Faye Rapoport DesPres

Unemployment: Six Weeks In and a New Idea

The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photo: Faye Rapoport DesPres

Six weeks of unemployment has prompted some soul-searching that I’m sure many others are experiencing. I’ve edited my LinkedIn profile at least three times as my thinking about my skills and goals comes into focus.

At the same time, I’ve taken this rare opportunity to pursue creative projects. I’ve completed the text for the third book in my children’s book series, and the publisher has finished the edits. The text is now with the illustrator, with the goal of publication next summer.

I’ve also submitted new work to literary journals, something I hadn’t done in a couple of years. I’ve been experimenting more with flash pieces instead of the lengthier personal essays I’ve published in the past. I took a wonderful workshop with Bending Genres that helped inspire me to get back to my creative work. I’ve also become friends with my camera again, and I’m back to photographing wildlife.

As fulfilling and enjoyable as these activities are, the question of my professional future remains. I’ve been networking, applying, and doing a lot of thinking.

A couple of thoughts keep returning, much like the squirrels who appear on top of the back fence when they hear me open our back door (they know I’ll be carrying a canister of peanuts). First: what a treat it would be to truly enjoy my professional life. Second – and related to the first – what could I do that would make a positive difference during these challenging times?

I studied environmental science at the start of my career because I wanted to help save wildlife. Then, mid-career, I became an adjunct professor so I could teach writing to undergraduates. I wanted students to experience the freedom of creativity. I also wanted them to realize the power (and advantage) they could gain from learning to write well, whether they were planning to work in public relations, education, or sports – or to pursue the dream of becoming an author.

Yes, I’ve written and edited for a variety of companies and non-profit organizations. It’s something I do well, and it’s certainly rewarding when my skills do their thing and help a team or organization meet its goals. It’s especially rewarding to forward environmental causes or products that improve the lives of people, communities, and the planet.

Still, there are some basic facts that I, like many others, are facing during this pandemic. Jobs are tougher to find than ever, and a lot of candidates are competing for those jobs. Sometimes I notice a position that looks interesting, and then see that hundreds of other job-seekers have already applied. I responded to one company that stated: “Write to us if you like the sound of our company, even if you think you might not be a perfect fit for this position.” I did just that, noting my appreciation for their unusual ad and the positive work culture they presented. I received a response two days later saying they weren’t moving forward with my candidacy.

The truth is, I could be considered a bit out-of-the-norm. I’m a seasoned, highly experienced candidate who might be considered over-qualified for some positions. I’m a remote worker who wants to stay that way. I also have the luxury to want to really, REALLY be fulfilled and love my job after years of working extremely hard in a variety of contexts and industries.

What I need, even more than a classic employer, is a meeting of the minds.

And realizing that, a new idea has begun to emerge (which is perhaps just what should happen during periods of soul searching).

Minds meet when teachers teach students, and being a professor was one of my most rewarding professional positions. A friend sent me an email the other day and said that she, and a number of other parents she knows, are searching for ways to support their children’s educations in the middle of this pandemic. In the meantime, college students may be facing semesters studying at home or with limited access to campus services. Kids and young adults may need to learn or be assisted and tutored virtually for the foreseeable future.

When one door closes…

I am now thinking about tutoring or teaching small writing classes remotely from my home office. I will still pursue writing and editing options, but this is a gap in student services that I could help fill right now, and certainly as the new school year approaches. I could help parents who are struggling with teaching children at home and undergraduates who need assistance with their writing assignments. I could teach creative writing to students of all ages. In short, my five years of experience as a college writing instructor could be put to good use during these challenging times.

“A couple of thoughts keep returning…First: what a treat it would be to truly enjoy my professional life. Second – and related to the first – what could I do that would make a positive difference during these challenging times?”

If anyone in my network has ideas about this concept or knows of parents or undergraduates interested in hiring an instructor, please be in touch. And if any of my former creative writing students want me to teach a virtual class, send me a note. Heck, I’d teach a class to my former students for free.

Now, that IS something I’d truly enjoy.

To contact me, send an email to: professordespres (at) gmail.com.