This article is originally published in the Executive Style.
Between jobs for longer than you expected? Seeing the weeks stretch into months can be disconcerting and depressing – and in a less-than-buoyant employment market, it’s an experience more Australians are becoming familiar with.
So what are the secrets to keeping despondency and desperation at bay while you get yourself back in the game?
Not allowing yourself to lapse into idleness, according to former Queensland Cricket CEO Geoff Cockerill, 48, who’s been looking for a new opportunity since April; the longest stretch he’s ever spent between gigs.
“The important thing is to still maintain a routine and still do what you do,” Cockerill says.
For him, the downtime has been spent balancing ‘non-brain busyness’ – think cleaning out the shed, organising old papers and the like – with professional reading, learning and networking.
When you’re at a senior executive level it can take you minimum of a year to find a job, if not longer.
If languishing on the lounge until Christmas isn’t your ideal outlook, then not being backward in coming forward about the fact that you’re seeking an opportunity is vital, Cockerill believes.
“There’s nothing wrong with being proactive and getting out there and saying you’re looking,” he says.
“Reach out to your networks and don’t be afraid to let it be known you’re in the market for work.”
Work your network
That means taking up invites to functions and events in person, as well as interacting regularly with LinkedIn connections, Cockerill adds: “Don’t be shy or intimidated … there’s many in the same position.”
The unemployment rate is sitting at 5.8 percent but Roy Morgan research suggests many more are hunting for work. According to its April estimates, some 2.4 million Australians, or 18.8 percent of the workforce, are unemployed or under-employed.
Get off the bench
Organisational change specialist Michelle Gibbings says those sitting on the bench need to be prepared to spend months rather than weeks waiting for their next gig to materialise.
“When you’re at a senior executive level it can take you minimum of a year to find a job, if not longer,” Gibbings says.
“Whereas if you’re in a more junior role, the expectation is it might take you three to six months … there is a sense that time span can stretch out.”
Think short term
Plan to spend it productively – updating your skills, volunteering, accepting short-term consulting gigs and staying connected with your network – Gibbings counsels.
As well as helping counter feelings of depression and desperation, looking and being busy shows would-be employers you’re a self-starter, not someone who whiles away the weeks crying into their coffee or playing Pokemon Go.
“If you don’t have things that are keeping you busy and mentally stimulated, the desperation even gets worse and you’ve also got nothing to talk about when you catch up with people from a networking perspective,” Gibbings says.
“Also, when you go and talk to prospective clients and prospective employers, they’re going to want to know, how are you spending your time, what are you doing?
“It’s incredibly important to keep both mentally fit [and] also physically fit because when you go into that environment and you’re being interviewed by people you need to look fresh and healthy and enthusiastic.”
Stay on top of things
Psychology Melbourne corporate psychologist Vanina Ambesi says negative emotions typically set in when unemployment stretches beyond three months.
Eating well, exercising and maintaining a good sleeping pattern help job seekers deal better with the anxieties and uncertainties, as does taking part regularly in an enjoyable activity or sport, she says.
Writing in a journal about her job seeking efforts helped Jennifer Hankin stay upbeat during the six months she spent working with a career coach and networking with potential employers before she scored her current role as head of marketing for a Melbourne start-up in May.
“I bought a calendar diary, a paper one, not one on my phone, and I wrote down every meeting I had, who I was meeting with,” Hankin says.
“So I can look back now and I can see I met with five people this week, I’m actually doing something… it’s keeping a record of what I’m doing.”
It’s a way of reminding yourself that you’re making progress, even if your efforts are yet to bear fruit, and it can help you give yourself permission to take time out, too.
“You can’t look for something every hour of the day,” Hankin says.
Five tips to find that job
1. The search is a job
If you’re serious about finding a job, experts suggest treating the search itself like one. That means starting and finishing at set times, setting daily and weekly targets and keeping systematic track of your efforts.
2. Revamp your resume
Still spruiking yourself with the same resume that served you well back in 2006? Ask a career specialist or friend to help you update your spiel to appeal to your target audience.
3. Look a little deeper
Research suggests more than 50 percent of jobs aren’t advertised – so ensuring you’re in the running means staying in touch with your network, online and in the flesh.
Can’t remember when you last learnt something new? Treat the time off as an opportunity to update your skills.
5. Stay social
Don’t opt out of the social swim – time spent with friends and family can boost your spirits and motivation.
Career Money Life has a great range of Career Coaches who can help you move on to your next big thing. Contact us to learn more.