to do list at work.  Now that it looks like that won’t be possible in person for a while, virtual coffees and wine by skype are going to become an essential activity!

New opportunities emerge from changing your circumstances.  Although I’ve been describing myself as “unemployed”, I haven’t been sitting around watching dodgy daytime TV.  My status is more accurately summed up as “developing a portfolio career”.  I’ve been on boards of voluntary organisations and charities since my mid-twenties.  Since January I’ve been working on applications for non-executive director roles, undertaking CPD and helping out the charity where I’m a trustee.  This is a work in progress, sometimes rather frustrating, yet stimulating and pleasantly surprising.  Opportunities have come up in the past few months that I would never have considered or possibly even known about without having taken this different approach.  What comes up might be different again over the next few months given the present situation with Coronavirus, but I’ve no doubt new opportunities will arise and I’m excited to see what they are.

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

One thought to “Lessons from “Happily Unemployed””

  • Anne-Marie Lestic

    Hi Sarah,

    I love the way you write and your rich vocabulary. Thank you so much for sharing. This is truly valuable.

    Keep shinning your light 🙂



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *