by Chela White-Ramsey @DrWhiteRamsey
As a career counselor and resume writer, I’m often faced with clients who are struggling during the job search process. They’re applying for hundreds of jobs online (which is a futile effort, btw) and they are receiving a barrage of rejections. It’s hard for anyone not to take it personally, and the result ends up being a cross between frantically searching for a job (ANY job) that will hire them and spending their days sulking in sweats in front of Netflix – none of which will lead them any closer to getting the career they deserve. More importantly, they lose sight of the critical behavior that is taking care of themselves on a daily basis.
In order to be successful and really thrive in this life, we all need to practice some form of self-care. This becomes increasingly imperative in times of crisis and survival (say, after losing a job or while desperately searching for a new one). Coincidentally, it’s in these times that we’re least likely to prioritize our own health and well-being.
Here are some essential tips for self-care during your job search so that you can make it through the process with your health in-tact and come out on the other side having found work you want and work that wants you.
1. Give yourself permission to grieve.
So you lost your job. Or you just graduated from college and you’re in limbo. Or you decided that your current job isn’t fulfilling anymore. Whatever the reason for your present state, you are attempting to job search in the midst of possible loss and certain ambiguity. On average, we don’t handle ambiguity well as humans, and we’re designed to alleviate it as quickly as possible. This might mean suppressing the very real sadness that accompanies job loss or the stress that accompanies an uncertain future. However, allowing yourself to feel those feelings will ensure that your body and mind remain healthy. Try journaling or talking to a safe friend or therapist about your vulnerability instead of bottling up these emotions.
2. Get dressed.
One thing I frequently hear from clients who are in between jobs is how they fall into the pattern of waking up, staying in pajamas, and sitting in front of a screen all day applying for positions online.
Or laying on the couch mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds.
Or catching up on all the binge watching they missed while they were employed.
This is not a productive pattern.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy researches body language and she contends that we can change our own body chemistry, thoughts, and behaviors by changing our physical body posture. Our body informs our ideas. Therefore, the act of getting up at the same time every morning, taking a shower, getting dressed, and then going about your day will not only improve your productivity but will also enhance your mood.
3. Plan your day accordingly.
So you’re not currently employed – that doesn’t mean that you have nothing meaningful to do with your day. Schedule time to do tasks related to your job search. Schedule some time to get out of your house. Schedule some time for self-care activities, which could include journaling, meditating, practicing yoga, and/or reading a book.
And on the topic of scheduling your time…
4. DON’T treat your job search like a full-time job.
The experts say it all the time: treat your job search like it’s full-time work. That implies that you should be spending at least 40 hours a week job searching and applying for positions. I strongly advise against this philosophy, and I’ll tell you why: you’re bound to experience burnout from constantly job searching and engaging in the daunting application process.
What I argue for instead is carving out regular time on your calendar to do job searching activities (i.e., researching companies you’re interested in, reaching out to recruiters and hiring managers on LinkedIn, and scheduling information interviews). When you’re not doing this, I encourage you to reach out to old friends and make time to catch up with them; attend organizational meetings; volunteer for local causes; and do all the things that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to do if you were working full-time. There’s nothing wrong with finding ways to enjoy yourself when you’re in between jobs. Read a book; visit a museum; go for a walk in the park.
5. Be sure you are exercising and eating well.
You need your strength now more than ever, and your body will thank you for sticking to a regular exercise regimen and healthy eating pattern. Exercise with a friend on a regular basis or take group exercise classes if you can. Being around people helps to meet a social need that is often neglected during what may be an isolating state of unemployment. If you’d prefer to exercise alone, consider a free website like Fitness Blender to switch up your workout routines. Try to stick to regular healthy eating habits, learn to cook healthy meals at home, and work to minimize emotional eating.
The job search process is, without a doubt, exceedingly taxing. I’ve never met anyone who actually enjoys being in this phase. However, implementing some self-care strategies will make it more tolerable and keep you in the best physical, mental, and emotional space for when that perfect opportunity comes knocking.
Happy job hunting!
Chela is a womanist who proudly serves as an advocate for underrepresented groups and uses her role as a career counselor and resume writer to empower others to develop professionally and personally.
She has a Ph.D. in Human Resource Development from Louisiana State University, and her research interests include work-life balance, diversity at work, and career development. A South Louisiana native, Chela “keeps it weird” in Austin, TX. She rants and raves @DrWhiteRamsey; you can find her services at chelaworks.com.