Is it okay to not job hunt and live off unemployment? (And, can I be a journalist?)

Should I continue collecting unemployment insurance as long as I can, or accept the next job offer I get?

Right now I’m happily collecting unemployment, and applying and interviewing for new jobs at a steady pace.

I am really enjoying not working for the first time in years. I can live comfortably off of my savings unemployment benefits until they expire. I volunteer for several organizations I love, so I am still very busy. And for the first time in my life, I might have the time, energy, and means to really travel, as long as I continue to adhere to my state’s unemployment requirements. I also have plans to start in-state graduate school in the fall for a professional degree program that I know will expand my skills and career options in my city, so I’m not totally without direction.

I am 26, have a 4-year college degree, no loans, work in journalism, and live in the Midwest, where jobs in my industry are harder to come by.

Is it career suicide to just remain unemployed between now and graduate school? Will the gap in my resume become too much of a problem after a couple more months pass? I am looking forward to getting back to work in what will hopefully be a less decrepit environment, and with every passing week I get a little bit more anxious about just finding a job already. I agree with you that it’s good to try new careers, but how often is one lucky enough to be on unemployment and without a care in the world? I also don’t think my story should raise any red flags with future employers, since essentially, “My contract with company X expired in February, and I elected not to stay because I wanted to travel and pursue personal projects. I felt like my goals and skills had outgrown that position and company, and now I’m really eager to apply myself to the next opportunity.”

Thank you so much for your time, Penelope.

My work history is a mess. How can I write a resume?

I really want to get a job as a creative director in advertising, because I’ve realized it’s my calling. The problem is my background is very diverse. I’ve had a lot of different jobs, like working in transportation and television and at a chiropractor’s office. It’s very unique experience, so I don’t know how to tie it all together when I write my resume.

I know my jobs have been all over the place but I don’t have a lot of gaps, though I did take some time off to care for a sick family member. I know if someone just hired me as a creative director, I’d do really well at the job. I was even doing that job in all but title as a freelancer at a friend’s agency, but they’re not hiring right now.

My wife thinks I have Aspergers

After reading through some of your blog entries I took the personality test. The results I received are ENTJ. I’m not sure this is right. After poring over the page of different personality types and I’m leaning towards ISTP.

Coincidentally, your Feb 4th blog post “How to balance your business and your family” really resonates with me. My wife just quit her job in September to start her own business, and I have been the sole breadwinner. I really understand the costs involved, as she has also developed a website using a third party developer, and I try to support her need to have a “low burn rate” when building the business. The description of your husband as an ISTP seemed more in line with my personality. Barring any further chameleonic tendencies…

Even more coincidentally, I stumbled upon your website after having what is probably the twelfth conversation with my wife on the topic of I probably have Asperger Syndrome. I don’t know, I may or may not have AS, I don’t really care, other than the fact that my wife is having trouble connecting with me.

We’ve been through couples therapy a couple of times, and she’s been trying to figure out why I’ve been so pessimistic and possibly depressed since leaving an awesome job designing airplanes in Atlanta to move to Idaho to raise our two kids. She has a support system here, but I have some adjustment anxiety (psychiatrist’s words). Having relocated to the Midwest from an urban area, you probably understand the adjustment.

So yeah, I’ll probably follow your blog from here on out, mostly because you seem to be able to articulate things my wife is going through in a way I can understand them. And I can use some of your techniques to better connect with her. And some more of your techniques to further my career. Thanks for doing what you do.

What’s the fastest path to a career change?

I’m in the midst of reinventing myself from an administrative to a post-MBA professional worker. I’m finding it to be a lot harder than I expected to make that transition. Can you give me some advice?

My husband wants me to be a SAHM. I don’t want to.

I have been following your posts about men, women, employment and SAHParent balances and power struggles. I am not sure if this is the right place to ask you, but here it goes.

My passion is acting. My husband is an uber expert in his field of IT. We (Gen Xers) met in college where I was a Theater major, and he a Psycho-biology major who wanted to be a dentist. I wanted to break into the industry, but couldn’t in Los Angeles. We now live in Atlanta with two children. Lately, acting opps are presenting themselves, and I started to do some film/tv work without disruption to my day job.

