The Surprising Upside to Being Unemployable

This is a once-and-for-all response to those of you who, on Christmas or Chinese New Year, will ask me how I suddenly made a lot of more money. This won’t make you feel better, but you can bet your ass its honest.


If you are the sort who has filthy rich parents – or you are doing well in school and intend to become a lawyer or something – then this isn’t for you. The approach I’m going to describe is so alien to you, trying to learn from this will be like trying to take camouflage lessons from an iguana. But you might enjoy it anyway.

Being Unemployable is a Great Way to Get Really Rich. Or to Stay Really Poor Forever.

At one point in my life, my monthly income was $750. And that’s because I was – and in some ways still am – unemployable in the conventional sense. But these days, let’s say I could live a comfortable lifestyle even if I got lazy and worked a three day week.

At which point you expect a rags to riches story, but you’re not going to get one. Sorry, I’m an intensely private person. But forget the story, my point is more important:

Being unemployable provides advantages that can make you very rich.

BUT, and this is a big but, it can also keep you very poor. And for most people that’s how it works out. So, you’ve been warned: please don’t read this and drop out of school or something, imagining that you have a clue what you’re doing.

Now, the advantages provided by being outcast from the workforce:

  • Unemployable people have a LOT of free time
  • Unemployable people have nothing to lose
  • Unemployable people learn to do things on their own

1. Unemployable People have a LOT of Free Time

Unemployable people have odd jobs, not careers. Most of us (before we find success) do a lot of weird shit that you can’t even imagine people pay for. And that weird shit tends to be stuff that leaves us with a ton of free time.

For example, one job I had was sitting in an art gallery. Not even helping to dust or clean, or to explain the different installations. I just…sat there. I only had to say hi to visitors, and occasionally request that someone not touch things.

For this I was paid $4 an hour (which incidentally, was still higher than 7-11 back then. Think on that, next time you harass a convenience store clerk.) Other typical jobs include stuff like handing out flyers, or doing data entry jobs as a temp.

This leaves us with the hours that a typical employee lacks. We have the freedom to set up blogshops, create apps (unemployable doesn’t mean uneducated), try out wacky business ideas, hone skills like drawing and music, work out at the gym, etc. etc.

During my time sitting in that art gallery, I ghost wrote three books for $55 a page. My buddy in the art gallery (Also a temp) spent all his time watching YouTube videos when no one was around. Turns out he was learning how to build camera drones. Last I heard he makes about $40k a month selling them, and has an apartment on the South Loop in Chicago.

They say that rich people buy time while poor people sell it. Ironically, unemployable people are closer to the former.

2. Unemployable People have Nothing to Lose

We don’t hesitate to try our business ideas, however insane they are. We have the time, and what could we possibly be risking? What, I’ll have to quit my job handing out towels in the hotel men’s room? Boo hoo.

Remember, we don’t have careers – just odd jobs that most of us frankly don’t care much about. Regular employees, on the other hand, have a lot of baggage. They’ve mostly planned their lives around their work, and they are very attached to things like bonuses and free health insurance. They would have to be pretty brave, or stupid, to surrender everything on a harebrained scheme.

As a result, whenever a wackball business takes off. it tends to be from someone in our crowd, not theirs. At which point you’ll marvel at the entrepreneur’s genius – how did he know such a thing would work?

Answer: He almost certainly didn’t.

He just had nothing to lose by trying, and he probably had the time to try a hundred stupid things before one of them worked out. So I’m not amazed that Anthony Robbins came from a job as a janitor – I’d be amazed if he came from a background like “mid-level accounts manager”. How many millionaire stories begin with those types of jobs?

3. Unemployable People Learn to Do Things on Their Own

Once, I asked a certain Aussie fund manager why he liked working with me. His response was something like this:

When I work with a company, things get pushed around. There’s collective responsibility, which means there’s no responsibility. But you work alone. If things don’t get done right, it’s on you. I like knowing there’s just one person to call.”

The upside to that scary statement is that when things go right, all the credit only goes to me too. Solo freelancing is a high stakes game, with a commensurately high pay off.

Learning to handle that came from being unemployable. See, unemployable people don’t head departments. And when you have no one to delegate to, but are responsible for the entirety of a job, you either end up very skilled at it, or skipping lunch for a week.

(Do also note that companies have zero issues firing odd job workers).

I daresay there are security guards in a condo that can point out faults the management isn’t even aware of. Or a fast food worker who has a better idea of which products sell on which days, compared to a corporate level executive (which, I suspect, is why McDonald’s seems to prefer promoting internally).

We carry on this attitude when we try business ideas, or when we start freelancing. We’re so used to flying solo that we DIY every. damn. thing. This causes problems later (e.g. it’s hard for me to run a business because I never learned how to lead). But the upside is that we know our work inside out, and whatever problem happens we’ve probably faced it before.

Unemployable? Learn to Use Your Advantages

We didn’t choose to be unemployable because we want to be hipsters dabbling in designer poverty. We’re unemployable because (1) we never had the same opportunities as others, or (2) we made a decision to be true to ourselves about something. Whether its from refusing to continue school, getting a degree that’s not particularly in demand, or coming from a poorly resourced family, don’t let it kill your sense of hope and ambition.

I won’t lie, most unemployable people just stay poor. But if you learn to use the advantages that your position affords you, you can go further than this society likes to claim.

Image Credits:

Beth Jusino


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s