We’ve heard the stories before. One day a friend, or family member walks into their workplace, the next, they are out of work. Sometimes this is expected, sometimes it’s a complete shock.
The reasons people find themselves looking for a new role is many and varied. In 2017, here in Australia we have the increasing casualisation of the workforce. This concept is not new, yet for many who find themselves looking for a new role it’s realities are quite confronting. 
In 2016, Bill Coppinger identified that 87% of all new jobs were part time jobs. As a careers professional who specialises in helping people make work work well for them, I have been assisting clients understand that the ideal of a permanent full-time job may be a thing of the past. Therefore, we can have a lot more people looking for work – those who are unemployed (without a job) and those who are under-employed (those who would like more work). Therefore, the competition for vacancies is fierce!
It is likely that you or someone close to you will find themselves in this awkward and uncomfortable situation. Given the nature of the changing labour force, being able to move from job to job, from contract to contract are skills that we all need to embrace regardless of your education, training or skill level. Being able to look for work has become its own literacy.
We may often joke or wish that we didn’t have a job so that we could pretend to be on holiday all the time. This is a lovely and fanciful idea if we have the financial resources to be able to support ourselves and our families, and where we have had the opportunity to exercise control over the choice to not work. Simply having our role taken away from us for one reason or another is not empowering and it does not fill us with joy where we exclaim “Yippee I can now be on a permanent holiday”.
The longer a person is not working, the seemingly harder it becomes to get a job. The Australian Federal Government spends a lot of money researching and funding programs specifically to help people who are known as Long Term Unemployed. What we also know, is that the longer a person is out of work, the more negative their health becomes. This means, the longer a person is out of work, the more ill-health they experience. We end up with the dilemma that a person can’t work because of ill health, however being off work is contributes to their ill-health. This is why the ‘good work is good for your health’ message is so vital to the health and wellbeing of Australian’s everywhere.
Looking for a new role can be hard. Being rejected for a new role is hard; dealing with rejection over a period of time is really hard. Lacking a sense of purpose is demoralising; worrying about money and how to feed our families is anxiety provoking. Not knowing if you will even be “wanted” or “valuable” again can be devastating.
Over the past 20 years in practice, I have observed some fundamental activities that can support health and wellbeing while looking for a new role.
- Keep your routine
Many people fall into the trap of going to bed later and waking up later. This might appear to be fun for a week or so, however after a few weeks this becomes a problem. It becomes increasingly difficult to get up at a “normal” time. If you are looking for a role during “office hours” then keep your awake routine to these hours. If you are looking for afternoon shift or night role, then maintain these working hours routine as much as possible. The last thing you need is to be offered a new role, and then turn up late on your first day because you couldn’t get out of bed.
It doesn’t take long for the habits to form of getting up later and later and later (some researchers say as little as 21 days). I have worked with many clients who was unable to meet with me before 11am because they simply had learned to stay awake until 2am, and then were unable to rise to get to a “looking for work” activity by 9am. It is not uncommon for us to have to start our programs with helping people to re-establish a work day routine.
- Beware of the screen time
Think about all the screens that we have at our disposal? We have TV, online streaming, tablets smart phones…… we have access to much screen based activity. However, a BIG trap that we can fall into is engaging with unhelpful, unresourceful and pretty much time-wasting screen time.
Chances are, if you are reading this article then you are a high achiever and you know that one way to effectively find your next role is to be online. However, the big trap for professionals and executives is knowing what is effective job search and networking online. If this is new to you or if you don’t know what to expect from a ROI in terms of your time spend, then please get informed.
It is way too easy to start out with an intention of “I’ll just post this to Linked In” only to find 3 hours later you haven’t yet made a post, yet you have found a lot of interesting information that may or may not be useful that may have completely overwhelmed you and left you feeling out of date, confused and less than.
While it might be smart to update yourself on industry current trends and to follow thought leaders in your sphere of influence, it’s not the best use of your time and energy to be online in front of a screen 8 hours a day. Be smart – plan your screen time effectively. Make it a thing you do intentionally. And don’t forget we have a range of educational and informative resources delivered in all kinds of ways these days.
Conversely, while it is true that you will need to use a screen, your smart phone, tablet, computer to help you with your job search, it would not be wise to commence 8 hours of gaming a day. Or binge watch Game of Thrones for a month. Or become addicted to Oprah and Dr Phil. Please don’t replace the time and energy you used to have for work and work activity with Call of Duty.
The screen is a tool. The best tools make us effective and efficient. Like the first point, keep your routine. This includes being aware of how much screen time creep is occurring in your day and then replacing this screen time with purposeful, deliberate activities that can help you become a more desirable and competitive candidate for employment.
- Engage with people.
