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5 Ways to Turn Unemployment Into a Gift

Originally published at on 12/29/11.

Unemployed and discouraged?  If so, you definitely want to read today’s post from Trisha Ingram, a recent MBA grad and writer of the blog Cali Girl to Cowgirl. Trisha blogs about her experiences moving from California to Tennessee and she is actively seeking a new opportunity in Organizational Development. You can connect with her on Twitter (@trishaingram) or Facebook

It’s been two months since I entered the unemployment market, a first-time experience for me.  Aside from not working during the first semester in college and a 9-month period of living abroad in Brazil, I have held a job since the age of 15.  Needless to say the thought of unemployment initially scared me but I was determined to make the most of it.  Although unemployment can be draining, I am choosing to take advantage of new opportunities and as well as reflect on things I am thankful for. Here is a summary of what unemployment has afforded me so far:

1) Time and space to explore a new career direction. Previously, I was neck deep in a fast-paced lifestyle and forgot to leave room for daydreaming, in other words, envisioning the future and figuring out gifts and talents I could use to maximize my career.  Right now looking for a job is my job. But, because I have also taken time to analyze my strengths and be honest with weaknesses, I have discovered a field of work where I strongly believe I will excel.  Now my job search has become more directed and meaningful.

2) Opportunity to network with new professionals. We’ve all heard the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I personally believe it’s a combination of both, however, right now I have chosen to focus on the ‘who you know’. It lends itself well to my situation because I decided to move to a new city to look for a job, a perfect segue into meeting new people. I have already reached out to a number of professionals in the area and have found that, generally, people do truly want to help. What a source of encouragement especially on days things seem so dry. Classy Career Girl has suggested a guideline format called the 4×4 Networking Challenge that I have incorporated into my networking efforts.  I find it helps me stay targeted and well-rounded when building relationships.

3) New appreciation for finances. I have a greater appreciation for managing finances well. All the advice I have ever applied in the past about saving money, staying out of debt, and keeping a monthly budget has never been more important than now.  It’s easy to think about preparing for the future in regards to wealth, retirement, and buying toys. But preparation for down times and seasons of transition such as unemployment are just as essential. Having worked hard over the past few years to live on less than I make and avoid debt has made unemployment much less stressful.  For a wealth of resources and knowledge check out Dave Ramsey.

4) Motivation to revamp my health. For a couple of years I juggled my day job with full-time business school and, in so doing, lost focus of my health. Now that I am finished with school and have some flexibility, I have recommitted to getting in shape.  A daily routine of preparing meals, working out, and getting proper rest has helped create structure, something that a job doesn’t provide at the moment. I also find that this healthy lifestyle helps me maintain high energy and a positive attitude toward finding a job.

5) Ability to volunteer more. I decided to take up something I was interested in but hadn’t previously had time to devote to.  After considering several activities and hobbies I realized for me it was volunteering.  So I teamed up with friends who are involved in various organizations and offered to help where needed. Volunteering provides a sense of contribution which adds value to our lives, again something a job doesn’t provide at this time. Plus it’s a break from the daily grind of job hunting and a good way to have fun and socialize.

Some of you may wonder why all of this couldn’t also happen when employed. Well it can.  However, I believe a season of unemployment provides a new perspective that makes these things more meaningful. Without a job there is a deeper sense of longing, a broader view of the future, and a greater sense of possibility for what is to come.  All of which are good fuel for personal growth.

I realize that unemployment can be a sensitive subject with a variety of effects on people.  For me it has been a gift.  It has given me a chance to review life, to reset, to brand myself as new again. And I am undoubtedly hopeful of good things to come.

Book Review: Start Something That Matters

Originally published at

Immediately when I saw this book I wanted to read it. Not because I was a huge fan, although that was the end result, but simply because I had seen TOMS shoes in Nordstrom and in a couple surf shops in California this summer and thought they were really cute.

I was aware they gave shoes away, but that's it. I was intrigued to know more about the company's background and how Blake Mycoskie came to start it.

