You’ve polished your resume, crafted targeted cover letters, and even gotten some interviews. But weeks of unemployment have turned into months – maybe even years – and you haven’t landed a job offer. During a long job search, it’s essential to take steps to stay healthy and resilient.
Psychologists and social scientists know that human beings are hardwired to overcome obstacles, and that we can actually practice and strengthen our resilience through tough times like extended unemployment. Try one or two – or even all seven – of the tips below to improve your resilience.
Stick to a Daily Routine
You probably know, at least intuitively, that evolving into a couch potato is not going to help your job prospects or your frame of mind. Although it can be tempting to lounge in your sweats and watch one more episode of your favorite show, inactivity during unemployment leads to frustration and depression. Set a daily unemployment schedule. You don’t have to be quite as rigid as a traditional 9-to-5 job, but make sure you establish a few routines and schedule time each day for your job search activities.
Stay in the Career Game
It’s critical for job seekers to avoid isolation, particularly if you live by yourself. After you’ve completed your job search tasks for the day, get out of the house and into the world. Register for networking events (yes, that includes you introverts). Go on informational interviews. Enroll in a class that will improve your skills or industry knowledge. Volunteer. Meet other job seekers for coffee. And if you’re already doing these things, it’s important to stay the course. All of these activities will help you stay involved and connected in your field, and keep you sane.
Everything you do during the day shouldn’t be job-related. You also need to get away from it all for a while; otherwise, you could wear yourself out (or drive yourself crazy) with an all-consuming focus on getting a job. Self-care during unemployment can be tough to prioritize, but it’s essential. Do whatever you need to do to recharge your batteries and refresh your perspective. Knit, cook, go to a Brazilian drumming class. Even better, do something that gets you moving. Physical activity has a demonstrable effect on your mental outlook.
Focus on Wins
This is a big one. Most of us take our accomplishments for granted and focus on our perceived weaknesses or what we think we lack. Go ahead, aim high and set big audacious dreams for yourself. But also set itsy bitsy goals that you can really achieve each day. Then, take the time to celebrate small wins. Don’t underestimate the value of a tangible reward for actions taken in the face of adversity.
Push the Reset Button
During a long period of unemployment, it’s easy to feel like your life is a cycle of failures. During these times, it’s helpful to push a mental reset button. Let go of your past failures and start fresh. Athletes continually do this after enduring defeat or setbacks. They wipe the slate clean and work to stay in the present moment.
Train Your Brain for Resilience
Even if you are doing everything right, sometimes job hunting will just punch you in the gut. It’s okay to acknowledge that you’re at a low point. But what you do next will make all the difference. Resilience researchers have discovered that people who successfully navigate life’s inevitable challenges have learned to train their brains in certain ways. Try these tactics:
- First, look back at past difficulties in your life. How did you handle them? We can use past coping strategies to help steer us through the present time.
- Part of resilience is looking for opportunities in your current circumstances. Is there anything you can be grateful for? Look hard enough, and you will almost always find something.
- Release your grip on the things you can’t control and be open to what you can positively impact. It’s not just part of a serenity prayer; it’s a way of directing your energy in the job search and in life.
Reach Out to Your Support System
No job seeker is an island. So don’t try to be one. We all need different kinds of support – career development support, emotional support, and possibly financial support. If you don’t already have people who can fill these various roles for you, you will need to work at creating your own community. Most of us have to look outside our immediate circle of family and friends from time to time.
Job hunting can test your reserves. Be kind to yourself, start with small positive actions, and use the tools you have to become more resilient during your job search.