Anyone who has ever been between jobs and on the hunt for their next full-time role knows how daunting being unemployed can feel. Massive amounts of anxiety and feelings of frustration often run amok.
Today, I’m here to share a few tips on how to keep your sanity while you’re unemployed and job searching. Having experienced all these feelings myself, I have found that these three priorities helped me greatly with not going crazy while unemployed.
Master your mindset
This first step is essential to your job search and is incredibly valuable for your life: prioritizing the act of mastering your mindset.
What do I mean by “mastering your mindset” exactly? Being able to control your thoughts. It’s a Cognitive Behavior Psychology (CBP) technique, which I first heard about from Brooke Castillo’s podcast, The Life Coach School, and right after I heard about it there, I experienced it firsthand in personal talk therapy sessions with a therapist.
CBP explains that your thoughts create your feelings and your feelings drive your actions, which ultimately create your results in all parts of your life. My mind experienced several “aha!” moments after learning about this concept.
When you’re job searching, the process can feel so difficult and exhausting, right? What if you could nip those feelings in the bud and start feeling encouraged, excited even, to find your next role? That’s what CBP techniques teach you. They are techniques that focus on how to manage your thoughts, like truly manage them, where you can pause and say to yourself, “Why am I thinking what I’m thinking right now?” and be able to change those thoughts to better serve you.
Instead of having a ton of negative self-talk (“I can’t do this”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’ll never get an interview”, etc.), be your own advocate and say positive affirmations about yourself and your situation. “The right opportunity is coming for me”, “I am well qualified and able to do everything this company needs help with”, and “I am an amazing catch” are a few affirmations that I tell myself.
Moreso, you can even write the affirmations down in a journal, if it helps. When you start to believe the positive statements you’re saying to yourself, that’s when your actions and results start to reflect your mindset, and the real magic starts to happen.
No doubt, it takes time and practice, and I am by no means an expert in CBP, as I’m in the midst of practicing these techniques myself. If you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend that you listen to The Life Coach School podcast episode #19, Thought Management, to get a more thorough understanding of how to do this for yourself. It has been significant in transforming the way I approach my own mindset and attitude towards myself in life and especially during unemployment.
Create and stick to a daily routine
Even when you’re unemployed, you still need to maintain a routine for yourself. Why is that so important? When you’re working, you have a daily routine where you get up, get ready for your workday, go to work, etc. etc… Did you know that sticking to a routine has proven to decrease decision-making, which can lower stress levels?
During a job search, you want to experience the least amount of stress as possible –– am I right? Enter: a daily routine. The key to a routine is having as many decisions made already, which helps conserve your brain’s willpower. Overthinking can kill your productivity.
Brainstorm and jot down a basic outline of what your unemployed days will look like.
Here’s what my days look like:
For me, getting up at the same time each day is a great start. It provides some much-needed structure first thing in the morning. I feed my pup and take her outside. Next, I eat breakfast. I prefer to have only two options for breakfast (a carb heavy option like oats with peanut butter, banana, and pecans or a protein heavy option like scrambled eggs with spinach, bell peppers, chicken sausage, and a pinch of garlic). My decision is based off of what I’m craving that day, so it’s either one or the other to choose from to kickstart my metabolism. After breakfast, I make the bed and get dressed.
Since I’m practicing mastering my mindset, I’ll read a daily affirmation from a book, “A Year of Positive Thinking” by Cyndie Spiegel. I usually read the affirmation three times over before moving on to the next part of my routine.
Because I am a morning person, I like to do heads-down, focused work first thing. I’ll spend 2-3 hours working on my job search. That may be tailoring my resume and cover letter to an open role I’m going to apply to and submitting for the job, having informational phone calls with people in the industry that I want to work in, or going to a coffee shop and meeting someone in person to network and pick their brain.
After that time passes, I move on with my day. I usually spend time with my dog, take her on a walk outside, play fetch, and get all the snuggles –– it’s quite a relaxing and enjoyable time of day for me. It also feels like a clean break in my day.
After I tire out my dog, I usually jump back onto my laptop and work on an online course to continue building new skills. Right now, I’m working on an online course where I’ll get certified in Adobe Creative Suite, which will be hugely beneficial in the marketing field that I want to work. Learning new skills and techniques is so fascinating and keeps my mind sharp. Plus, I can reference these new skillsets when I interview with potential employers, which shows that I take initiative and take advantage of my ‘free time’.
Once the typical 9-5 workday is finished, I allow myself to mostly shut-off and enjoy leisure activities, which might be working out, watercolor painting, or catching up with friends. One or two times a week, I’ll have a networking event in the evening, and I’ll go to those and have a goal of connecting with 2-3 people who may be able to help me with job opportunities/referrals.
I don’t have a completely strict schedule; if something comes up, and I want/need to do it, I will. However, having a basic daily routine helps me stay structured and productive throughout without having to make a million little decisions about how I’m going to spend my time or what I’m going to prioritize.
Seek out opportunities to give back
Who doesn’t feel great when they are making a positive impact in the world? While you have the spare time, I encourage you to look up some volunteer opportunities, whether they’re in your field of expertise or simply a field you’re passionate about, and give back with your time. You could even incorporate this activity as a part of your routine. Plus, you can list volunteer experiences on your LinkedIn profile too.
Nowadays, many volunteer opportunities can be done remotely, such as supporting non-profit projects (look at VolunteerMatch, Idealist, or DoSomething), while other opportunities require in-person support like walking dogs at an animal shelter or tutoring kids after school. Either way, doing something selfless is bound to make you feel good, and you never know, it may lead to a valuable networking connection or prospective job opportunity down the road.
Being unemployed and job searching can feel like a huge challenge, but working on mastering your mindset, maintaining a daily routine, and seeking out opportunities to give back can help you significantly with creating structure and experiences that make this time in your life feel much more manageable and possibly, even enjoyable.
What tips do you have for keeping your sanity during a period of unemployment?