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Building Resilience During Job Search

Written by Shelley Jensen-Decker, MJP Career Counselor

Job search is tough during normal times. Creating your target company list, completing lengthy applications, customizing letters and résumés, and networking, are all hard work. Add a pandemic, and it becomes much more challenging. Resilience is a skill we all possess to varying degrees – and it’s critical to strengthen that skill during these extraordinary times.

The definition of resiliency, according to Merriam-Webster, is “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.” Social scientists know that human beings are hardwired to overcome obstacles, and we can strengthen our resilience through tough times such as unemployment.

Below are tried and true principles that, when used by our clients, have resulted in an improved emotional state, resiliency, and new jobs!

Create & Stick to a Daily Routine

Your job search is now your job. While you don’t have to be as structured as you were in your previous job, you do need a routine and schedule. It is tempting to procrastinate looking for a job while you work on one more home project or binge your favorite Netflix series. On the flip side, it is also tempting to spend all your waking hours in a job search. Both extremes are a quick path to burn out, anxiety, and depression.

Start by establishing parameters for your job search. Studies show that spending five hours daily on job search is the sweet spot, if you are engaged in productive activities. A good guideline for structuring your time is:

  • 70 percent on networking activities, such as researching contacts or arranging a virtual networking meeting.

  • 20 percent on foundational activities, such as a skills assessment or solidifying your brand.

  • 10 percent on applying to online job postings, as this is one of the least productive job search activities. Did you know that only 12 percent of all jobs are found by applying online?

Focus on Your Successes

It is easy to feel like a failure when you don’t get immediate results or receive multiple rejections from job applications. As human beings, we begin to focus on our perceived weaknesses or areas where we feel we are lacking.

Rather than focusing on the negative, take an inventory of your strengths and abilities. Write down your accomplishments from your personal and professional life. Most of us are not accustomed to talking about our successes and have been programmed to think it is bragging. If you need help with this, ask former co-workers or look at performance reviews. This will go far in lifting your mood.

Being engaged will also boost your confidence. Volunteer at a favorite non-profit or professional organization. Spend time with family members or friends that recognize your talents. Or go to your yoga class where you know that your crow pose is better than most seasoned instructors.

Don’t forget to give yourself a tangible reward for your accomplishments. Take time to celebrate your wins!

Find A Mentor

Having a trusted confidant who can provide feedback on your job search and will be a sounding board when you need to vent eliminates the feeling that you are in this alone.

Stay Connected

A common mistake for many job seekers is to hop onto the computer and conduct job search exclusively online. This is inefficient and ineffective. Eighty percent of all jobs are found through networking; only 12 percent are found online. Conducting an online job search also leads to isolation and loneliness, which negatively impacts job search.

Being connected to others is key! Don’t assume that you can’t network in a pandemic. Platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Office Teams are excellent ways to meet up with others. For those of you who fear the idea of networking, think about this: networking is talking to others and building relationships. That is something we all do daily. Reach out to others for ideas, support, and information, and offer the same to them. You will feel better for it.

Engage Your Brain

Even if you are doing everything right, job hunting can still take you down. It’s okay to acknowledge that you’re at a low point, but don’t stay there! How you manage the ebb and flow of job search makes all the difference. Resilience researchers have discovered that people who successfully navigate life’s inevitable challenges have learned to train their brains. Consider these strategies:

  • Revisit how you handled past difficulties – were your strategies effective? We can use past coping strategies to help steer us through present difficulties.

  • Develop an attitude of gratitude. What are the opportunities in your current circumstances? What are you grateful for? Think of three things daily and write them down. Perhaps the gift of time to find a better opportunity. Or, to finally work for one of your target companies.

  • Realize what you can’t control and let it go. Focus instead on things you can influence. An employer did not select you for the job? Well, that is their loss. Think instead of the lucky employer who is going to land you! Or, you don’t have control over your age but can control how you position it in a positive light – you have expertise.


This is closely related to your brain health. You must take care of yourself to be resilient and productive in any situation.

The obvious things to do include exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Also consider turning your attention to things that make you happy, such as a treasured hobby or a creative pursuit. In addition, research shows that practicing mindfulness through breathing, meditation, or yoga positively impacts anxiety and depression. Consider incorporating these into your daily regimen during job search.

Job search tests even the toughest person. Be kind to yourself, start with small steps, and use the tools discussed to be resilient during your job search.

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