Whether you are mid-career or are a recent graduate that has no desire to enter the field they majored in, finding yourself at a crossroads in your career is a common experience. Whether you want to quit a job that is no longer a good fit for you, or you’ve been laid off, or you’re a grad that looked at your field and held a crucifix up to it, there are skillful steps you can take to stay sharp while you are between jobs. When you find yourself in these circumstances you might wonder what to do when you feel frustrated that it is taking too long to find a job.

We’ve put together some advice to make sure you stay sharp while you are in the midst of a difficult job search.

When You’re Unemployed, Don’t Let the Bad Days Win: Stay Present/Stay Sober

Woah, right out of the gate? Yes. It doesn’t matter if you got laid off after being in a job for 25 years or you just graduated and feel frustrated by your lack of progress. Turning to self-medication as a coping mechanism is harmful for several reasons:

It dulls your fire/passion/curiosity

We all have our favorite numbing or self-medication devices. For some, it might be social media, news, or binge-watching Netflix. Some might find a hole to hide in drugs and alcohol. Some find temporary relief in sex, food, or shopping. Whatever it is, swear off. Why? You WANT to let yourself get bored. You want to let yourself get itchy. That is the ground of creativity. That is the ground where the seeds of your genuine interest get planted.

When your subconscious mind gets really bored, it has the space to come up with some really cool ideas if we don’t snuff it out by zoning out. That’s why so many CEOs swear by meditation. The stillness of an under-stimulated mind is where the best stuff is born.

Find out what happens when you sit with your boredom without flipping on YouTube. It won’t kill you. Promise.

Numbing out wastes money you may not have

Don’t waste your resources. In addition, if you are unemployed or underemployed, every dollar that crosses your path needs a job. Now is an excellent time to devote your energy to getting your bills, debts, and income organized and under control. Get serious about your budgeting. Money likes structure, so build one. If you can’t manage $100, you can’t manage $10,000.

Self-medication makes you a weaker job candidate/interviewee

If you feel tired, you will make mistakes. If you’ve been up all night for whatever reason, you will look and feel sluggish and won’t be at your best when you get called in to speak with a hiring manager. Would you hire a job candidate that looks sleep-deprived and disheveled from staying up all night playing video games? Of course not. Maintain a good sleep schedule by staying sober and getting some sunshine and exercise every day.

Tuning out turns off your problem-solving brain

If you’re always trying to make yourself forget your problems, you’re also turning off your problem-solving skills. There is no way to address your problems in a mature way if you neuter your ability to think clearly. You feel me on that, right? Your brain does not have a selector switch. If it’s off, it’s off.

Know that You Are Not Alone

This “Rugged Individual” caricature is killing Americans. That’s not a figure of speech. Our isolation has heightened risk factors similar to obesity and smoking. If you can’t find a group of like-minded people, create one. For example, if you have an off-the-wall interest but haven’t had time to work on it, get after it! There is someone out there that wants to teach you, learn from you, or help you. Ask for help when you need it. Offer help to others when you can. Keeping your mindset positive by interacting with people and activities you enjoy will help keep your spirits high until you get the right job offer. Imagine the difference it will make in your interviews if you walk into them having spent that off time helping others or pursuing your own interests instead of stewing in frustration.

Seek out like-minded individuals

Networking cannot be stressed enough. Research estimates that over 80% of job offers are made within personal connections. It is imperative that you find a way to interact with others on a consistent basis. You can volunteer at a local charity that needs help, join a couple of MeetUp groups in your city, or offer to teach classes to underprivileged kids. Remember this: you have to be consistent to be convincing. Think of your network as a place to grow and learn new skills with the potential of meeting your next boss. If the people in your network see that you show up consistently, they’ll be more likely to trust you with their own business problems.

Be Willing to Move

There is an old cliche that goes something like, “you can never go home again.” Well, if your local community has a dead job market, never leaving home is a dead end for your career prospects. If you have been stuck looking for work in the same area for months or years, it is time to cut your losses and start looking for work elsewhere. No, that’s not easier said than done. What is difficult is living in the frustration of a community whose job market has dried up when we are at record low unemployment. Your opportunities are vast if you are willing to look outside of your comfort zone. Research is at your fingertips. Find areas in the country that are hot for hiring and move there. You don’t owe your hometown or your family your misery of frustrated joblessness.

Be Willing to Tack

If you find yourself in a saturated market or one in which your skills have been replaced by automation, don’t waste time resisting that change. You’ve got to specialize. The more general your skillset, the easier it is to replace you (and the less money you make overall). It is your responsibility to make sure your skills can support you and create a livelihood for you. Swallow that bitter pill and take radical responsibility for everything that affects your earning potential. Being angry because you got laid off or can’t find a job in a field you got your degree in is a waste of time and gives away all your power.

Leverage Your Skills, Not Just Your Experience

Think about your skills as transferrable assets. Figure out what your skills are, not just how a single industry takes advantage of them. What soft skills do you have (like communication, public speaking, or problem-solving) that are applicable in other industries? Think about the companies that are direct competitors or even on the opposing side of the field that can use your talents as a competitive advantage. Sell your skills, not just your experience.

If you want to find out more about pēpəlwərk, a skills-based job matching platform, download the app here. Our whole goal is to match job seekers (Talent) to Employers based on these skills they need to get the job done. After 25 years of frustration with the slow, clunky job boards, we had enough and built something better. We work more like a dating app than a traditional job board. Your account profile showcases your skills and interests so we can match you with the right employer. No searching, just matching.