Emily was made redundant from her old job three months ago. She has been job hunting ever since, signing up for job alerts, updating her online profile and applying for jobs left, right and centre. She doesn’t know what’s worse – the big, fat stack of rejection letters/emails that are piling up, or the deafening silence of not hearing back from any recruiters. Her self-esteem is taking a bashing. Perhaps you know an ‘Emily’. Perhaps you are an ‘Emily’. How do you stay positive during a job search? How do you stay resilient and stop the negative emotions from spiralling out of control?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Participation, Job Search and Mobility (PJSM) survey in February 2018, from the Australian population aged +15 years, 37.3% were unemployed. Of these, 19.2% cited “Too many applicants for available jobs” as the main reason for being unemployed. Daunting, isn’t it?
No matter what your reason for being unemployed – changing careers/industries, looking for employment after completing tertiary education or being made redundant from a previous job – the accompanying frustration is the same. Here are some job-hunting tips to keep on keeping on when the going gets tough.
Get into a daily routine
Routines and rituals help reduce stress and keep us motivated. Try to avoid getting into a rut of doing nothing productive all day. Instead, wake up at a fixed time every morning and do a bit of exercise to stay fit (added benefit: exercise releases endorphins, those ‘feel-good’ hormones).
Your current job is to find a new job, so let that be your key focus for each day. Set up your 9-5 day as you would at a regular job by checking job sites, scheduling appointments, networking with contacts, sending off job applications, and researching new study areas or developments in your field. Make sure you’re digitally savvy while looking for work by updating your LinkedIn profile, following industry news and making the most of e-learning courses.
Whenever you set goals – be it for your health, your life or your career – you need to keep the SMART guidelines in mind i.e. goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. This will ensure that you stay motivated and not get frustrated when things don’t go according to plan. You can set goals for the week or month, being very specific on what your aim is and how you’re going to get this done. The ways and means to find gainful employment have changed so much over the years. Make sure you’re up to date on the latest job searching resources like online bulletin boards, social networking sites and recruitment software systems.
Focus on improving
It’s natural to wallow in self-pity when you keep getting knocked back time and time again. But why not choose to use this free time to improve yourself instead? Perhaps you need to update your skills by doing a few training courses. Perhaps you can fill in the gaps in your portfolio that you’ve always been too busy to do. Perhaps you’ve not updated your resume in years. There’s no time like the present to give your professional skills a makeover. Now’s the time to step outside your comfort zone of applying for the same jobs as before and looking for something new that aligns better with your interests and personality. Explore different career options that align more closely with your interests and personality. Your next job needs to be one that you will enjoy doing for many years to come – not just one that pays the bills.
Be mindful and careful
No, we’re not talking about chanting some new-age mantra; rather it’s advice to avoid dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Practise meditation to calm your mind and let go of pent-up emotions. Focus on things you can control like updating your current skills, gaining a new qualification or being well-prepared for interviews, and try not to dwell on things that are beyond your control e.g. economic downturns or industry uncertainties. Use your time wisely. Instead of wasting hours on social media, use this time wisely to clean up your digital footprint instead.
Become a volunteer
Volunteering is a wonderful way to help not only your local community but also yourself. Who knows, it could open up networking leads or even act as a stepping stone to career opportunities and paid employment if you connect with the right people. Volunteering is not only an excellent way to keep busy, but also the perfect way to add value to your resume. It shows that you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and contribute to society, which looks great on any CV!
Find alternative sources of income
Money, or rather, the lack of it, is the main reason we fear unemployment. There are bills and fees to be paid, rent/mortgage payments to be made, daily living expenses. How do you keep the cash flow going when you’re unemployed? You will need to think laterally. Can you rent out a room (e.g. AirBnB) or even your home’s driveway as a parking spot? Can you become a local dog-walker or a baby-sitter? Can you have a garage sale of all the unwanted items you have lying around the house? Can you sell clothes, toys, furniture etc. on online (e.g. eBay or Gumtree)? Can you move back to your parent’ house to avoid paying rent?
Enjoy the Downtime
We develop tunnel-vision when job hunting by focusing all our energies on finding that next job. And when we are employed, we’re too busy to do anything other than work, work, work. Look at this period of unemployment as an opportunity. Take a step back and spend some time enjoying life’s little pleasures e.g. a walk along the beach, a movie night with friends, planting flowers for the next season. Being unemployed can socially isolating and can lead to depression, so make sure to connect with people. Also focus on the positives in your life – your good health, your friends, your family support. When you show an attitude of gratitude, you’re less likely to be bogged down by negative thinking and become more resilient.
In conclusion, remember the three Ps when it comes to finding that new job: Positivity, Patience and Persistence.
For more advice on how to create the career life you want for yourself, head on over to our archive of other career-related articles here on SkillsTalk.