This is what it's like to wake up unemployed
Kate Kemp, a creative director from New York, tells the story of the day after the day she walked out of the agency where she worked for the last time. This is the second in a 13-part series.
In January, Kate Kemp lost her job as a creative director in New York due to a corporate restructuring. Monster asked her to chronicle her life after a layoff (we’ve all been there, right?). This is the second in a weekly series that will chronicle how she went from crying into a hot dog in Times Square to moving cross-country for a new employment adventure.
If I’d rolled over mid-yawn to see it was 9:45 on any normal Wednesday, I would’ve exploded out of bed spewing an R-rated symphony of four letter words while jumping into the shower, getting dressed and running to catch the M train.
But this was no ordinary Wednesday.
For the first time in a year and a half, I had no briefs to review, no red-flagged emails to answer and no “Why are we even having this meeting?!” meetings to prepare for. That’s because, the day before, I’d gotten the pink slip from the agency where I worked as a creative director. (You can read about that horrible day here.)
So on this particular Wednesday morning, I pulled the covers up over my head, rolled away from the clock and scooted deep down into my cozy cocoon of unemployment. I smiled to myself about my newfound freedom. There was no reason to wake up yet.
If only that feeling of joy could have lasted. But the next few hours—and day—would instead bring a manic mix of highs and lows as I tried to predict the unpredictable.
ANNNND, CUE THE ALARM…
After dozing in and out of sleep for another hour or so, I decided to get out of bed and start my day.
And that’s where things went south. In the comfort of my nice, puffy duvet, I was too busy celebrating my empty calendar to think about my how I’d achieve a post-severance paycheck.
But the second I stood up, reality slapped me across the face and screamed: “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU GOING TO DO FOR MONEY?!”
What if all my leads fell through? What if it took another four months to get a gig?
WHAT WAS I DOING WITH MY LIFE?!
My plan to eat a healthy breakfast turned into eating a pint of ice cream with a side of animal crackers in bed. The distraction tactic worked… until the sugar crash hit me. Then I started stressing about my portfolio.
Was it strong enough? Did I need more samples? Fewer? Did my resume need a redesign?
Out of all the emotions shooting through my veins, anger quickly became the most prominent. But it wasn’t directed toward my former employer. It was directed at myself.
How could I have been so surprised by something I’d known was inevitable?
WHEN “EXIT STRATEGY” BECOMES “EXIT ACCEPTANCE”
Four months prior to my dismissal, the highest-ranking creative in the company—our global chief creative officer (CCO)—left our agency to join another. He and his direct report, the executive creative director, had been my two biggest champions within the company. But the CCO’s departure meant 50% less creative representation in executive-level planning meetings, and that meant my days were numbered.
The good news was that—despite being unemployed for less than 24 hours—my job hunt was celebrating its six-month anniversary. The same week I got the boot, I’d had an interview at an agency I’d been wooing for two months and scheduled a coffee date with the executive creative director of another agency.
The bad news was that—even though I’d kicked the hunt into high gear after our CCO’s departure—my company had broken up with me before I’d been able to break up with it.
Still, I briefly comforted myself with the fact that day one of unemployment didn’t mean day one of job searching. But any time my sunshine-y inner cheerleader voice would say, “Hey, Kate! Everything’s going to be OK!” my inner emo kid would blow clove smoke into her face to shut her up, roll his eyes and retort, “You may as well give up.”
I needed to do something, so I texted my former creative director partner to ask for his help re-formatting my resume. He texted me back to tell me to stop trying to be productive and rest.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m terrible at resting.
In order for my vacations to be successful, I need to incorporate a minimum of two days of wind-down time before I can truly enjoy the silence. My brain is constantly zapping out ideas, urging me to Google answers to questions that constantly bubble up and pushing me to fill journals with random short-stories and observations.
And this was no vacation. This was scary. A year and a half ago, I’d moved across the country to join this agency and left a network I’d nurtured for years behind to try something new.
That fell apart and now I was in unknown territory. Even though I didn’t know what would happen next, I did know I couldn’t keep hitting snooze on my inner alarms forever. I needed to do something, anything to make myself feel like I was making forward progress.
Kate Kemp is currently the Group Creative Director at HackerAgency in Seattle.