Career Corner: Countering the Winter Doldrums

Career Corner: Countering the Winter Doldrums

It’s winter in the U.S., and for most of the country that means shorter days and less sunshine. Being outside might not seem so appealing, whether it’s cold, raining, or snowing. Many of us would rather just hunker indoors and watch Netflix.

David J Smith — career coach, author, and Fulbrighter

Winter often increases the risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which for some can be serious and contribute to depression. I’m not a therapist, but know enough to understand that taking measures to counter isolation and the effects of SAD benefits not only one’s physical and emotional health, but also can be important to making career exploration meaningful and valuable.

It’s easy to fall back into the apparent comfort of looking for work online and ensconcing yourself indoors. But being actively engaged – both figuratively and literally – in looking for work brings with it significant benefits including releasing endorphins which can produce positive feelings.

So, get out and meet people. Seek out networking opportunities. People don’t stop socializing because the weather is bad. Sure, they might move some of their engagement to virtual means.  I do that. But when the weather is bad, I’m not apt to cancel an in-person meeting, rather I will suggest Skype or a phone call. Having said that, even when outside doesn’t seem so appealing, forcing yourself to go out can be beneficial.  In person, social interaction can be an antidote to feeling isolated and blue.

As a Fulbrighter, dealing with weather hardships – too hot, too cold, too whatever – is not something you are unfamiliar with. I recall teaching in Estonia in the winter when the sun would rise about 10 a.m. and it would get dark in mid afternoon. Low energy would set in, so grabbing coffee in a well-lit location was in order.

Seek out venues to meet that are bright and cheerful. Many coffee shops today are intentional in creating environments that present an upbeat vibe. The background chatter of other folks meeting might in fact be soothing and reassuring for you: you are connected with others without the need to actually talk to anyone!

So, don’t let the weather cause you to retreat from engaging one-on-one with others. Even it you need to bundle up, getting out will improve your mental health and attitude. Get outside. A little bad weather shouldn’t stop you.

—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 davidjsmith@davidjsmithconsulting.com.

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