Expert Advice to Help Reduce Stress During Your Pandemic Job Search

pandemic job searchAs a job seeker, do you find it harder to concentrate right now? You aren’t alone. The failure to focus is caused by pandemic job search stress. And thousands of people are feeling that stress, every day.

There’s already evidence that this pandemic is having an effect on those who don’t even have the virus. Some have referred to it as “covid brain” or brain fog. No matter what you call it, it’s real. This article from the BBC validates the effects the Coronavirus is having on people.

I’ve been struggling to do anything that requires deep thinking. So, I reached out to my LinkedIn network to see what suggestions/tactics/tricks people were using to help them focus. The answers didn’t disappoint. Some of the advice was general. Some was specific to job seekers. I recommend testing different ideas to see what works best for you. And don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

The added bonus? You’ll procrastinate less and feel more motivated when you actually get a few things done!

Thank you to all the coaches and job seekers for sharing your pandemic job search insights!

Add Structure

Susan P. Joyce | says:

I’m changing my “normal” routine to be more structured and methodical. Apply that to a pandemic job search:

  • Any deadlines for this week? Job interviews, networking meetings, etc. 🔹 What needs to be done to prepare for them? Research employers and interviewers, post on LinkedIn, etc.
  • What deadlines next week, the week after that, etc. Any interesting options available this week — Zoom events, opportunities, webinars, phone calls, etc.? With my goals in front of me, I plan my week, scheduling time to meet those goals this way —
  • What is already scheduled and what time is available?
  • What NEEDS to be done this week to make progress?
  • Which day of the week is the best day to do that task? Finally, I add those items to my smart phone’s calendar.

Grace and Shorter Spurts

Adrienne Tom |Career Impressions recommends:

First, acknowledge that it is tough and be kind to yourself. The more frustrated you let yourself get, the harder it can be. Second, consider breaking up larger tasks into smaller, more easily attained actions. Checking even those smaller items off a list feels good and keeps the momentum going.

Also, I like to set a timer on my phone for 20-30 min increments, turn off distractions (email and phone notifications) and focus on just one task. It has helped.

Know Where You’re Going

Dorothy Dalton | 3Plus International reminds job seekers to focus their job search:

Carry out the inner reflective work that job seekers need to do, to get to where they want to be. And as Mark Twain said,” If you don’t know where you’re going every direction will get you there.” For me – taking regular breaks and show gratitude and appreciate what you have.

One Small Step at a Time

Kerry Hannon | Author, retirement and careers expert says:

I take the Anne Lamott “Bird by Bird” approach. Just do one thing each day to move the ball forward, and if you can do more, great. But the success of completing one call, sending one resume, reaching out to your network for advice, or finding who you know who works at a company where there’s an opening you’re curious about, will energize you to keep moving forward.

Keep a Journal

Carla R. Messer | Beyond Executive Coaching states:

Research suggests that those who journal during the job search process find work twice as fast. Getting stuck in a rut? Journal about it. Nervous about reaching out to a connection? Journal. Writing can be a powerful lubricant to restart your engine. Even 20 mins of mindfulness a day changes the brain.

Work Your Plan

Joe Hertvik | Project Manager emphasizes:

For me, it’s working in a framework and working a plan. Keeping a certain discipline and following through on these items each day.

Choose What Works Best for You

Kathy Robinson | Turning Point says:

Proactively packing the day with activities that are shown to give clarity and an emotional boost. Beyond that, I think the antidote may be different by individual … some may get a mental breakthrough by talking out their job search with a mentor or buddy; some may benefit from a change of scenery, like taking a notebook to a park bench; another person might journal, or make to-do lists.

Work the Steps

Joe Cardillo | Marketer

As a job seeker, the most helpful thing for me over the last several weeks has been to clearly delineate the stages and separate time to work on each. Information overload makes it really easy to get stuck at the top searching for things, and not do the proper research, referrals, and outreach to get to the interview stage, and then the last step of getting to an offer.

