Searching for a job right now? Here are some tips to help you keep your head safely above those perilous waters.
1. Get Up Everybody
Get up at the same time as your working husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/flatmate/etc every single day. Lying in bed till midday when you are thirty-three and job hunting is not the same as lying in bed when you are twenty-three after a night out on the town. Believe me, it holds no pleasure and pretty soon the guilt will get you. That elusive job you really want will not come looking for you, hidden beneath the warm duvet. It can be exceedingly tough but drag yourself out of bed and embrace the day! (I know, I know. I'm annoying myself).
2. U Got the Look
Make sure you wash and get dressed immediately on rising. In normal clothes. It sounds straightforward I know, but before you know it, it is midday and you are still festering in your favourite tartan pyjamas tapping away on your laptop. Dressed? Well done! But seriously, you are wearing that? Step away. Those baggy, nomadic travel trousers paired with that t-shirt may have looked edgy at this summer's festival three pints of cider down, but believe me, you will feel foolish when the postman knocks, your Amazon delivery arrives or you bump into a neighbour while popping out to get milk looking like a deranged hippy in sequins. I am not talking high fashion or channelling your inner supermodel, just wear something relatively normal. I promise that it will leave you better prepared for the day ahead and help keep you focused and motivated. Power dressing! So ‘80s, but so good.
Sounds a bit bossy and rigid, but stay in control of your day and compartmentalise your activities. Clever planning is the key to a productive and happy you. Make a clear, realistic and attainable list the night before of what you want to achieve the following day – activity relating to your job search, those pesky admin tasks/online banking/birthday cards to write, a personal email you have been meaning to send for ages etc and build these activities into your day.
Writing a plan the night before will set you up for the day ahead. Do not waste time writing an elegant list in the morning or making it look fancy or even colour-coordinated. Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin. (I just looked that up). Factor in breaks to avoid burn out and if you are meeting a friend for lunch, build that into your plan too and work hard right up to the point where you need to leave. Guaranteed you will enjoy it more and can reward yourself for your hard work and amazing superpowers of organisation.
Do not, however, beat yourself up if you have not achieved everything you intended to. Maybe you overloaded your list. No problem at all – just stick it on tomorrow’s list.
So to compartmentalise is to conquer. It will give you a sense of achievement that you might be lacking right now. There is something really rather satisfying about ticking something off of your list. ‘Watch E! News’. Check.
4. Banana Pancakes (and other food)
Always eat breakfast - at breakfast time. This does not mean eat Crunchy Nut Cornflakes out of the packet with one hand at 10.45am while typing a covering letter with the other. A proper breakfast will set you up for the day. Have a spot of lunch too, and do what you would normally do if you were at work during your lunch break (improvise creatively if you do not have a flagship Top Shop opposite your house). Ensure you drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Bored of water? Simply add a slice of lemon, lime or mint to add some zest. Nibble on super foods throughout the day, especially if you are at home. Nuts, whole grain foods, berries, eggs, green tea, and even dark chocolate can have a powerful effect on the brain’s energy, how your mind handles tasks and your general mood.
5. You’re the Best Around
Stay positive and dare to be courageous. Pah, easy for you to say! I hear you shout. Look, do not get me wrong. I know how terrifically hard it is and some days you just feel like telling your PMA to FO (that's positive mental attitude and the second word of the second acronym is Off). Quite frankly, it all feels like the biggest ball ache ever (this word is a trademark of Ms Carolyn Dickson and Ms Sarah Louise Carter-Hounslow).
In the words of Dickens, it is all about Great Expectations. Research has shown that if you think what you want often you get it. So go get it. Always wanted to work in retail marketing? Do some research, find out how to apply and fling over your CV with a stand out covering letter firmly attached to the back of it. You never know, Mary Portas might be that very moment scratching her head thinking 'hmm, if only I had a super efficient HR person to complete my flourishing empire' as your email hits her PA’s inbox. Don't try, don't get.
6. That’s What Friends are For
I am going to be honest now. Or transparent which is a very good HR word. In my darkest moments when my nearest and dearest have had (in my mind) the audacity to moan about their jobs, my inner voice has shouted but at least you have a job! and I have wanted to flounce off somewhere and sob. But that is entirely unfair. Yes, it feels safe and secure to be in full-time or even contracted employment but that does not necessarily mean it is not highly stressful, mindbogglingly dull or involves an interaction with a boss who would make Anna Wintour seem like, really really sweet. Try not to take it personally. Be empathetic - not envious. Listen and offer words of advice or an open ear. You will be moaning about your job again before you know it.
