For those who have lost a job, or made the difficult decision to leave a job, a period of helplessness and hopelessness often follows. We can feel sad at the ‘loss’ of our normal everyday activity of getting up early, getting to work, mixing with colleagues and bringing home the pay-cheque.
In answer to two specific problems presented below, there are several steps which can make your job search a hopeful, optimistic and ultimately rewarding and successful experience.
By the sounds of it, because others were also made redundant, this wasn’t your fault. I’m not surprised that after 2 years of job searching, your energy is on the wane but keep looking and keep believing you will get there. There are a number of practical steps you can think about involving keeping a positive outlook , a regular routine, a positive lifestyle, good social contacts and an open mind.
- Remember: There is a job out there for you.
Tell yourself frequently that despite the circumstances or the length of time you’ve been out of work, there is a job out there for you. It may not be what you expect, but its there. Its important to keep optimistic as this is more likely to result in success.
Active Step (AS): Start each day by telling yourself ‘There is a job out there for me’ and ‘ I am worth that job’. Write these on a card to look at regularly.
- ‘Talk the talk’ with friends.
When discussing your job situation with friends and relatives, tell them what you’ve been doing and your hopes and aspirations. Try not to be openly gloomy or negative with them (even if that’s how you feel) as this will make you feel more down. If you are positive to/with others, they should encourage you and reinforce your efforts and optimism.
AS: Be positive today when you see friends. Arrange to meet a friend and have a positive conversation about your plans.
- Keep your momentum going.
Each day, set goals for your job searching activities (Internet, Job centre, local paper). Try not to get dispirited by how long each one takes. Feel positive about your efforts each day – believe that it will end up well.
AS: Set daily goals, achieve them and feel good about your efforts. Make a list of what to do and tick off tasks when completed – this helps.
- Get up each week day at your usual work time.
When you don’t have a regular job, it is sometimes easier to stay in bed late and stay up late into the night. This gets you out of the habit of a normal work-related schedule. Try and get up approximately at the usual time in the morning as if you were working. This will help you keep in a working routine. Job searching is a full time ‘Job’ so set your clock for this.
AS: Starting tomorrow morning, have a regular routine of getting up early enough to ‘start your day’ by 9am.
- Keep yourself busy and active.
Another aspect of maintaining your healthy lifestyle is to keep yourself busy; do jobs in and around the house; shop for essentials; meet friends; take regular exercise and tell your friends what you are doing. This will encourage you.
AS: What can you fit in to the rest of the day today.
- Consider doing some voluntary work.
While you are working on paid-work applications, consider contacting the local voluntary services organisation(s) and see if you could offer some regular help (for example, one hour a day). This would make you feel good today and be valuable to them.
AS: Contact your local voluntary services organiser (via yellow pages) and offer some time.
- Make your lifestyle help your job search.
Job searching is a tiring business and you need to feel fit and healthy to maintain all your efforts. Make sure your diet, hydration and food intake is healthy and regular. Try to avoid dips in your energy or mood resulting from missing meals and drinks.
AS: Keep your diet, food intake and hydration healthy today.
- Manage your daily stress levels.
Job searching is stressful. Relaxation and mindfulness can help reduce these feelings a little. Use simple relaxation and breathing techniques to relax physically and mentally each day when you have a few moments. When sitting or walking, spend a few seconds looking around and appreciating what you can hear, see, smell and touch. Both relaxation and mindfulness are practical ideas which do not take long.
AS: Find a few minutes this morning, afternoon and evening to relax and switch off from job applications.
- Socialise and stay in contact.
You may not feel like socialising but keeping up with friends and family is important. You are in charge of how much you discuss your job searching. Try and stay in touch by telephone, text, email and face-to-face so you feel less on your own.
AS: Decide to contact two friends today and discuss non-job search topics.
- Be flexible about returning to your current/last job.
If there is any chance of returning to your current/last job, consider contacting your employer to discuss options eg., part-time, change of role and duties, change of location, re-training in the company. Remember, your boss/employer will value your helpfulness and flexibility.
AS: If appropriate, telephone your boss/employer to discuss your flexibility.
- Market your skills in similar job situations.
Despite the competition out there, make sure other employers (in your skills area) know you are available, and willing to make a contribution to their company. Don’t get dispirited by how many letters you send out or calls you make – you will get there eventually.
AS: Decide how many letters or calls you mean to send today and write/make them.
- Consider other types of work.
We all have more than one ‘career’ inside us; many people have changed from one job to a very different job. This may turn out to be the best decision they have ever made. It is maybe difficult to see this now, but be willing to consider other jobs and look into this.
AS: Write a list of 5 other jobs you might consider.
- Brainstorm options with someone: Don’t feel lovely.
Sit down with a friend, colleague or careers advisor and brainstorm sensible options for your next job/career. ‘Being a brain surgeon’ is an unlikely target for most of us, but let yourself consider unusual options; don’t just consider ‘what I’ve always done’; think outside the box.
AS: Contact a friend today and arrange a ‘brainstorming meeting’.
You sound as if you’ve been very proactive and energetic in looking for that next job. It’s not easy to keep going day after day. Your perseverance will, I’m sure, bear fruit eventually. However I wonder if your applications and interview skills could be letting you down? Here are some practical ideas to consider:
- Be clear, concise and relevant.
Whether you are applying on-line or by post you will be preparing some documentation. This should be clear, concise and relevant. Tell a future employer what you can do and have done. Remember they see several hundreds of forms – make yours the easiest and best one to read.
- Be enthusiastic about yourself.
You are your best PR person! Without being over-confident, let others know that you have a positive personality and skills which they could use – tell them what you have enjoyed doing and what your positive thoughts are for your next job (with them hopefully!)
AS: Look through your CV or next application and highlight negative and positive phrases.
- Make a good impression.
Once you are happy with the content, have another look at the overall impression given by your CV/form. Could it be tidier, printed in a different font or given an attractive front cover.
- No spelling mistakes.
Check 2 or 3 times for any spelling or punctuation mistakes – it may sound daft but these errors can make your CV go to the bottom of the pile……or worse.
AS: Check your CV twice for typing errors before sending off.
- Be positive on the telephone.
Sometimes a job is offered following a ‘good phone call’ where an employer likes the sound of voice, and helpful and enthusiastic vocal manner of the applicant. Don’t be afraid or bashful to ring someone up to discuss the job opportunity and how you could fill it.
AS: Phone a prospective employer and ask 3 sensible things about the job.
- Wear your best clothes.
What does the employer expect you to look like? Wear the clothes which best fit this expectation and which make you feel reasonably comfortable. Discuss this with one other person to make sure you have got it right.
AS: Let your appearance make a difference. Go smart.
- Get to the Interview early.
Research your journey (map, transport, possible problems) and leave plenty of time to get to the interview building early. This give you time to go to the loo, check your tie or hair or whatever, and, most importantly, relax for 5 minutes before the interview.
AS: Leave extra time to get to the interview early.
- Start the interview well.
Start the interview positively, talking in a clear and confident way. Keep eye contact and relax. They want to know what you are good at and have to offer, not to catch you out.
AS: Sit down relax, take a deep breath and show them your good points.
Looking for jobs, completing application forms and going for one interview after another is hard and can be very stressful. A positive and proactive approach holds no guarantees but does definitely increase your chances of success.
Dr. Hugh Koch is a clinical psychologist and co-author with his son James, of ‘Active Steps to Reducing Stress’. For more information and advice on finding the right job for you, visit the ‘Active Steps to Reducing Stress‘ web site at www.reducingstress.co.uk.