Walk Barefoot

Karen Tisdell | Tisdell Careers recommends:

I heard beautiful Sue Langley talk on a podcast about walking barefoot on the grass to ground yourself. It’s a beautiful exercise and takes only a few minutes.

A Little Bit of Everything

Angela Watts | MyPro Resumes and Recruiting reveals:

I’m trying out using music, exercise, and visualization techniques to try to counter these challenges right now.

Create Boundaries

Joe Jacobi | Performance Coach suggests:

Loss of boundaries doesn’t remove the possibility of deep thinking but can challenge how we make space for it. Maybe try starting with the smallest amount of quiet space to which you think you can commit – maybe 5 minutes after waking up.

Turn Off Notifications

Rick Triana | AWS Technical Account Manager found this tip on LinkedIn:

Temporarily turn off Notifications on your iPhone, turn off your laptop (or close your mail and messaging programs) and set aside a block of interrupted time in your calendar (and keep this appointment).

Know When You Perform Best

Jude Gaal | ResumeRedux says:

I would say do the toughest task of your pandemic job search first thing in the morning and set a certain amount of time to do it. That will be different for each person. Then the rest of the day will be a bonus.

Set a Timer

Jeannie Burns Jaworski | Educator and Trainer swears by:

Using the Pomodoro Technique has helped me. It’s easier for me to focus when I know it’s for a set time and there is structure around it.

Dealing with Too Much Going On

Nii Ato Bentsi-Enchil | Avenir Careers says:

As a black man, politics/news junkie, husband, father of an 8yo, doing virtual 3rd grade, & career coach there is a lot that has my attention, energy, & concern these days, so here is how I maintain:

  1. Exercise: 3-5x a week | Nike Training app = my best friend | moving makes me happy, feels good, helps me stay sharp
  2. Therapy: weekly sessions help me process any & everything I’m thinking & feeling — it’s my time to focus 100% on me
  3. Quality time with my wife & daughter
  4. Rediscovering old hobbies: re-teaching myself to DJ (turntablism) & getting back into tennis
  5. Reading a good novel: almost done with Crazy Rich Asians – plan to read the trilogy.

Keeping Sane

Rebecca Henninger | The Job Girls says

The only thing keeping me sane has been exercise and laughter. Many of my clients who are in active searches meditate.

Do the Dishes

Jessica Sweet | Wishingwell Coaching confesses:

I enjoy spending time with friends, watching some TV, reading, hanging out with the kiddos, writing, I’m even one of those weirdos who finds doing dishes relaxing.

A Simple Timer Will Do

Sharon Hemersley | LinkedIn Coach says it’s simple:

Meditation can be as simple as setting a timer for 5 minutes, sitting quietly, and focusing on your breath. There are tons of meditation videos on YouTube. Here are a couple that I’ve found useful:

Suggested Apps

Taylor Hill | Customer Service shares:

I’ve really enjoyed the apps Serenity (has 6 or 7 videos available without purchase to get a feel for it) and Waking Up (can try it free for a month, offers for a free year-long subscription for those who need/request it). There are a lot of options but I think the most important thing when starting meditation is to accept that it takes practice. It was really challenging for me to get into a rhythm with meditating because I found it so hard to focus and just assumed I wasn’t good at it or that it didn’t ‘work’ for me. Once you find an app you like to use, something I found helpful was having a friend who also commits to meditating each day which keeps me accountable as well.

It isn’t just pandemic job search stress. Even those who have jobs are feeling stressed, anxious, and foggy-headed. But, despite how you might feel, you are not alone…

We’re all in this together!


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Hannah Morgan hiring prosAbout the Author: Hannah Morgan is a career sherpa, guiding new job seekers through the treacherous terrain of job search. If you are looking for no-nonsense advice, check out her site Career Sherpa. And follow Hannah on Twitter for the latest job search news and trends!






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