Changing Jobs

Treating the Side-Effects of Unemployment

Written by Miranda Pennington

While tips on networking and crafting the perfect resume and cover letter appear online day in and day out, the elements of self-care that go into a job search are no less important! Writer Amy-Louise Goldberg proffers up her “6 Ps” for managing job-search stress. Briefly, they are “planning, persistence, perspective, positivity, physical attentiveness and ‘phriends and phamily.’ “

Planning is not only a great tool for mapping out the logistics of your job search strategy–finding open positions, preparing your materials, applying and following up appropriately–but is also a terrific way to alleviate anxiety and that feeling of helplessness that often pervades a period of unemployment. There’s something about writing out a to-do list with checkboxes that leads to a feeling of relief. Don’t be afraid to write out even the smallest steps on a bad day–checking off “take a shower” and “eat breakfast” can give you that little jolt of accomplishment you need tackle the bigger tasks of the day. Plan long-term for the next few months, and short-term for the next few days; when one list stymies you, you can find something on the other to get you moving again.

Be persistent in your search; Goldberg suggestions managing your expectations by “[assuming] a conservative average ‘hit’ rate of one interview per 15 resumes sent, and one interview per 15 contacts generated. On the positive side, assume that half that number–1 in 8-interviews–may yield an offer (since you already made it to the interview stage).” Hold on to your sense of perspective as well–it’s a tough climate, but not an impossible for a tenacious job-seeker. Instead of beating yourself up for each setback or letdown, each unanswered email or awkward interview, focus on what each experience has taught you. You can even practice developing narratives about “a time you overcame an obstacle” to bring out in future interviews.

Taking care of yourself physically is as important as preparing yourself on paper; make sure you’re getting enough sleep, good nutrition, and exercise to keep your spirits up and your body healthy. Something as simple as weekly yoga, a daily walk, or a break to stand up and stretch every hour may help keep you tuned up.

Another element of being unemployed that takes a toll is the feeling of isolation; everyone else is going off to work at more or less regular hours, and it’s easy to feel left behind. That’s why Goldberg recommends “phriends and phamily” as the final piece of the pie–stay in touch with friends and former colleagues. Even an article with “read this and thought of you” can help you feel connected and keep conversations ongoing. Find “running buddies” among your freelancing and fellow job-seeking friends; meet up for “apply-athons” in local cafes or take turns hosting one another at home. You aren’t alone, and this isn’t forever. Take good care of yourself and the job search will follow!

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.