For the last 15 years I’ve been working full-time jobs I never really cared for, just going through the motion, because being a SAHM does not interest me, and my hubby threatens divorce if I were to quit my job.

I am trying to build a case to give this acting thing a real shot. I can make some income on a weekly basis doing just extra work while doing auditions in between that. He wants me to work steady, predictable jobs. I make less than 1/3 of what he makes (he is in high 100K range). Other than needing to spend less on groceries and vacations, we could survive for awhile on his salary.

Over the years, he seems frustrated that I never “advanced” my career, or appear happy with what I do. I have a physical condition that will lead eventually (probably in a decade) me filing for disability. So between that, and the short window of time to do this, I feel like he is “forcing” me to break apart our family and marriage. I don’t understand this dynamic – a spouse that makes good money and LOVES what he is doing, but equates his wife’s passion as a deal breaker, and not as a career.

How do I negotiate this? Thanks for listening.

PS He now travels a lot in his job, so I am more or less a single parent shuttling the kids to extra curricular activities and doctor’s appointments and helping with homework besides working 8-5pm weekly, Mon-Fri.

How do you decide how much to tell people on your blog?

I’m an INFJ and I’m taking your course Reach Your Goals by Blogging. The course is very helpful, but I have a question you did not answer:

How do you decide what’s off limits in terms of writing about others?  How can you be authentic if you feel like you can’t write about major events in your life, but those major events expose people whose privacy you feel you need to protect?



I have three career options. Which is best?

Apologies for the super long post, but I started writing and had to get it all out. Your post about Leaving your options open sets you back  really resonated with me and I recognise that that’s where I am but at the same time seem utterly incapacitated to do anything about it.

So I am a classic case of having a well progressing career that is suddenly turned upside-down by having kids. Back when I had the career coaching with you was when I was first trying to make sense of what to do. As a result of that I tried new things like the start-up with Claudia, where we failed fast and I learnt a ton. Then exploring options with the tech camps which looked more promising but then (with your coaching advice) I was able to evaluate that the marketing & PR wasn’t all I thought it was cracked up to be. In between doing this I think I was taking every class of yours I could afford:dream job, freelancing, blogging, negotiating, etc.

So with money becoming an issue again, I went back to focussing on my main work which is running an open-source software consultancy with my (INTJ) husband. With what I had learnt I was able to see that we needed to do more marketing. So I started blogging, albeit still sporadically. And I started going to the industry conferences, and I think I shared with you how the blogging course helped me write a great article which I turned into a talk which got early-bird acceptance at two of the conferences I submitted it too. And then like magic, companies, big big companies doing really interesting work started coming up to me to ask us to do work for them.

So now we have our choice of great work coming in, working side-by-side with great people at big & small companies, operating as freelancers where we can notionally control how much we do and still balance out with spending time with the kids. And it’s absurd that it sounds so perfect on paper, and it should be, but it isn’t in reality.

I have been killing myself over the last year to be a good mother, figure out my parenting style, take my business to new heights and deal with medical emergencies and deaths in the family. More recently I’ve had to add couples therapy to the list because the marriage part has been one of the parts that has suffered. So now I know I need to cut back but already seem too exhausted and don’t trust I have the perspective to make the right decisions. My husband who I normally rely on for helping make these decisions and is much more a black & white thinker like you is fed up with my inability to give things up and say no to people. I have been slowly and painfully getting better at saying no and getting rid of some clients/projects, but still have too many.

I was hoping you might have some clarity on the situation and see the bigger picture to help me focus on one goal. So far this is the list.

1. Focus on clients in the embedded space – this is our original speciality and where are backgrounds are perfect for but when the work seemed to dry up 5 years ago we lucked into the science sector. With the renewed marketing we are picking up 2-3 big new clients who are happy to pay us well for consulting. Also with the promise of the ‘internet of things’ this seems like an attractive space (although noisy) space to stay in. I want to grow and hire some people, but my husband thinks it is not worthwhile in the short term. It feels like a chicken&egg.

