Think over your day-to-day existence, and all the things you do on a regular basis. Whether you lead a hectic life or something more sedate and quiet, whatever your normal behaviour is has become your personal ‘normal’. A big part of that normal behaviour may include going to work and spending a considerably large chunk of your day surrounded by co-workers, and then coming home at the end of the working part of your day. When you cease to work, that normal part of your day throws your life out of sync, and you’ve got a large block of time to fill on a daily basis.
Consider someone for example who retires after a long, prosperous working life. For decades the person has gone to work on a daily basis and now looks forward to days of less structured time, pursuing other interests. For some of those retirees, things work out well and they quickly substitute work life with golfing, gardening, reading, trips, time with grandkids etc. For others, it isn’t a smooth transition, and they miss the routine of work so much that they start volunteering with organizations to stay busy, or they can experience a mental breakdown because they’ve lost part of their identity and don’t know what to do with their time to feel valuable and fulfilled.
For you the job seeker, it is likely that some of the anxiety you are experiencing comes largely from this loss of identity and purpose. Waking up, you’ve got nowhere to be, no one to produce work for, and you aren’t identified by others in the same way most other people you will meet are; as a working person for some employer. Get a job, and you’ll find that you are once again in sync, much of your day has purpose, and your identity is restored. In short, you’ve swung the pendulum back to a regular rhythm and things are more ordered.
Until that day comes when you are once again employed, there are a number of things you can do that will help with the anxiety you may be experiencing. First of all, try to maintain a somewhat regular schedule of waking up at the same time, and doing a regular routine of hygiene (shower, shave, hair) followed by a healthy breakfast. Give yourself a task list for the day, primarily containing job search activities. This would include applying for jobs, looking at new postings, making phone calls, adjusting resumes and cover letters, updating your social media sites, networking, and following up on past applications.
Somewhere in your day, you might also pay some attention to anything you need to do around the home. Now while I don’t want to seem to contradict earlier blogs where I’ve suggested focusing 100% on your job search, spending a fraction of a day doing some things around the house can make you feel good about getting things done that you’ve been putting off. It can also demonstrate to a spouse who leaves for work that you are paying attention to their needs and wants. Just make sure that you give your job search first priority and don’t get to a point where your job search suffers because of household projects.
A good practice is to make up your list of things needing done around the house and then tackle some of those things in a set block of time, say an afternoon in the middle of the week. This way you don’t get the guilty feeling, things get done, and if for example a job interview is arranged, you defer the household projects until another day.
Being out of work is an emotional rollercoaster, with highs and lows. When there is no regular routine that you can count on your day lacks direction and purpose. Ironically, being out of sync at this point is normal; but not a normal you want to experience any longer than absolutely necessary. This same feeling can happen by the way if you feel trapped in a job you don’t want, doing things you weren’t trained to do, and not living the life you had expected. There is an inner turmoil going on inside with part of you needing whatever job you are doing, and another part that is struggling to point your compass in another direction altogether, and get back in harmony with whatever job you would find most fulfilling. For example if you went to school and got a job in your field of training in another country and then came to Canada only to drive a cab, you would experience this anxiety.
Sometimes what can help is getting out a piece of paper and plotting where you are and where you want/need to eventually be. Now write down what has to be done to move you in that direction. Do you need more schooling, training or volunteer work in that area? Is a physical move required to get closer to the employers you want to work for? What’s blocking your way and setting you back? A pardon? Stable housing? Figure it out and write it down. Now what has to be done to remove those barriers? Of course in the end you have to take action to remove those barriers to the job you really want.
Getting back to whatever is normal for you personally is extremely important. During this time, you might seek the help of a professional who can assist you in plotting out your possible plan of action. If this isn’t your area of expertise and you don’t know how to get started, book an appointment with a Career Advisor or Employment Counsellor. Whether their services are free or you pay them for their time, it will be time well spent because you’ll see a point in your future where your personal balance is restored. That in turn, can give you something to hold on to at a time in your life when you are floundering and have no apparent direction and purpose.
All the very best.