A few years ago, I quit my job and moved to a completely new town. After my move, it took me about four months to find a new job. This wasn’t the first time I had been bogged in a months-long job hunt. In my final year of university, I spent six months looking for work and it was one of the most demoralizing experiences of my life. It ate away at my self-esteem and left me exhausted. But my most recent job hunt wasn’t like that at all. I managed to stay motivated and continued to take good care of myself while I was looking for a job.
Maybe you’re considering leaving your job and feel intimidated about looking down the barrel of a job hunt. Perhaps you’ve been looking for work for a while now and are feeling beaten down. I want to share some of the things that worked to keep me motivated and sane while I was looking for a job.
Set yourself a few daily tasks
A job hunt can feel like a never-ending hamster wheel of tasks. You’ve got to spruce up your resume, check job listings, write cover letters, fill in applications, attend interviews and so on and so forth. It can be super overwhelming and it’s easy to feel bogged down. To avoid getting burned out, set yourself a couple of tasks each day that move you forward on your quest for a job. Listen to your body and work out how much you can reasonably tackle on any given day. On a good day, I’ll set myself 3-5 tasks, but there were days I could only manage one. And that’s fine. You might decide to spend some time checking online job listings, or filling in two applications, or preparing some practice interview questions. Setting achievable daily goals gives you a bit more control over the situation. It also gives you a daily sense of accomplishment when you tick those tasks off your to-do list.
Spend time with people that build you up
Looking for work can really drain your self-esteem. Feelings of defeat and worthlessness can start to build as you rack up a stack of rejection emails. It’s so important to tap into your social networks and spend time around people who make you feel good about yourself. Get in touch with the people who sing your praises and make you feel like you can conquer the world. Schedule a coffee date with a positive mate who will inject a little sunshine into your day and remind you of how valuable you are.
Don’t beat yourself up
It’s totally normal to feel frustrated and anxious while you’re looking for work, especially if your job hunt has stretched on for a while. It can be easy to begin to slide into negative self-talk and blaming yourself for not having secured a job yet. Slipping into a pattern of shaming yourself will chip away at your confidence and leave you feeling even worse. It can be difficult at times, but try your best to be gentle with yourself. Try to notice when you start to blame yourself or pull yourself down, and see if you can replace that thought with something that recognises your strengths. Build up your belief in yourself and your abilities, and know that you are valuable and capable.
Find ways to enjoy this period
When you’re out of work, there are a lot of stressful thoughts that come nipping at your heels. You might be feeling concerned about having enough money, worried about where your career is going, or doubting your own abilities. But, there are a few benefits to not having a job for a while. I know it can be difficult when you’re feeling the pressure to find work, but it can be helpful to look at some of the good bits about not having to go to work. You don’t have to get up early in the morning, or put on a uniform that you don’t like, or struggle with the commute. You don’t have irritating coworkers to contend with, or answer to a boss. You’re the boss right now! This period of unemployment is temporary, you will find another job. So while you’re looking, I encourage you to notice the perks of being out of work and give yourself permission to enjoy them.
Looking for work is really taxing, so it’s extra-important to tend to your needs during this time. Make an effort to eat well, move your body and get enough rest. Recognise when you’re feeling ground down and take a break. Weave small acts of self-care into your day: a little walk at lunchtime, a five-minute guided meditation, a cup of tea in your favourite mug before you start an application. Treat yourself like you matter, because you do. Be kind to yourself and honour your needs.
Job hunting can be tedious, frustrating and downright soul-destroying. But it doesn’t have to be. There are steps you can take to look after yourself and maintain your sanity and self-esteem while you’re looking for work. Remember, this is a temporary state. A new job will come along, and it’s important to look after yourself to make sure that you’re ready to jump in when it does.