A job search can really get you down. Being out of work is a situation that you likely did not ask to be put in, has no definite end in sight, and no matter how much work you put in, it can leave you feeling isolated, depressed, and hopeless.
In many ways, trying to find work shares a lot of characteristics with the COVID-19 pandemic, doesn’t it?
Just about everyone dealt (and many are still dealing with) with the mental stress of a changed lifestyle, uncertainty about if we were doing the right things day in and day out, and a distinct lack of a light at the end of the tunnel for a long, long time.
So is there anything that we learned from our Year of the Pandemic that also applies to job search fatigue? Here are a few coping strategies that can make the best of a difficult situation.
1. Stick To A Schedule
While we’re working, we have a set schedule: we wake up at the same time, travel to the same place, perform a similar set of tasks, and then head home. For millions of us, the pandemic changed everything. Some of us had our hours change in number or shift; others were sent into a totally new work ecosystem (work from home, wearing masks, working behind plexiglass, etc.). And many of us lost our jobs altogether.
Being out of work means no set time to wake up, no structure to our days, and a sense of freedom that seems fun for a short period, but then can turn to aimlessness.
Setting routines and schedules for ourselves helps to create a sense of purpose, and that purposeful feeling means you are more productive – even if you are not devoting 8 hours per day to searching and applying to work. And we definitely do not recommend that.
Set your alarm, eat a healthy breakfast, and dedicate a certain time of the day to searching for and applying to jobs. It helps to also plan out other tasks, like cleaning the house, walking the dog, or simply taking a break. With structure in our day, our overall productivity increases.
2. Get Some Sleep
It’s really easy to interrupt your good sleep schedule and much harder to get back on track once you have fallen into bad habits. When schedules change, sleep can suffer. Don’t fall into the trap of staying up late and sleeping in, because that schedule will creep later, and later, and later, until finally you’re going to bed at 3 AM and waking up at noon.
Try to get to bed at your normal time and wake up at a reasonable hour. Once you do get back to work (and you will!), you’ll want to be well adjusted to the 8-to-5 schedule (or different if you’re on second or third shift). Not to mention, you’ve got to be fresh for your interviews, and have an overall clear mind for the daily grind of searching, applying, and networking.
3. Don’t Be Hard on Yourself
The pandemic introduced a number of new stressors that we didn’t have to deal with before. Kids were home and needed help with school (or constant daycare for the younger ones); we were stuck in our houses with the same scenery and same interactions every day; and some of us only had video calls as our source of face-to-face communication for a long stretches of time. Self-care became increasingly important, and the same goes for the job search.
You are doing your best, and your work will pay off. Until then, though, talk to your friends, family, and colleagues about job struggles. Know that you are not alone. Chances are they all have a story to tell and can empathize with you. You may even find useful do’s and don’t’s in their stories, or they might have a connection that you weren’t previously aware of that could lead to a new gig.
There are a wealth of books, videos, and podcasts on the subject of job searching, and doing a little light reading or listening on the side could give you a boost. I’m not saying you have to go crazy and devote all your spare time to the hunt, but maybe throw a podcast on while doing dishes or weeding the yard to provide a little help and entertainment value.
Lastly, do not be afraid to seek professional help. It is easy to lose faith in your abilities when rejection piles up and spiral into depression; it’s important to maintain your brain just like you maintain your body, your house, your car, and so on.
4. Touch up that Résumé / Linkedin Profile
As tradesmen will tell you, the pandemic was a time when people used their home-stays to get those windows replaced, the kitchen re-done, or that annoying crooked door fixed. We can learn a lot from this – make sure your career’s presentation is in tip-top shape.
You need to give the best possible first impression by having all of your ducks in a row when a recruiter or hiring manager first scopes you out. This means having all of your work experience up-to-date, a quality photo on your Linkedin profile, and an easy-to-read format for your résumé.
Consider a sans-serif font (not Times New Roman), use large titles and white space to create hierarchy on your résumé, and maybe add a splash of color here or there, as long as you don’t overdo it. Anything that sticks out from the stack of papers on the recruiter’s desk to make you look professional will be an advantage right off the bat – just keep it industry appropriate.
Check out some online templates, or talk to your design-minded friends or colleagues for some help.
5. Volunteer, Freelance, or Take Temporary Work
If you’ve been searching in vain for a long period of time, taking on some sort of work can be a worthy endeavor, even if it’s unpaid or not in your specific discipline.
Volunteering can reward your psyche by giving you a purpose and a sense of accomplishment. Secondarily, volunteering in a role that you’re actively seeking work can be a good network opportunity. Some would counter with the old adage “if you’re good at something, never do it for free,” and they make a good point, but a little volunteer work for a worthy cause that you are passionate about won’t hurt, and if anything, it will help you long-term.
Freelancing isn’t possible for every career/job, but if you have the opportunity, try to take on a side project or two. Talk to friends and family that might need a flyer, photos, some housework, data entry, or anything else you can think of. You get a taste of work, some experience, and a little side money is nice too.
In the post-COVID world, there is great demand for service and manufacturing jobs and not enough workers to fill them. If you contact an agency, you can likely get started working immediately. If you are clear with your recruiter that you only want a temporary assignment, they will help you find a job that fits your schedule and needs. And who knows? Maybe you will find a new career you never expected to love and your work path will change entirely.
Job searching is rarely always easy or fun, but despite how you may feel, it will end with a victory. Just know that we are rooting for you, and if you want to outsource the difficulties to someone else, we’d be happy to serve as your employment agent. Give us a call or email us your résumé to get started today!