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You matter! The importance of self-care when out of work - Guest Article by Abby O'Hara

In April I found myself on the furlough scheme, yes I know, I’m with the other 9 million people in the UK. It’s had it’s ups – enjoying the early summer we had, baking banana bread and relaxing in the garden. But it’s had its downs too – worrying about when that return to work will happen and living off a reduced salary, wondering if the money will run out.

Unfortunately for me, I received the news that I couldn’t remain on furlough and was to be made redundant. Having only been with my current company for 12 months, I had no attractive redundancy pay package to buy me some time throughout my job search. I was thrown into the confidence-crushing, full-time career of job hunting, competing against hundreds of people for one golden ticket opportunity. Take me back to furlough life!

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Recession

I’ve been in this position before – when the 2009 recession peaked, I’d just graduated from university. Instead of entering the exciting work of grad work I’d envisaged, I spent months pouring pints for rowdy locals, watching my social life diminish as well as my career aspirations.

Writing this now. I am lucky enough to say that I have been offered another role and will be back to work in the next few weeks. And the new role is in fashion retail – an industry that has been massively hit by the pandemic.

Why am I telling you about my new role in what seems like an impossible industry to crack right now? Not to brag, but to offer hope. There are jobs out there, new opportunities are opening up every day. Keep going and stay motivated. No matter how many rejections you have ping through (I’ve lost count of mine) something else will be around the corner.

Advice when applying for jobs

My biggest advice is not going to be career specific… ‘do this to your CV’… ‘network with this person’… but instead my advice is to look after yourself.

Self-care is so important during job-hunting. You’re in a vulnerable position, having to sell yourself to hiring managers and putting yourself open to scrutiny. On top of potentially feeling nervous, worrying about bills to pay or mouths to feed. It’s real hard work, and you should never play down the emotions you are feeling through this journey.

So how on earth can you come across as your best in interviews whilst under all of that stress?

The key is looking after yourself:

1. Schedule downtime

Applying for jobs is a full-time job in itself. Searching, networking, separate CVs for different roles, writing personal cover letters, personality tests, first – second and third stage interviews! It can take up SO much time, you need to remember not to push yourself over the limit. It is still possible to become burnt out, even when not in work.

Make sure you take a break each day and schedule time in to do something you enjoy for an hour. Go for a walk, bake a cake, ride your bike, take a bath. You still need and deserve time to relax.

2. Surround yourself with positive people

I am very fortunate to have a supportive husband and a network of family and friends that have been extremely reassuring of my career journey. They have encouraged me to pick myself up again at every knock back I have received. You really need that confidence boost when you receive daily rejections. If you have a friend that is positive and will flatter your ego, call them now! Socialise, talk things through and self-indulge in their compliments to feel confident about yourself again.

Which brings me on to my final tip…

3. Keep talking

This is the most important one for me. Don’t suffer in silence, talk about it. A problem shared is a problem halved.

I used to bottle up my job search anxiety and not tell people if I had interviews. I didn’t want the embarrassment of them finding out if I didn’t get the job. I now realise this was a big mistake. By not talking, I was missing out on so much help that people could have offered, if only they knew. No one judges you if you don’t get the job, especially in this climate. You can even see from scrolling in your LinkedIn news feed the positivity of networks wanting to collaborate and help each other in their job search. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed, talk it out.

A final note if things get too much

If you’ve been made redundant you may still be able to access your Employee Assistance Programme for extra support. Charities such as Mind, The Samaritans and the Money Advice Service are also there if you require additional support, advice, or a non-judgemental ear to listen to you.

Please also feel free to get in touch with me! I may not be a career counsellor or a life coach, but I still want to help and I’m happy to listen and offer support the best I can if you think it would help.

abbey@startwithin.co.uk

Abbey O’Hara is an Internal Communications and Engagement Consultant. She began her career in marketing for professional services firms such as Capita and Eversheds Sutherland, and more recently transitioned into HR working for retail brands Moonpig and Michael Kors.

Abbey is also the Co-Founder and Wellbeing Director of mental health training consultancy Start Within, and is co-host of The Happy Employee Podcast, raising awareness of mental health in the workplace.

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