The search for a new job can lead to alternating spurts of avoiding and doing all tasks related to getting hired. When you’ve been in the search long-term, you may find yourself thinking that you’re not entitled to enjoy yourself, especially if you’ve been putting off your job search to-do list. However, it’s also natural to put off those tasks when you’re feeling insecure, lacking creative gusto, or your confidence in your abilities is not at an all-time high. In contrast, when you’re feeling motivated and you've thrusted yourself fully into your search, it can feel a lot like all work and no play.
With those potential scenarios in mind, let’s consider some unexpected ways to find a balance. Your options do not have to be “steamroll your way through your stack of applications” or “sit on the couch and feel sorry for yourself”. There are many things you can do that fall in between, taking a step back from the mechanics of the search but still engaging in activities that are enjoyable and useful, many times in quite unexpected ways!
Exercise your creative muscle. Daily.
When we think of “creativity”, we might traditionally think in terms of visual or performing art, but remember the meaning of the word “create”- to bring something into existence. This could be an aria, a wooden box you built and sanded with your own hands, a dance performance, a meal (even a spreadsheet to track your job applications).
What you create does not have to be a masterpiece or even considered “art”. It can be tangible, functional, and/or practical, or it could have meaning only to you. It could be a work in progress; something that you add to each day.
The main thing is that you engage in the daily practice of creating something. It does not have to be a vigorous pursuit; rather, you can choose to devote only minutes a day to it. The point is to develop a practice in which you explore what’s around you and take the chances you have to use materials in unexpected ways. See what metaphors, insights, and wisdom might exist in your creations. You might be surprised!
One of my favorite “daily practice” stories Noah Scalin’s, who created a skull a day during a time when he felt “stuck” in his career. I was also inspired by the other stories featured in Fast Company’s article, How to Exercise Your Creative Muscle.
Creating something new and identifying how it might enhance some area of your professional life can be quite exhilarating, as freelance writer Jim Morrison discovered when he started hosting house concerts:
"It’s definitely helped my business. It’s energizing. I get story ideas. I meet people and make contacts. And I’ve learned that you never know when people will say ‘Yes.’ You can’t be afraid to ask," he says. - Fast Company, How to Exercise Your Creative Muscle, by Gwen Moran
- Laugh. And Make Others Laugh, Too.
This is a fairly simple one that is certainly not time-consuming! The positive, stress-relieving benefits of laughing are well-documented. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing promotes short term benefits such as stimulating our organs and increasing our oxygen intake, as well as longer-term benefits such as improving not only our moods but also our immune systems!
There are opportunities for laughter all around us. If you think about it, there’s actually a lot to laugh about when it comes to the job search. Remember that job listing you almost applied to that requires “ecxeptional communication skills, accuracy, and attention to dteail”?* (Oh, the irony!)
Or the application requires you to explain in your cover letter why you want to work for the organization, but the website is under construction and there’s no “about us/our team” page? Trust that you have opportunities to laugh, and make others laugh too.
Why do we laugh in the first place? Sophie Scott, a neuroscientist and stand-up comic shares why we laugh in her TED Talk, viewed and laughed over by over two million viewers (try to watch without laughing) . According to Ms. Scott, “laughter as a sound is actually pretty primitive, more like an animal call than it is like speech.”
Ms. Scott also suggests that there are different types of laughter that indicate one’s emotions. So while you’re making others laugh, pay attention to how they are laughing, and assess what their laughter tells you via nonverbal cues. Then take that bump in your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to your next job!
- Learn something new...in an unexpected way.
I follow a blog called Moodnudges, and one entry that really struck me was “5 Unexpected Ways to Boost Your Learning Today”. In this article, writer Jon Cousins shares a short list of ideas you can use to learn something new and urging readers to hearken back to their elementary school days, when learning was fun.
Take one of the suggestions on his list, try out them all, or start brainstorming ideas of your own. See what you discover as you explore.
Also think about what new thing(s) you can learn about yourself. What habits have you been mindlessly doing in a “going through the motions” kind of way? What do they tell you about yourself? What strengths are you using when it comes to these tasks, and how can you engage in them in a more mindful, purposeful way?
- Meditate, but get off your cushion.
Like the positive effects of laughter, the benefits of meditation are well-researched and known. It may seem typical that meditation would find its way on a list like this. However, even if the word brings to mind austere yogis chanting “om” or people sitting on pillows, note that there are many options and you can experiment with the one that works best for you. According to Greatist in 10 Unexpected Ways to Meditate Every Day, you can try mindfulness meditation, dance meditation, even hand movement meditation.
How does meditation have anything to do with your job search? Well, when we quiet our minds, we leave ourselves more open to listen to our “inner voices”. Something to try: sit quietly for a few moments after reading a job description. Ask yourself, “is this job in line with my skills and interests?” or even simply, “do I want this job?” If an answer does come up right away, that’s okay. It takes practice to hear your inner voice and even recognize it as your own. Or, it might just be a matter of not having enough information yet. You might not get an immediate answer because you need to do some more digging first, such as reviewing the organization’s website to learn more about their mission.
- Have fun.
Why? Because typically, the job search itself is not fun. As Kevin Donlin, creator of JobSearchMatch suggests on JobDig, if you’re not having fun in your job search, change that. Find some way to gamify your job search activities, join a team, or just go out and celebrate your small wins in your own way
Trust that “it’s okay” to enjoy yourself. In fact, it’s good for you. Imagine how much better you’ll present yourself during an interview if you’re energized from last night’s community soccer game or had a great job strategy brainstorming session with a friend over coffee.
By Victoria Crispo
* Editor’s Note- words within this article that are followed by an asterisk (*) have been purposely misspelled.