Job Search VII: Dealing With the Roller Coaster
“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” ~ Dalai Lama XIV
I dedicate this post to all of you out there looking for work…to all of you who know you may be looking for work shortly and all of you who gave up looking for work because you found it too stressful a task…
I also dedicate this post to a dear friend who I trust will find what he is looking for or even something better!
Looking for a job can be very stressful.
The longer it takes, the more it may impact your health, your relationships and your self-esteem.
If you are looking for a job while working full-time in an un-related job, this may become too much of a burden: not enough time for meaningful networking, exploring or attending events, not enough time to keep yourself updated through strategic training, attending conferences or participating in groups. Not enough time to do research, keep your applications updated, follow up and even go to interviews!
For others, not having a job takes away the routine and “structure” in their lives and they feel lost: the act of waking up each day and have to plan ahead looks like a daunting blank page where they are supposed to write a difficult essay…and some resort to staying home, not doing anything and may even give up their job search altogether.
If you are also an immigrant looking for a job in a new country, or if you have a deadline or financial pressure of supporting others around you, the burden can be really tough.
In career planning/employment coaching we know this as the “roller-coaster”: as in a real roller-coaster, people tend to go through different phases, sometimes within a single day, repeating the pattern week after week and month after month: you may feel euphoric now, and completely devastated with despair an hour later…there are many factors that shape or exacerbate these feelings:
- The weather: we tend to feel much better during the summer months or when it is sunny outside
- Your support network: we tend to feel better if we can count on a supportive network of friends and family members who understand our situation and don’t blame us
- Extra help: we tend to feel better when we have a career/employment coach who is supportive and reachable and even better if we have a buddy or a job-search club with whom share our challenges and accomplishments
- Financial situation: we tend to feel better if we already have a job or if we have a cushion of money we can count in
- Familiarity with the place and market: if we are familiar with the community, the prevalent culture, language and how the local market works we tend to feel more comfortable and confident in our job search
- Your overall health: we tend to feel better if we are healthy both mentally and physically, if we eat well and exercise
- Clear goals: if we know exactly what we want and how we want it, it becomes easier to stay focused and strong
- A way to de-stress: if we know and practice ways to reconnect with our own bodies and minds it becomes easier to stay healthy and come back re-energized
- Other factors that may affect how we feel include stable housing, stable school and daycare arrangements for our children, stable relationships with our partners and closer family members, access to reliable health care (including family doctor), access to reliable transportation, etc.
Things to consider:
First, accept that what you are experiencing is normal. It is not your fault and probably nobody else’s fault either: the reasons why you are unemployed (or under-employed for those with survival jobs) are very complex, so there is no single person, institution, event of factor you can blame for it…and blaming won’t take the pressure off your shoulders and won’t help you either.
Second, understand that the roller-coaster affects your attitude, mental and emotional health as well as your physical well-being. And all this affects your job search in return: if you show up tired, frustrated, upset or plainly depressed to networking events, job interviews, etc., you will be perceived as a negative person and nobody wants to hire a negative person!
Also, negativity tends to attract negativity: job seekers going through this roller-coaster tend to have more fights with their partners, children and friends and take longer to find suitable jobs. Investing some extra effort in helping yourself to stay healthy and happy will pay off…
Practical things you can do:
- Establish a sleeping routine and stick to it: sleeping well helps you to stay healthy and positive
- Create a plan, but allow for flexibility. Creating a plan with deadlines, a routine and strategies to follow and small, achievable goals in between is a great way to stay focused and energized when things are not going as expected. However, some flexibility will also keep you healthy: know your own boundaries…stretching is good, but exaggerating the stretch may be counterproductive!
- Surround yourself of positive and supportive people: you don’t want people who lie to you in your life, but people who are frustrated with their own job search or lives in general and feed your own frustration and despair are of no good at all at this point: they take your energy away…so run away from them!
- Use your time wisely: both if you are currently working and if you are unemployed, time can become water if you don’t create a schedule…it is easy to get lost in Social Media, attend unfruitful workshops and events that lead nowhere and run around in circles listening to contradictory advice…cut all the “stuff” that clutters your life, your soul and your job search…
- Take some time to become familiar with the community, the job market and the culture: this will save you time and headaches when looking for jobs and trying to network
- Make sure all your other basic needs are taken care of: clean and safe housing, transportation, health-care, childcare and school services for your children, etc.
- Talk to your family and close friends and explain that this process will take time, that you will need to concentrate in this and routines may be affected. Each one of them may have to take up a new role to support you or become more independent so you can look for that job…also mention the roller-coaster to them, so they are prepared and can support you when you are not 100% OK
- Eat well: eat fresh vegetables and fruits, local and organic when possible and less meat and processed food.
- Exercise: from yoga to a walk through a nice park, exercising helps you to stay in shape and healthy…which in return helps with the positive attitude, the de-stressing and detaching from negative situations caused by the constant job-search
- Drink plenty of water: job seekers tend to be away from their homes for longer periods of time and forget to take enough water. This produces headaches and imbalances in your body
- Drink less coffee and tea and more herbal and natural teas and fresh fruit and vegetable juices; excess of caffeine (and not enough fluids) cause more stress…
- Have a journal or a regular chat with a friend you trust: journaling (for those who love writing) helps to release frustrations and connect with your feelings. It can also be used as an exercise to create “positive” thoughts and feelings for yourself…some people like blogging and some may prefer private journaling. Be careful with blogging: you don’t want the whole world to learn about your frustrations…and things you write today may hurt your job tomorrow)…some are more social and may benefit from having a regular weekly chat with a friend, a family member or even their career coach: you can do this through Social Media (Email, chat, Facebook, Skype, ect.) or in person
- Take time to explore what makes you happy and what energizes you: for some is prayer, for some is music, for others is a good book or a walk in the park…people have all type of little tricks that have proven to be effective to deal with frustration or stress…think about them as a treasure box you open when in need, take your treasures from it and use them all!
- Take time off: after an unproductive interview or after applying 10 times with no results, things can easily escalate to despair. Know when you have reached your own limits and take some time off from the job search: if possible, take extra rest, do something you like, enjoy life…recharge your batteries so the next time, things become easier…
- Don’t hesitate to look for help when things go out of control: sometimes, no matter what you do, circumstances may be too much. Sometimes you may lack the mechanisms to deal with the extreme stress that a long-term job search may impose…don’t be afraid or embarrassed of reaching out and ask for professional help: from your family doctor, a good settlement worker to your employment counsellor, all can help referring you to the right service…
“There is only one important point you must keep in your mind and let it be your guide. No matter what people call you, you are just who you are. Keep to this truth. You must ask yourself how is it you want to live your life. We live and we die, this is the truth that we can only face alone. No one can help us, not even the Buddha. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?” ~ Dalai Lama XIV