The Key to Your New Job is You: Self-Care During the Job Hunt

by Kate Kosturski, Senior Editor and Volunteer Coordinator
previously published 3/31/14

The Key to Your New Job is You: Self-Care During the Job Hunt

kate_kosturski_photo2While your resume/CV, cover letter, and other professional presence are vital to landing your new job, don’t overlook another key component of the puzzle:  you.   All those documents I mentioned above can be in tip-top shape, but if you’re not at your best, you’re not going to land that great job you so desire. For example, if you’re not sleeping right, you’re going to look groggy and less than enthusiastic during the interview, or have little to no energy to apply for jobs.

Many of my INALJ colleagues have tackled aspects of this subject previously.   Former Pennsylvania Head Editor Julie Watson writes  about managing your emotions during the job hunt. Former Maryland Head Editor Adrith Bedore Bicchieri talks about what to do when that three month unemployment time becomes the six month and nine month unemployment time – in other words, when a sprint becomes a marathon. Similar to Adrith, I tackled the topic of burnout last year.

To add to my colleagues’ great work, here are my tips for making sure you are the best You that you can be.

Stay on a normal sleep schedule.  When you don’t hold a 9-5 Monday through Friday work schedule, it’s very tempting to stay up until all hours of the night and sleep during the day.  Had I not been unemployed after I had graduated library school, I would have never discovered the comic genius of Craig Ferguson. But, once your body adjusts to a new sleep schedule, it can take some time to go back.  Remember when your mom (or maybe it was just my mom?) made you start going to bed early the week before school started so your body could prepare for going to bed earlier and getting up earlier?  She was on to something.

Don’t believe me?  Come chat with my friend who is a night shift nurse at a hospital in the Midwest. Whenever she has to switch to a day schedule, i.e. for a training course, her body has a hard time adjusting to the new schedule. (These days, she’s also a new mother, so I am convinced that she just doesn’t sleep anymore.)

Eat right and exercise.  It’s tempting to skimp on the food and exercise budget when you’re unemployed – who needs to eat a full meal when you can just chow down on an energy bar while pumping out cover letters?  And the gym is too expensive – cancel it and you can save the money!  In the short term, neglecting good health leaves you fatigued – and in the long term, sets you up for serious health problems!  Make sure you’re eating your three full meals (and snacks when you’re hungry) and keeping your daily diet as nutritious as possible (you’re probably too old to live off the ramen and Spaghetti O’s diet of college, anyway).   Look for inexpensive ways to exercise, like a local YMCA or running around your neighborhood (which I did when I was unemployed – and since this was during the summer, this also forced me to get up early before the day got hot!)

Put your financial house in order.  If you’re a Type A like me, you may feel a need to control your job search, which you can’t do easily once the application leaves your hands.   What you can do is control your finances, especially if you are unemployed. Make sure the important bills (rent, student loans) get paid. Call your credit card companies to explain your employment situation – many credit card companies have plans in place to lower or suspend monthly payments when you are out of work.  And above all – make sure to file for unemployment insurance in your state or territory!  Even if you do not think you are eligible, most likely you are for certain benefits, and the payments you receive can help.  The process in many states is managed virtually, so you don’t have to take time out of your day to go to the unemployment office to file in person – it can be all done online or via telephone.

Relax – you are not a machine.  I find those job articles that tell you to treat searching for a job like a full time job to be unrealistic at times.  The human body is not a machine; everyone needs a break.  There’s no need to spend 8 consecutive hours a day, five days a week, looking for a job (especially if you’re already working full time) – break it up in the schedule that fits for you.  If you want to take a break in the middle of the day for a run (which you should be doing), go for it.  If you find that you have to pick the kids up from school/daycare/afterschool activities in the middle of the day, do it.  Your job postings will be there when you get back (assuming you have them bookmarked in a bookmarking site, i.e. Pinboard or Instatpaper).

And if you want to take the day off from the job search, by all means, do so.  Stepping away from INALJ or LibGig or ALA JobList will help clear your head – and this has been proven by psychology.  When you find yourself in a brain rut, that’s when the creative ideas that come in through your right brain find themselves in the logical side of your brain (the left brain), where they’re being shot down.  By walking away, you shut both sides of the brain off and then reopen that creative right brain to new ideas.  (And as I have said earlier, it’s also okay to take a longer break from the job search if there are other things in your life that are taking precedence.)

Have your own tips to share?   I’ll be hosting the 21 April 2014 INALJ Twitter chat (evening session) on just this topic, so please join us to share your own ideas!