One of the most alarming features of people who have been looking for a new role for a few weeks is their tendency to become increasingly isolated. There are lots of reasons for this. There is the shame of not having a job; there is the fear of being judged by family, there is discomfort of not having anything to talk about with friends and there is the knawing self-doubt that kicks in where we start to ask if there is something wrong with me because I can’t get another role.
The more we isolate ourselves the greater our tendency towards shame and guilt. The more we isolate ourselves the more we will feel less inclined to be able to make a call about a role, turn up for an interview, or even write an application. We need people, and we need relationships to help get us through this season.
Although I could not find any specific research, I do know from 20 years of anecdotal evidence that most people get a new role through their connections and people they know rather than applying for an advertised vacancy. Using our own personal networks therefore is that important in our search for new work. This doesn’t mean you hit up everyone you meet for a new role, but it might mean letting people know that you are looking for work, the type of work you are looking for and being prepared to follow up on any leads or opportunities that your friends, families and contacts might have for you. Be respectful. No one owes you a job. You have a responsibility to be positioned as the best possible candidate for a job.
- Try something new.
Keeping our brains engaged day in and day out while we are not working can be tough. However, our Brain is like a muscle and if we don’t exercise it, it became weaker and then it becomes harder for us to learn or relearn things. This is why it can feel so difficult when we get a new role and go to do things that used to be so easy for us – like using a piece of software or recalling information from a meeting. I cannot tell you how many clients have come to me worried that they have a brain disease because they can’t keep all the information they used to be able to in their head. It’s important that we keep the neurons firing and our cognitive abilities strong. There are some fun ways we can do this while we are looking for our next role:
- Learn a new skill. This doesn’t have to be work related. This could be a new language, how to write creatively; photography; some type of dance. The there is a vast range of learning opportunities from places such as https://www.linkedin.com/learning/me.
There are workshops and course available almost everywhere. Think cooking classes, wine appreciation, improve your golf swing; how to edit photographs; salsa dancing; drumming. What about a book club or reading circle. You will be surprised when you start taking notice, workshops and training are everywhere.
- Learn or update a “credential” or qualification. How long has it been since you did any personal or professional development? Would it help position you as an ideal candidate if you achieve another credential, or a new level of a qualification that you already hold. While employer’s these days are more interested in knowing what you can do for them, rather than knowing what you have done – being able to identify how you have used your time while looking for a new role is really really important to a new employer. This speaks to your character, your commitment and your tenacity. These are not skills that are usually taught, employers want us to turn up with these characteristics.
- Get moving
Moving our bodies is a fantastic way to help us feel better emotionally. Often when we are at work, we are moving more than when we are on holidays or when we are looking for our next role. It’s just one of those things we do. We seem to become more sedentary and much less active. Now I’m sure we all know the benefits of exercise and moving, in fact some of you reading this are probably groaning with the thought of the word exercise. Hear me out.
This is a practical guide to help you stay healthy when you are looking for your next role, so it would be remiss of me to not bring this to your attention. Now I’m not suggesting that you start training for a marathon. However, what we do know is that exercise helps us more than just physically. It helps us emotionally too. If you are serious about wanting a new role, then you will want to keep yourself in the shape you are in for work. How embarrassing would it be to turn up on your first day not be able to make it through your day because your fitness for the work was so poor. (Think of walking up a flight or 3 of stairs while your new boss is powerwalking up the stairs and you are gasping and groaning trying to keep up. What will that do to your personal brand?).
Would you like to know some other mental and emotional benefits of exercise?
- Sharper memory and thinking (addressing point #4)
- Increases self-esteem (addressing point #3)
- Improves sleep (addressing point #1)
- Improves energy (addressing point #1)
- Stronger resilience – well now this is the icing on the cake!
Here are some really easy ways you can get moving while you are looking for your next role:
- Got a dog? Take him/her for a walking morning and evening. Don’t have your own dog, how about you do a neighbour a favour and offer to take their dog for a walk for them. Maybe you could start dog-walking for a small fee for your neighbourhood?
- Walk with your kids to school or the bus stop and back morning and afternoon.
- Get your step count up to 10,000 steps per day.
- If you find yourself talking on the phone quite a lot walk around while talking (this is how I personally get my step count up each day).
- Meet some friends, or other new role seekers and go for a 30-minute walk, or swim or ride every “work” day. What a great way to help you with maintaining a work routine.
If you are currently not working and you want a new role, then your job is to get a new role. It has been the goal of this article to help you make this easier by making sure you look after your health and wellbeing while you are going through this stage of life.
Please remember that No one owes you a job. You have a responsibility to be positioned as the best possible candidate for a job and being healthy enough to be able to work is one key way that we position ourselves to be the best possible candidate for a job.