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5 Things I Learned During an Unanticipated Job Search

Posted By Suzanne Hunt, Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

"Congratulations, you got the job!"

Everyone wants to hear those words, right? Well, in this case, I heard those words, except they were meant for my husband. In what I can only describe as a whirlwind, we were notified that my amazing husband obtained a promotion, and was being moved to a new location, in two weeks or less. I was proud, excited, and terrified all at once. Though this was a surprise to us both, my husband was going to remain with the same company, who would be there to support him throughout the process. I, on the other hand, had to turn in my resignation knowing the job search wouldn’t be an easy feat. Working in public health in the south is already difficult. Working in public health in higher education in the south is an even tougher job market. In the process of quickly moving, wrapping things up at my old job, and moving forward with an unanticipated job search, my plate was full! However, I managed to learn a few things along the way that have served as my roadmap during this process:

  1. Your resume is a living, breathing document; maintain it as such
    You wouldn’t go months, or possibly years without feeding your pet right? Well, the same goes for your resume. Don’t go months or years without updating it! Even if you can’t spare the time to work on it consistently as you achieve at your current job, make a continuous effort to maintain a document with your ongoing accomplishments. This ensures you will have something to go by when you are able to update your resume. Secondly, it’s 2019- make sure your resume doesn’t look like a word document from 1995. Regardless of what type of job or field you work in, your resume is the first way to market yourself, so you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot by having an outdated resume (regarding both content and visual appeal). There are free design websites where you can ensure your resume represents your personality, and performance in the field. One of my favorite sites is Canva, it’s free and easy to use!
  2. Establish and maintain relationships at your jobs
    Yes, I said jobs. Regardless of whether it was an internship, a graduate assistantship, or your first ‘real’ job out of school, it’s imperative to establish relationships with people during each experience. Arguably more important is maintaining these relationships because you never know when they can provide an amazing reference, letter of recommendation, or insight into a future job you’re looking into. After all, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. Keep these people in your corner, because they can help advocate for your skillset, and current or past successes. Further, you never know when you might need them! In my case, my connections have been a continual help during the relocation process.
  3. Do your research
    I know this sounds so cliché, but what I mean is to do your research on the people in your industry. One of my favorite supervisors taught me this, and I am forever thankful. Even if you love your current job, you should still be making strides to learn about the leaders in your industry and how they got to where they are. I took the time to look at bios, talk to direct contacts, and even made the additional effort to talk to them myself. I have also been lucky to establish trusting relationships with a few of my supervisors-to where I felt comfortable truly asking about their personal experiences, and opinions. This insight has served to my benefit by helping me understand the intersectionalities between different aspects of the industry and the all-important hierarchy of working in higher education. Having this understanding has helped lead to several consulting opportunities, which I am thoroughly enjoying, while I continue my search for a full-time job.
  4. Utilize your expertise and passions—outside of work
    I know what you’re probably thinking here- what about work/life balance? I am still (and will always) advocate for balance, and doing things you enjoy outside of work! However, I volunteer my time outside of work with the National Wellness Institute (NWI) Emerging Wellness Professionals (EWP) Task Force because I have been a part of this organization since I was in undergrad. I am really passionate about what they do to support professionals in the wellness field like myself, and it has not only provided me with more contacts in the industry across the U.S., but it has also helped me learn more about the field that I wouldn’t have been able to learn in my previous jobs. Moreover, I have learned new skills, expanded my leadership capabilities, and now have connections with this organization that continues to support me, no matter where I go.
  5. Utilize weak ties to network!
    There is an aspect of luck that can play an important role in being successful, particularly when it comes to networking. In fact, according to Eric Barker, the author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree, he concludes that some of this has to do with taking small steps to network, meet new people, and properly invest your time in establishing and maintaining those relationships. This requires stepping out of the ‘box’ of solely networking on LinkedIn, or via that email that gets lost in someone’s ever-growing inbox. According to Barker, there’s a theory of weak ties, meaning the people who aren’t your closest friends, but one degree out, are the people who make the best connections. A lot of new possibilities or opportunities come from these weak ties because these are the people that are hearing about things (job openings, new ideas, conferences, leadership opportunities), that you may not be hearing about, and therefore present the possibility of something new and beneficial for your career. Weak ties have hands down been the most successful aspect thus far in my ongoing job search!

Though none of these concepts are necessarily new, it’s important to refresh your lens and scope, in the event that like me, you embark on the adventure of an unanticipated job search.


Sabrina WalasekSuzanne Hunt, MPH, CWP provides leadership in the development of holistic approaches to wellbeing for students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Tags:  job search  resilience  thriving  wellness career 

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