I had a conversation today with a candidate who was on the verge of tears. They’d been looking for work without much luck and to make matters worse they’re an expat, so on top of their frustrations with their job search they were also feeling out of place, alone, and without support.
This is a terrible situation to be in, and I really felt for them. It struck such a chord with me it made me want to reach out, give some general advice, and hopefully help them and others that may be in the same boat.
My first piece of advice is for job seekers specifically (the others are much more general), and that’s to not let your job search consume you. You are much more than what you do, and whatever work you end up in should not define who you are. Prioritise the job search as such. Limit yourself to job seeking for a maximum of two hours per day. The rest of the time do what you want to do, and what ultimately you need to do to keep yourself in good spirits and with a healthy sense of well-being.
This is important because the job market is tough. The current theory is that on average it takes three months to secure a new job. When you consider things like interview scheduling, notice periods, etc., it makes sense. There are odd occasions when the process can take a week total, but this is exceedingly rare.
Another thing to consider is that new roles are released relatively infrequently, and are not filled on a whim. You will not achieve much by burning yourself out trying to apply to every job on the first day. Better to take a couple of hours, do your research, apply for a few jobs that look interesting, and then leave it for the day. This prevents you from getting too frustrated and the quality of your applications will also be higher. The dream job that you didn’t have time to apply for today will still be there tomorrow; you won’t miss out and you’ll be better prepared to tackle it when you’re rested and happy.
My second piece of advice is to let yourself rely on a support network.
Even if you’re now separated by many miles, it’s easier than it’s ever been to keep in touch with those we love and those that we’re close to. Video calling from the likes of Skype and FaceTime means that even if you’re in a new country your support network is never far away.
Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is admit we need help. However, we’re so full of pride that we often can’t bear to let others see us as weak. So we struggle on, taking blow after blow without letting on to anyone else that we’re in trouble.
This isn’t healthy, and it’s not necessary. Letting others see our weak moments is not in itself a show of weakness. It’s a sign that we’re human, that we’re not perfect, that we occasionally need a hand. Do not be afraid to ask for help. For the majority of people, the fact that you’d reach out to them is taken as a compliment. It shows you value the relationship you have with them. It also shows that you acknowledge your limitations and can be humble, which is an adm
irable quality. Chances are, they’ll want to help.
If you’re that uncomfortable opening up to someone you know then consider talking to a stranger. There’s a reason barmen are renowned for their listening abilities. Release is cathartic, and the act of getting something off your chest will help. There are lots of avenues to look to for this. Find a social group through the likes of Meetup that can provide support, and a quick Google search will no doubt reveal a host of places you can call, even if it’s just to have a chat.
Finally, but I think also importantly, is continue to live normally. If anything, be more extrovert. Don’t shut yourself away, don’t hide from people, go and enjoy life. Balance out what you’re struggling with by finding fun new activities to indulge in, or historic activities that you’ve let slide. Exercise is a great option; go for walks, hit the gym, start running, join a new club, learn to dance, take up a martial art. Anything is good, and generally the more you move the better. That said, taking up an art class, playing chess, singing, etc., are all also good options. Find whatever feels comfortable to you, and takes your mind off the situation. Be sociable, enjoy yourself, and you’ll find that the activity will not only help your mental well-being but will also grow new branches to your support network.
Particularly for expats, if you’re finding the culture you’re now immersed in does not quite match what you’ve come from, or you just miss hearing your native language or home accent, reach out and connect with others from your community in the area. It’s highly likely there will already be a community in place, and if there isn’t then you can certainly look at establishing one. Familiarity is comforting, and knowing intrinsically how you’re supposed to act and relate without having to think about it will help you feel a little less lost and overwhelmed.
I hope that some of the above advice helps. I’d also ask that if you aren’t struggling, but see someone you think may be, be brave and reach out to them. The worst they can do is tell you they’re fine, but even then chances are they’ll still be grateful that you cared enough to ask.
I’ve told my candidate I’d like to meet with them and have a chat, not about their job search per se, just life in general and what they’re struggling with. They’ve said they’ll think about it and will drop me a note.
I hope they do.