2. Focus on Science – we have been working for 5yrs with a big scientific facility in this space and now things are growing. We decided to become founding members of an open source science working group and have a bit of technology we wrote for the science company which they are happy for us to package and sell services to other companies. Ironically with that technology we are attracting companies in embedded space. We don’t have the phd credentials for the science space but I do have a friend who does who I might be able to bring on board. The work is very cool and looks like it will have added bonuses of getting to visit some great facilities.

3. Hardware product – then I have a good friend who came up with a little bit of hardware, ran a couple of kickstarters and got it initially funded. The product is great, with some fanastic usps but he completely lacks any marketing or a business plan. I am the one-eyed leading the blind but I feel like it has massive potential either in the education space or even as part of a low-power solution for industry. I feel like a product will always have more potential than consulting – is this even true and does it matter? I do talks about the technology and have set up a project at a school next year to get it in front of kids to try it out, but again haven’t made any progress because I am not committing. I like this option when I imagine it works well in the future for spending time with my son who is such an engineer already.

4. Other?? Focus on a personal brand – so if you ask me what I really love to do it is problem solving and personal development.

If I try to imagine what I want in 5 years I could see it being something like heading up an open source foundation or some random foundation. And then I think well if I want to do that I need to build a brand and I should be spending time blogging to build that up. And ever since I did your How to Write About Your Life course I have been haunted by the idea of writing a personal dev blog disguised as a tech blog. So then I spend time here and there trying to write stories.

OK so now writing this all down I don’t feel I’ve done it justice – I see so many little nuances and things to over-explain. I feel like I don’t know what’s involved for each path and how it will fit in with my family life so how can I decide. So do you think a coaching call would be the right way to go, or is the answer blindingly obvious to you? BTW, I am enjoying the pitching seminar (just watched day 1 so far) but I can’t help but feel it is another thing I am doing that I should not be because I haven’t made any proper commitments and so I am stressed, anxious and exhausted while I have to force myself daily to meet the commitments I have already made.

What’s the best way to launch a company from an idea?

I have an idea for a company, and I have basic skills for writing code. Can you recommend good books or guides for how to take a startup idea and get funding and launch it?

When is it time to quit a job that’s too easy?

I have been working at a public university for the past three years and was able to switch positions twice to secure better paid and more interesting jobs.  I make good money now and have good benefits. Before that I worked in Europe (where I am from). I tested as an ESTJ and am excellent at organizing, administering processes, and communicating with people.

The problem that I keep having, though, is always the *same* at all jobs that I have ever held (in Europe and the U.S.). Here is how it generally goes:

I start the job, I learn the job, I improve and invent new processes and make things more efficient. Then I get too fast at what I do and my tasks do not fill my day anymore. Then I go to my supervisor and ask for additional tasks. Often these tasks are easy to do, unimportant, and do not fill my time. So most of my days at work I could complete all my tasks during a couple of hours (including responding to emails, etc.) Then I sit there, do busy work, surf the web. It’s super boring, making me depressed and angry. After having had these experiences, I do not know where to go next with my career or which type of position is good for me. I feel like I always played it safe career-wise, but I also don’t know what I could do instead.

My husband is still in school, so I can’t just stop working.

On a – very important – side note: I am also currently in fertility treatment (still pre-IVF, most likely starting IVF in February 2015). I hope I get pregnant soon. I feel like raising a family would make me very happy right now, but with my health condition I can’t count on being able to have a baby  for sure. Being bored at work does not help keeping my mind not circling around my infertility constantly. I do Yoga and acupuncture to ease my mind.

I want to break the cycle I am experiencing at all of my jobs (learn-improve-bored). What do you think I should do?

Do I have to say I got fired?

Employers frequently ask if I’ve ever been fired. The question is on a required question on almost every application form I fill out.  I was recently asked this question by one of my clients and I have no idea what to say, so I thought I would go to the expert – YOU!