The Battle: Hopes vs. Fears
Finding yourself in between jobs is a great opportunity to rethink what you want and shift your career in another direction. Unfortunately, along with the excitement of limitless possibilities comes the persistent fear you will never find work again.
Through this process, the part of you that feels bound for greatness is constantly bickering with that voice telling you to shut up and take the first job you can get so you don’t end up financially destitute.
How can you keep these two competing ideas from undermining your job search and your overall career success?
Getting the Dreamer and the Bill Payer to Play Nice
A key first step to job searching is figuring out what you really want in your next role. Chances are, there have been good parts and bad parts of each of your previous jobs that inform what you want in the future. There are the basics, (health insurance access, a competitive salary, core responsibilities) and the finer points (career development opportunities, interesting projects, and an industry you love).
Unfortunately, discussions about searching for work tend to skip right over the lower levels in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (food, shelter, security, and safety) and jump right to self-actualization. In truth, we have to meet those core needs (which typically depend on a consistent and sufficient stream of income) while also striving to getting closer to meeting our full potential (which will contribute to our overall well-being).
While in career transition, that means balancing our need to make our interim sources of income (unemployment and any other money we can lay hands on) are able to bridge us from our last stable income stream to our next with as little undue anxiety as possible.
A core challenge of managing yourself during a job search is that you don’t know how long unemployment will last. In my six periods of career transition, my shortest was a month, and my longest was closer to six.
In reality, you’re unemployed a week at a time, not knowing when you’ll head back to work and a steady paycheck. It’s a balance between keeping the faith, and deciding what your plan A, B, C (and sometimes up to J) should be depending on how your job search goes.
In my most recent period of career transition, I started by figuring out what I wanted in a role. I wrote down the non-negotiables, the nice-to-haves, and the definitely-nots. I started job searching, networking, and applying for roles.
I also thought about timelines, and how I would modify my goals depending on the length of time I went without a long-term full-time job.
Job Searching Guidelines and Timelines
Here are my personal job searching guidelines factoring in timelines.
Adjust As Needed
I wrote guidelines based on my personal situation and what I thought made sense for me. Your timeline may differ. In addition, as new information entered the equation, I adjusted my plan. For example, during a previous period of career transition, I ended up finding a short-term contract role that was well-aligned with my overall work goals, so I took it. It didn’t necessarily align with my general guidelines as stated, but it made sense in the overall scheme of my career goals and job search timeline.
What Do You Think?
How did you think through your job search goals while in career transition? How did you adjust your plans based on the length of your unemployment?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
Brenda is an adaptable learning & development leader, innovative instructional designer, and job search coach.