Having said that, surround yourself with good, positive people and let their concerned and helpful vibes be the fuel that drives you. Thank the ones that genuinely want to help and keep an eye out for any opportunities for you. Avoid the ones who make you feel bad for now.
7. The Lazy Song
Give yourself a break and do things you could only dream of when your last job had you chained to your desk at 8.00pm. Meet your maternity leave friends fora cheap bite, read the book that everyone has been talking about. Spend time with children - they can make any miserable day seem utterly joyous just with a smile (by this I mean children you know, like ones in your family or whose mother is your friend. Not random children).
Take a break in a coffee shop or pub and read a book instead of a professional update. Hey, go crazy and order a glass of wine. Feels good right? Stop feeling guilty. If you have followed my advice you would have compartmentalised your day, worked really hard and done something brave today so cut yourself some slack. Besides, if you were at work you would not be working every single millisecond of the day. You would stop every now and then for a breather. So stop.
8. I Like to Move It
Do something active every day. I am not referring to a feat of marathonian proportions. Go for a walk, hit the gym, try that rumba class in the church hall you could never get to. Dance on your own at home. Exercise decreases the stress hormones such as cortisol and increases endorphins. Endorphins are the body's natural feel good chemicals, and when they are released through exercise, your mood is boosted naturally. Just half an hour a day will keep you alert, focused and positive – and give you a break away from the dastardly screen.
9. You’re the Devil in Disguise
Do not, whatever you do, sell your soul to the devil AKA the recruitment consultant. Some recruitment agencies are utterly brilliant. They get back to you when they say they will. They address you by the correct name, which is a plus. They have your best interests at heart and want to find you a job you can do, not a quick fix to nail their targets and earn their sizeable commission (to my followers in the recruitment world, that is you!).
Some however are twaddle. They have an accredited qualification in reverse psychology. They do not pay attention to a single word you say about your needs, your aspirations. You would rather do anything, anything at all, then schlep to their offices, complete a 92-page registration form, suffer the humiliation of talking about what you did in 2001 only to have them say ‘OK, we don’t have anything for you at the moment’ at the end of the two hours.
So be selective and only go to the agencies where you feel confident they can help you. Remember, there are hundreds of agencies but only a handful of good ones. You are in control. Do not rely on recruitment agencies only; cast the net as wide as you possibly can. Network with all your contacts you have made over the years, use LinkedIn, make direct approaches to organisations, and scour the best job boards. Do not put all your CVs in one basket.
10. Don’t Worry Be Happy
Do something every day that makes you smile, and treat yourself. This depends on what floats your boat and what your bank account permits. Me? The former is fashion and music and the latter is that mine permits bugger all. So today I looked at Tim Walker's website, YouTubed one of my favourite film scenes
and played my current favourite song very, very loud. Earthquake by Labrinth ft. Tinie Tempah since you are asking. Hi-wired synths and massive beats and scattered with a few obscenities (see point 11). Plus this is a win-win situation as hopefully it disturbs the person on my street who is playing euro-house music way too loud for three pm on a Monday afternoon. Right back at you.
11. (You’ve got me feeling) Emotions
Warning. This follows directly after point 10.
Ride the emotional rollercoaster - cry, swear, mope, just do what feels good and go with what you are feeling that day. Some days you are utterly sick to your back teeth of rejection. The only job you possibly have the skills to apply for is based in Peterborough and you are all LinkedOut. You feel hopeful when the first email in two hours pops into your inbox only to discover it is from a sender named Wasteland Ski and there is Only 4 more days to get Free Goggles!
There is no denying it, job hunting sucks. Crying is thought to reduce stress and may go some way to remove toxic substances from the body. So go on, have a big old sob and let it all out. Then breathe, blow your nose and focus on the task ahead. Still not done? Swearing is good. Try it. It will make you feel empowered. Just avoid using this tactic on actual people; that is just rude. Finally, have a good mope about. Idly flick through the TV channels, nonchalantly peruse the contents of the fridge, scrutinize the IKEA catalogue for a sofa bed. Believe me, you will soon become fatigued.
12. Daydream Believer
Lastly, job hunting can get you down. It is a thankless task that involves too much time on your own. So why not pursue another interest or hobby that you have been putting off for years or do something you simply never have time to do. Hopeful horticulturist? Budding Buddhist? Amateur Astrologist? Or do you just simply want to clean out that pesky kitchen cupboard or transfer your summer clothes into storage to prepare your wardrobe for autumnal wear? Use this time productively while you have it and try to squeeze something out of every day. Build it into your 'list' and as long as you dedicate sufficient and proportionate time to finding a job, there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty.
It will give you that all important sense of achievement, an extra string to add to your bow and who knows where it'll take you. It is OK to dream.
Keep the faith, hunters and good luck.