Does this story resonate? You’re fairly certain you’re following the correct path for your job search yet you still find yourself unemployed after months, maybe even a year? You’ve gotten some interviews, you’ve even been a finalist for a job or two, but for whatever reasons, a deal hasn’t closed and you’ve yet to receive an offer. You’re left feeling desperate. Confidence is quickly tanking and a sense of hopelessness is setting in.
When a new client comes to me whose job search has been prolonged, I begin with a job search audit. The intention is to discover if there are any creative ideas that I can share that they haven’t already thought of and tried. I start with these:
- Are they clear on the path they’re pursuing?
- Has their resume been edited, and do they tweak it to reflect each opportunity they’re applying for?
- Is their LinkedIn spruced up and keyword-optimized?
- Are they networking, engaging 1st- and 2nd-degree connections to find their way into companies and speak with decision-makers?
- Is there a need for interview prep?
Most often a job search comes down to luck and being in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, neither of these elements are things you can control.
So what’s left to do? Let’s talk about mindset.
The reality is that some job searches just take a really long time and that’s hard to tolerate on the bank account and emotional fronts. If we knew a job search was going to take nine months, we’d plan accordingly. We’d visit out-of-state family, maybe remodel a bathroom. We’d tackle the projects we never have time for, enjoying a sense of closure. Yet when we don’t know if we’re going back to work in three weeks or three months, it’s really hard to relax and stay present.
If you’re crippled by anxiety, I highly encourage you to find ways to practice mindfulness. Here are a few suggestions:
Control the Uncontrollable:
- Talk with a therapist: I once had a client who was truly blocked regarding her search, sabotaging opportunities left and right, and not conscious of why that was happening. We agreed to end our work together as it no longer felt productive to continue. She mentioned that she was going to try hypnotherapy. She’d done so in the past and it had proven helpful. A few months later, she reported that she had uncovered in therapy how she had never properly grieved the loss of a family member and it had been unknowingly holding her back from many aspects of her life. Because of the work she had done in therapy, she was able to move through that painful experience, releasing the energy that was blocking her actions. Very soon after her time in therapy came to an end, she networked her way into a new field and a new role, and landed her dream job. Several years later, she’s still thriving in that role.
- Get out in nature: Man, do I miss being able to climb a mountain in my backyard in Boulder, but nature is everywhere, and when I’m walking through the forest preserve near my home, I’m immediately grounded. Surrounding yourself with trees, walking by an ocean, lake, or river, or strolling through a prairie can have a truly calming effect. I highly encourage connecting with nature on a regular basis. It’s free therapy with a dose of Vitamin D.
- Get educated: There are so many resources that address mindset and positive psychology. Books and podcasts abound. Most libraries have a huge library of downloadable books for free. Whether it’s listening to Thich Nhat Hanh or Pema Chodron, traditional Buddhist thought leaders, or Mark Manson and his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, find a groove that works for you and helps get you out of your own head. I really enjoyed The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
- Meditate: There are a million ways to get started with meditation. The easiest? Peruse your app store’s offerings and download a meditation app. (Though I’ll admit that I’m often better at downloading them then using them.)
- Yoga: This is my personal favorite form of mindfulness; plus, it helps my mid-century-old body work through its creaks. Online or in person, a yoga class is great for body and mind. This is my favorite yoga studio.
- Take drugs: If all else fails there’s always drugs. Seriously. There’s a reason Xanax exists. Sometimes we just need to stop the anxiety madness and get a reboot on our system. Marijuana is legal in many states. I use a homeopathic nerve aid that really helps when I’m drowning in stress. Consult your doctor; maybe an anti-depressant can help you through this period of time. Get the support you need if everything feels too out of control. You don’t have to suffer.
Find Other Positive Ways to Fill Your Time:
- Take a course: The Science of Well-Being is a free course on Coursera offered through Yale University. Take it with friends and create a Zoom discussion group. I took the course during COVID and walked away with a lot of interesting insights.
- Find community: Start a Facebook page to build community. Apart from my business pages, I co-administer a virtual book club and I lead a private group for my town called Park Ridge Professional Moms. Find or create something that will fill your social feeds with positive notifications and that will enable you to help others.
- Volunteer: Speaking of helping others, find a place to volunteer in your community. Maybe you can find a group where you can share what you’ve learned about your job search. There are always organizations looking for an extra pair of helping hands.
- Move your body: Sitting at the computer for six to eight hours and trying to will companies to send updates about your applications doesn’t work. Leave your desk and go for a bike ride, dust off your roller blades, have a dance party in front of your TV.
- Build things: Remodel your house. Remodel your neighbor’s house. You can remodel mine😊.
- Create: When was the last time you created entertainment rather than simply consumed it? We’ve become really good at binging Netflix and have gotten away from building model airplanes, doing needlework, painting (even when we suck at it, but we love it), maybe even writing. How many of you dream of writing a book but are daunted by the process? Being unemployed is a great time to get that first draft started. I can help with that. Check out my writing community and programs at Tami’s Tribe.
My advice is to spend about three to four hours a day – at most – on your search (unless it’s a busy interview day) and then build a schedule around what else you want to do with your time.
- How can you help the world?
- How can you improve yourself?
Schedule your time to give it structure. Use a paper planner or online calendar. My favorite is the Passion Planner, which allows for journaling. Put meditating, exercising, and crafting into your schedule for soul time.
A job search is like creating a garden: You plant seeds, you water them, and then you have to let them grow. Watering too frequently, intensifying the sunlight, and sitting by the dirt and willing the seeds to grow faster doesn’t work. They sprout when they’re ready.
Plant your networking seeds, apply for jobs, and then get on your bike and hit a trail. Be sure to take care of your body, mind, and spirit during this highly stressful time. Resources abound, seek them out.