After graduating from Staples (1992) and the University of Michigan, Kerry Quinn embarked on career in advertising. For 11 years she worked and lived in New York. Then, in a “you only live once” decision, she moved to L.A.
She loved California, and her job in a small agency. But in 2009 their major client — a bank — was seized by the FDIC, and sold at auction. A few months later, her office closed.
Kerry was unemployed.
At first she felt depressed and dejected — “like a failure,” she says. Her days lacked structure. With the economy in the toilet, tasks like networking and acting upbeat during interviews seemed almost unbearable.
After “wallowing” for a couple of weeks, Kerry got an email offering a free exercise class with a celebrity trainer — on a Wednesday afternoon.
“I started to delete it. Then I thought, ‘hey — I can do this!” Kerry recalls.
She was spending her days sending out resumes. But she realized she also had time to do things she’d always wanted to do: Learn to cook healthfully. Sell unneeded items. Reduce her debt.
Kerry had a “funemployment” epiphany. She would not sit around watching “Wire” marathons — but she could stop pitying herself, and enjoy her new free time.
After 2 months, she landed a small freelance project. She then spent 4 months full-time, filling in for a pregnant woman. But, Kerry says, the bulk of her past year and a half has taken her on a “funemployment” journey.
“I changed my outlook,” she says. “I learned I didn’t have to work 14 hours a day, and ignore the rest of my life. I need to take care of myself too.”
At networking events — she did not abandon those — she described her philosophy. People told her she seemed so positive. They urged her to share her excitement with others.
Kerry started a blog, called LovingFunemployment.
Then — running into people who were not having fun unemployment experiences, because they were depressed or suicidal — she wrote a book.
Funemployed: Finding the Upside in the Downturn has just been e-published. With chapters ranging from taking up painting and getting in shape to volunteering, traveling and dating, Kerry spreads the message that readers should not view unemployment as a failure, nor should they internalize it.
This sounds like a recipe for parody — or at least criticism that most unemployed Americans have more on their minds (and less opportunity to pursue it) than yoga lessons or trips to Paris.
“I anticipated that,” Kerry says. “But I haven’t heard it yet.”
She understands, she adds, that her way “is not something everyone can do. If you have a mortgage and 3 kids, and you have to hustle full-time for your next job, ‘funemployment’ can seem trivial and trite. But I talk about debt management, creating structure in your day, and selling stuff on eBay or taking jobs like babysitting or dog-walking without violating unemployment benefits.”
Her book, she says, “is not all about having fun. It’s about dealing with issues people face.”
As for those exercise classes, “they don’t have to cost a lot, if you use trial offers or Groupon.”
How long can someone last “funemployed”?
“It depends,” Kerry says. “You have to figure out your severance, savings and unemployment. It’s different for each person.”
She is “lucky” to have freelance work, she knows. “Full-time work in California is tough to find.”
Hopefully too, the book will generate income.
While doing publicity for the book, Kerry is learning new skills. She hopes they’ll make her even more marketable during the job interviews she continues to pursue.
Landing a new job in advertising “makes the most sense — I’ve got 14 years experience,” she says.
“But I love writing. Maybe I’ll do TV scripts — or another book. Writing this one really reignited my passion for writing.”
Chalk up one more benefit to “funemployment.”
(Funemployed is an e-book. To download it from Amazon, click here.)