A friend encouraged me to read at minimum the first chapter, The Toms Story. But at the end of Chapter 1, I couldn't put the book down!

Blake's experience compelled me to keep reading. I devoured the rest of the book in about two hours.

The author does a good job of challenging the reader to ask reflective questions to search for what cause one would serve. Then he follows up with encouragement and recommended resources for everyone to use.

He also explains that the foundation of building a company like this is trust. Trust internally with team members as well as externally with customers and the people they are committed to serving.

I believe what we all love about this company is what it does for social justice. TOMS helps make things right in the world.

And giving them our money for shoes helps us feel we are a contributor for change. It empowers us.

I can recall many discussions in my MBA entrepreneurship class last year about the growing trend of social entrepreneurship, or as I like to call it, business with a purpose. Whether it be clean water drinking filters, mosquito nets, food shelters, or any other cause, people are waking up to the fact that what we do makes an impact in the world.

And that it is possible, and respectable, to solve problems and still make a profit. In large part this book resonated with me because I am on my own quest to find a cause(s) that strikes me as much as it did Blake.

Perhaps whichever cause I love will inspire me to start a for profit or not-for-profit business. Regardless, I want to do work I am passionate about. I want to make a difference, leave a legacy for those behind me.

I believe this story of this book is a good example to helps others unlock a desire to make a difference.

Trisha Ingram, MBA is recently new to the blog world and authors Cali Girl to Cowgirl, a blog about her experiences moving from California to Tennessee. She is actively seeking a new opportunity in Organizational Development. Connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

The Allure of Slow Life

There is something I have always admired about a person that lives slowly. You know what I'm talking about. The person that doesn't seem to have life pulling at them from every direction. The person that appears calm and collected even in hectic situations, that doesn't mind the time it takes to accomplish something.  In a culture where busy is exalted and fast is expected, it's hard to unwind or even fathom a slower-paced lifestyle. 


I chuckled when I came across a response to this fast-paced world by a guy named Christopher Richards who humorously expressed his passion for slow by starting the International Institute of Not Doing Much (IINDM)He wittily warns that Minimal Effort is "an advanced concept and may not be immediately graspable by those new to slowing down." 


I was also inspired by a blog post written by author Stephen Mansfield, ironically posted on the day I arrived in Nashville.  In it he describes a couple instances in which a back injury that forced him to walk slowly through an airport opened up opportunities for him to talk to people he may not have normally had the opportunity to engage with. "All I had done was slow down, but my pace said to her that something was right about my life." He became convinced that "being slow sent signals and allowed connections [he] couldn’t have imagined otherwise."


Well in this season of life I am in search of my own version of slow. Now don't get me wrong, I am a 30-year-old recent MBA grad who feels like I'm about to elevate my career to great heights. My energy level and desire to succeed has never been stronger.  A big part of my personality has been a strong internal propulsion to be excellent in everything I do.  I thrive on drive. However, I am also choosing to take the opportunity in this season of transition to find a balance between the two.  Can I have an active life while still enjoying the space and ability to be like Mr. Richards and not do much?  When this season of unemployment ends will I go back to living a frantic, busy lifestyle as I have been accustomed to for so long in California?  What about when I have children one day, what type of lifestyle will I impart to them? 


In response to this, I am taking the opportunity in a new city to deliberately establish new habits for myself.  It's one of the perks of getting a fresh start and part of the excitement of moving to the South. For me it's new, healthy eating and exercise habits. It's a good night's sleep.  It's a lot of quiet time with God.  It's self reflection at leisure. Right now my life is uncluttered and simple.  There is space.  There is time.  There are little to no distractions. I get to explore my own ideas, thoughts, and dreams.  I like it this way.  The challenge is how to maintain this. I wonder if it's even possible. 

Though I don't have the answer, I choose not to wrap myself up with worry about it either.  All I know is I am incredibly thankful for the season I am in right now. And I'm choosing to enjoy each day as it comes. 

“Always remember to slow down in life; live, breathe, and learn; take a look around you whenever you have time and never forget everything and every person that has the least place within your heart.”