You might be surprised by the number of emotions a career change can stir up. Whether you’re contemplating a shift within your current company, find yourself in the middle of a pivot, or just landed a new role, it’s normal to feel anxious, excited, tired, frustrated, and even thrilled during transitions (insert all the feeling emojis here!). So how do you deal with all the challenges that accompany a career shift and the emotional response that comes with it?
As a Career Coach and Licensed Counselor working with clients in career and life transition, my biggest piece of advice for someone in a job transition is to practice good self-care.
It takes real energy to do research, network, interview, and negotiate salary. You have to take care of you before you can take care of anyone else or a new job. To manage the journey here are six tips for good self-care during a career transition.
01. Practice Self-Compassion.
The job search process can take a lot of work, and you may have moments of disappointment as you face rejection, don’t hear back from companies you’ve applied to, or send a message to the wrong person on LinkedIn! Being kind and compassionate to yourself in these moments, the way you might respond if a friend were experiencing the same set-back, is a practice in self-care.
When thoughts or feelings come up use RAIN to process your experience without judgment.
R (Recognize what is happening): What is true or untrue about the thought?
A (Allow life to be just as it is) What feeling or thought are you aware is present?
I (Investigate with kindness) What is happening inside of you and what do you need?
N (Non-identification) Acknowledge that the thought or emotion does not define you.
If the thought is, “No one will hire me, I have no skills!” You can recognize what is true or untrue about it. Is it true you have absolutely no skills? Probably not; you can recognize that your inner critic is telling you a false story. When you recognize the thought as not helpful you can acknowledge it, even thank it for being protective in some way, and not allow it to define you moving forward.
02. Get Ready for the Day.
Just as you take care of your mind, take care of your body by getting dressed every day. If you’ve been let go by a former employer, it may be easy to stay in your sweatpants, not leave the house, and end up watching reruns of your favorite show or binging on social media. But if you exercise, shower, and plan out your day, you will be in a better headspace to work in.
Break down smaller tasks into half hour or hour chunks of time based on your work style. How you work best and where you work best matter. Just as you head out the door for work, find a space that feels uplifting and inspires you. Coworking spaces like WeWork, Serendipity Labs, 1776, Cove, or even a fun coffee shop in your area can provide a sense of community so you’re not alone for days on end.
03. Make a Vision Board.
There are so many moving pieces in a career change. I often hear clients say, “I have a million tabs open on my computer and I get lost so quickly!” Our brains can feel that way when we don’t take time to be still.
Consider making a vision board of what your heart and mind want next. Use magazines or newspapers to cut out words and images that represent your personal interests, values, and vision for what you would love your life to be about after this change. Place your vision somewhere you can see it regularly to remind you of your purpose and goals.
04. Create a Board of Directors.
Good self-care is also associating with supportive people to guide and cheer you along your path—friends and other people who have been in a career change can help you feel that you’re not alone. For more direct and regular support, you could also work with a career coach or mentor. Some universities provide career coaching services to students and alumni. You can also find one on LinkedIn or by doing a Google search in your area.
Professional associations, meet-ups, or conferences can also help you create a community of support. If emotional barriers are coming up in your search that put you into a state of fear, panic, or paralysis you may consider seeing a therapist to help you process and get unstuck.
05. Set SMART Goals.
Making a career change can take time. The end goal is to get a new job, but you can create smaller goals that step-by-step lead you to the big goal at the end of the tunnel. SMART goals are a way of breaking bigger goals down to make sure that they are:
SMART goals are a practice in good self-care because they don’t set you up for failure. For example, if you have a goal to network (more than 80 percent of jobs are found through connections!) you could break that down to: “Find one person at Amazon in the next week on LinkedIn to message for an informational interview.” Now that’s pretty SMART!
06. Build in Fun!
A lot of people say finding a new job should be treated like a full-time job. It’s true, your career change probably will take up a lot of your time, but it doesn’t have to cancel out any fun time. You don’t need to feel guilty for meeting up with friends, watching a movie, or baking your favorite treat during a job search. Taking breaks and staying active in experiences that bring you joy and pleasure will help you feel more refreshed and happy when you return to your search.
Finally, remember that self-care is a daily practice we don’t always do perfectly and that’s OK. Start today by doing one thing to care for yourself so you feel more confident and supported in your career change. It’s never too late to make a career change, so make a self-care plan and start dreaming big because you have something special to give!