In the last five years, I've worked at four different organizations. I was on contract work, which usually lasted less than one year. This means that in the last five years, I've had to go through four different job searches.
I am very familiar with all of the worries that unemployment brings.
In the early years, my thoughts went something like this:
Oh wow, there are not very many jobs out there. So many people are applying for the same jobs. What if I don't get any offers? I've already had to pull money from my savings. I can't be without income for much longer. At this rate, I'm going to end up living with my parents. I'm such a failure — why did I choose this profession?!
These kind of worries keep people up at night. They're there all day, every day, until that job comes.
For the past four years, when it did come time for a job search, I would recognize these negative thoughts and let them go. I would focus on what I had control over — my thoughts, feelings and actions.
This is one of the greatest gifts of mindfulness meditation: it can make you more aware of your thoughts and how they make you feel. Instead of getting caught up in the worry thoughts, my mindfulness practice helped me keep my thoughts focused on productive tasks.
I focused on my skills and reached out to my contacts. I broadened my search in terms of geography. I looked for jobs that were tailored to my strengths.
Most importantly, I allowed myself to put the worries aside and enjoy some time with family and friends. I reminded myself that my career does not define who I am.
I would meditate to help keep myself calm and peaceful.
When it came time for job interviews, I would remember what a career counselor told me in graduate school, "If you get the interview, you have the skills — they just want to see if you're a good fit."
This framework made interviews much easier. I went in knowing that I was qualified and really just needed to be friendly and have a conversation about how my qualifications would fit with their organization.
On the way to the interview, I would do a grounding strategy to keep my thoughts focused and my body calm.
The purpose of a sensory grounding exercise is to bring your attention into the present moment by using all of your senses.
The name of this strategy is called 5-4-3-2-1.
Right now I want you to:
1. Look around the room and name five things you can see.
2. Move your focus into your body, and name four things you can feel.
3. Bring your attention to your hearing, and name three things you can hear.
4. Pay attention to your sense of smell, and name two things you can smell — or imagine two things you like the smell of.
5. Name one thing you can taste or that you like the taste of.
You may need to do it more than once, but by bringing your attention to the present moment, using your senses, you stop your mind from focusing on the worst case scenario.
By my last interview, for my most recent position, I was even bold enough to say to a friend, "Well I need to go get a new job now, I'll be back in a couple of hours," as I left for the interview.
Of course I still felt nervous. But because I was so aware of my thoughts, I was able stop the worry cycle and focus on the present moment.
This kept the anxiety down and allowed me to really connect with my interviewers as other people, instead of focusing on my shaking hands or sweaty back.
Four days later, I received the job offer ... for a permanent position.