Looking to start a career or change directions in your work is a process, one that can take several weeks or months. But, you won’t (and shouldn’t!) be devoting every moment to looking for work. In the meantime, life goes on. You might have another job, a family, and other obligations to focus on.
It is important that during the course of looking for work you take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and professionally. By physically, I mean doing things that allow you to be at an optimal performance level: eating well, exercising, and creating balance. Emotionally, make sure you are surrounding yourself with family, friends, and colleagues who can be supportive during this process. You will have tough days, and you need a shoulder to cry on, as well as a level-headed friend who can provide a bit of healthy realism a times. Your emotional state can be improved by engaging in mindfulness activities such as mediation and yoga. Take walks and get out in nature.
Professionally, this is a time to invest in yourself and review where you need to build your skills and aptitudes There are “holes” in your experience and education – we all have them – that can be filled by more training and learning. Consider what courses you might need to take at this point. This might include starting a formal degree program.
Technology skills are increasingly important to have and use. Fulbrighters tend to come from the social sciences and humanities and as such might not be as comfortable using social media and other tech applications. For older Fulbrighters this is even more likely. Is this you? Should you be taking a course on using Excel or some other application?
Many Fulbrighters are drawn to the not-for-profit world. Their experiences overseas have reinforced their commitment to the greater good and working in areas that support the arts, education, social and political change, and the environment. These areas are largely supported through grants, donations, and fundraising. Your ability to locate and apply for grants could be valuable to an employer and would set you apart from other candidates. Maybe you should take a grant writing class. The Foundation Center with offices throughout the U.S. offers courses.
Consider where you want to go (career wise, but also physically!), not only short-term, but long-term. Is it now time to learn a new language? If I knew years ago what I know today, I would have taken Spanish in high school.
Once you have earned a new credential, make sure you find a spot for it on your resume and LinkedIn profile. In an interview, a potential employer will be impressed that you have sought to develop new skills and areas that can benefit their work. You have not sat on your hands while waiting for the phone to ring or an email to come about an interview. You have sought ways to improve yourself, looked after your health and well-being, and created balance in your life. That makes you the ideal candidate.
—David J. Smith
David J. Smith (Fulbright Scholar, Estonia 2003-2004) is a career coach and the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016). He is on the career advisory board of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network. David writes regularly on career issues at davidjsmithconsulting.com. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.