Your job search: 8 tips to help you thrive in the tough times

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Holding on to your sanity when your job search doesn’t go the way you hoped, and the winds of delays and setbacks swirl wildly around you—may seem like a daunting feat!

Whether you are a recent college graduate feeling disappointment at not landing a job in your specialty; or you are a job seeker who unexpectedly became part of a reduction in force (RIF) or a recent lay off. While you are experiencing anxiety and restlessness, you may wonder, “Is there is any light at the end of this long tunnel?”

Last week, I was coaching a young man who had graduated four years ago from college with Cum Laud (high) honors with a B.S. degree in Mathematics. He didn’t get a plum job he was expecting to land with his degree, and was deeply disappointed and disillusioned.

He was at the point of “taking whatever falls in my lap”. I asked him, “What happened to the energy, drive, and passion you had that propelled you to complete your degree with such high honors? He had lost it in the seemingly endless struggle to find work in his professional field.

During our discussion, I challenged him with these questions, “What can you do now to regain the drive you once had? What bubbles up your energy? What really gives your life meaning? He thought about it, and decided he could reconnect with his college friends, involve himself more in his music, put some fun back into his life—and most importantly focus his attention on developing a plan for his career—his guiding compass—to give him direction in making employment decisions.

When you find yourself struggling emotionally and financially while the job search drags on and your dreams and hopes don’t materialize—what can you do? Ask yourself these questions: “What is my compass? What keeps me on course when I don’t see the way ahead or find answers I need?

I have lived through my husband’s many job layoffs (and mine too) and the constant disruptions in our life—certainly unwanted—as we moved from place to place across the U.S. when he finally found a job again. The first time I went through this experience, I failed. But the next time, having learned from my failure, I handled the challenges better.

Here are 8 practical tips to help you thrive as you weather the waiting, find renewed hope in life, and re-energize your spirit:

Find your guiding compass

In our many relocations, getting involved in my church where I found support for my faith and spirituality, as well as opportunities to purposefully exercise my skills and learn new ones, became my guiding compass. If your job search is dragging on, you may want to get help from a career/job search coach to learn effective strategies and develop an organized job search plan that will move things along much faster. Or, creating a Board of Advisers me be beneficial what you need. Finding a source support in your faith/spiritual beliefs may help you, too.

Maintain your social connections

Whether it’s family, friends, or new acquaintances/neighbors. Nurture your relationships to sustain your emotional well-being. Volunteering was the best way I found to make new friends who shared my interests. Find a source of social connection you are comfortable with and intentionally participate.

Give to others and restore your sense of purpose

In one of our relocations, I spent a year helping a refugee family of five fleeing from Afghanistan who had no money, were left in the lurch by their sponsors, spoke no English, and didn’t have a clue about how to get the help they desperately needed. Giving—when life felt like a buoy bobbing in the sea—anchored me to something meaningful that gave me a sense of purpose. When you don’t have work, your sense of fulfillment can feel adrift. Be engaged in doing whatever gives you a sense of purpose, something that moves you beyond/outside your personal circumstances.

Remember what you know and who you are

Believe in the truth that you are talented, gifted, and educated (either formally or by job experience); and you have value to offer an employer. A great exercise to help you is to write your life story, your autobiography. It’s a healthy cathartic to revisit your successes, the obstacles you overcame, the awards you won even in elementary school, the risks you took and the rewards (however small), the goals you set and achieved, and those whom you loved and who loved you back. Keep it positive.

Put fun in your life

You can choose simple things like going to the park together or the beach, hiking or walking outdoor trails, visiting museums or historical places you wouldn’t see otherwise, enjoy high school plays or musicals, share a potluck dinner with new neighbors, or have fun engaged in a hobby or craft. We enjoyed challenging ourselves to prepare new recipes that everyone would like for dinners we shared with our new friends.

Find ways to grow

Professionally and personally. Make friends with the library, the local community college, affinity groups in your areas of interest or hobbies, or professional associations such as Toastmasters International. In one of our moves, I learned to do needlework. Because I had always loved sewing, the art of needlework was an intriguing extension of it. I also took continuing education courses in topics that related to my profession.

Look for work and manage your expenses

If you’re the spouse/partner of the one laid off—find some kind of work, even temping. Substitute teaching provided us with needed extra income, and helped me stay connected with my profession. Some options to consider are part-time, full-time, or on-call work; and contract, project, or consulting gigs. By working, you help ease the stress and anxiety your partner/spouse is experiencing and you contribute to your financial resources. To lessen monetary stress, find ways to cut your expenses and live within your means.

Tap into local resources

...such as food banks, utility and rent assistance, public transportation, etc. Many church, civic, and private organizations help in times of need. Look everywhere and ask everyone until you find a resource that has a pulse on all the other available community or county resources. Our local church provides a free leaflet listing all the other community and countywide resources available.

In the next post, I’ll share more about what a Board of Advisers is and how to create one.

I’d love to read your suggestions for weathering the tough times in a job search!

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