Finance Work How to turn unemployment into opportunity

How to turn unemployment into opportunity

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When successful marketer Jeremy Neumann quit his corporate job at 28 to find more fulfilling work he thought he’d be re-employed straight away.

He was wrong.

Melbourne based Mr Neumann had left in the hope of finding a marketing job that was “more meaningful”, but quickly discovered he couldn’t even score an interview.

Mr Neumann found himself unemployed and increasingly questioning his decision.

Redundancies and unemployment have continued to dominate news headlines despite reports that the jobs market is stabilising.

This year Qantas became the latest in a growing list of household names – including GM Holden, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto – to have slashed its staff numbers, following the national airline’s drastic move to cull 5000 employees from its 33,000-strong workforce.

As the car manufacturing industry is set to leave Australia, 13,000 jobs are expected to be lost in South Australia alone.

But it isn’t just these high profile case, last month unemployment fell from 6.1 per cent to 5.8 per cent, as an estimated 18,100 jobs were added.

This comes as the national labour market hit unemployment rates of six per cent in January – the highest level since July, 2003.

However, this was not all good news, with all the additional jobs being part-time, estimated at 40,200 while 22,100 full-time jobs were lost.

Mr Neumann spent two months without work, something that is becoming even more common with one fifth of all unemployed youth aged 15 to 24 spending a year or more out of work.

The unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 24 is more than double the national ¬average at 12.5 per cent.

Here’s how Mr Neumann coped.

Becoming unemployed

Jeremy Neumann started a band to cope with unemployment.

Becoming one of the nation’s jobless was demoralising for Mr Neumann.

“I thought I’d be able to jump into a new job straight away but that wasn’t necessarily the case,” he said.

“It was shortly after the GFC and I found out a lot of competitors that were applying for jobs had been back to study and had done a masters in marketing so they were a lot more qualified.”

After two months without a job, it started to take a toll.

“Being quite successful in my job I was quite confident and gung-ho, ready to jump into another opportunity, but having that experience of not being able to be employed and constantly getting rejected from employers and not even getting an interview was really demeaning and affected my confidence and started to effect my self-esteem and general mental health.”

Long term unemployment is psychologically and financially damaging. Statistics show that unemployed youth aged 18- 25-years-old are more likely to continue to be unemployed after this age.

Back on his feet

Something Blue Band
Something Blue Band

With his dream marketing job seemingly unattainable, Mr Neumann decided to change his life, starting a wedding band, Something Blue, and going back to university to study social work.

“I wasn’t getting anywhere and it was stressing me out and it came to a point where I had to reassess my situation and work out my options were and what I wanted to be doing and it gave me an opportunity to work out my passions.

“I was lucky as [the band] was planned to be a casual thing, but turned into be a quite a profitable venture.”

Now, four years later at 31 and coming close to finishing his masters in adolescent mental health, he is able to see the experience as a positive.

He realised that without making the proactive change of looking to a different skill for employment and going to study, he’d have struggled to find work.

“In my situation I’m glad I [left my job] as it opened up this opportunity to explore other avenues, and take the risk to jump into a new career and explore music.

“In hindsight as a safe pathway I’d advise people to secure another work opportunity before leaving a job.”

He is planning to continue his wedding band even when he gets a job in social work – potentially working part time.

“I came to realise I need to incorporate the balance especially working in such an intense industry with the social work, balancing it out with my passion is an important way to escape from that.”

How to cope

If you find yourself unemployed like Mr Neumann there are some easy tips to follow to make sure you get back in the job market.

• If you are made redundant, don’t spend your package all at once.
• Don’t hide. In fact, tell everyone, you never know who’ll be able to help you find a new job.
• Be realistic. Don’t over or underestimate your own potential.
• Take stock of your situation and make a financial plan.
• Be open. Like Mr Neumann you might need to re-think where your career is going. It might be the perfect chance to find a job you are passionate about.
For more tips read the 10 point plan to cope with redundancy.