Looking for a job: handling fatigue and loneliness
Today, I would like to try something different. No polished new entries, just me sharing my day-to-day looking for a new job.
I won’t get into advices. There are a lot of resources online on how to get a new job. I’d rather talk about things less talked about, like how this whole let’s-get-a-job-thing is an emotional rollercoster or how it can be such a lonely process.
Let me summarize the steps I’ve taken so far, and then I’ll get to the meat of my experience.
Four weeks ago, I started calling people I know to talk about their work at their current employer. Some of these people I’ve met IRL. Some I interacted with over the years online. I asked them one question:
How are things going for you at your current company? Unadorned truth only.
From there, I selected four companies I applied to - one startup, two scale-ups, one big corp. Why only four? I felt it’s the maximum I can manage without burning out.
So far, I’ve done:
- three screening with HR representatives
- two home assignements
- one technical debrief for one of these assignements
- one screening with a tech lead and an engineering manager
- one screening with leadership
So, things are moving along nicely with at least two companies.
Now, the meat of the matter .
First, this is so bloody tiring. I’ll try not to complain too much from my incredibly priviledged position. I worked as a blue-collar worker for years, so I know how lucky I am that “things are moving along nicely”. But still, this is tiring.
It’s not about the amount of work.
It’s the juggling between the “ON” days when the adrenalin kicks in and the “OFF” days when you don’t know what to do with said adrenalin. It’s the tension from presenting yourself with an air of confidence yet be true about your skills. It’s the constant need to remind yourself “I am enough” and the necessary discomfort of slightly harder challenges.
So, if you’re looking for a job, wherever you are, it’s okay to feel slugish some days too.
What I do to deal with the ups and downs is:
- I exercice a few times a week: climbing and walking, mostly.
- I talk to people about what happens to me day to day. As a man, I’m crap at sharing and bonding over my struggles. But we’ll talk about this in a minute.
- I take on small-scale personal projects: writing this newsletter, building shelves in the house, etc.
- I always have an upcoming step lined up: Whether it’s sending out an email the next morning, or reading a post about a pattern, etc. Anything that’ll prevent my energy to wane too much between interviews.
Looking for a job is - still - inherently lonely. You’re in this middle ground where you’re still working with your current employer, but you already have one foot out the door. You can’t really share your experiences with your coworkers because you need a modicum of secrecy.
Even if you’re unemployed - as I am - it’s an akward position in society. You’re working to get a new gig, yet you don’t have A Real Job™. You’re supposed to pass through unemployement quickly and quietly.
December 2023 update:
During the first few days of this post, I faced to opposite reactions to this post.
A Reddit moderator commented that my post probably was the reason I didn't have a job. They wrote that their employers care more about their technological expertise rather than their blogging prowess. To me, their comment illustrates the shamefulness society casts upon unemployement (and a rather capitalistic nature of blogging).
A few days later, another person replied to my newsletter to share their journey looking for a new career and the help they get from self-organizing help groups. And I liked their comments better - for obvious reasons! - because they express how a searching for a job can lead to unexpected paths, new careers, or finding a purpose.
A few years ago, my wife and some of her friends created an informal club of unemployed women. They would share their progress, hold themselves accountable, bonding over their struggles. Three months later, each of them had secure their goals.
Bonding over struggles? Sharing while vulnerable? I have had to learn these skills. For most of my life, I had learned men have to grind through hardships with a stiff upperlip. When showing weakness, you expose yourself to mistreatment. You must command a room, your life, or the people around you. No one likes a wuss.
And one day, you look around and realize how bloody alone you are. May be you’re fine with it. May be you’re not. To each their own. I know I was not okay with it.
So, here are a few things I do to overcome loneliness (not only when looking for a job).
Talking about it whenever I can.
Talking about my search with friends and acquaintances over coffee/dinner/slack/whatever is something I’ve only been doing for a couple of years. Some of my friends are uncomfortable with me sharing the unadorned truth. But most people are okay with it. I’ve been sharing a bit about it on social media as well. It’s like #buildinginpublic but for job seekers. And a lot of people relate with what you share.
I guess this newsletter is me, sparking conversation with you, wherever you are.
Daily brain dump.
I write daily to complement the more engaging work I do in therapy. And I write longhand. It’s the best way to empty my mind, which tends to keep everything in and saturate. It works for me, but it may not work for you. Hopefully, many tools are available nowadays: markdown notes, audio files, etc.
Seeing a therapist I’m comfortable with.
It’s the fastest way of shifting the burden to someone other than myself or my partner. Therapy comes in many flavors. I’ve tried different types of therapy over the years based on what I wanted to work on. Professional help is not cheap, but many therapists can accommodate your financial situation.
So far, things are going well for me. I feel confident in my abilities and my expertise. A few processes are moving along. Some technical challenges even challenged my perception of what is a good or a bad test. May be I’ll talk about it next time.
Now tell me, how do you cope with fatigue and loneliness when looking for a job?
ps: The second part on this mini-series, Algorithms are fun… I guess?, is live.