How to Cultivate Resiliency During a Work Search

By Martha Willson, Senior Career Transition Coach


Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. Losing a job is deeply stressful, looking for a new one can be equally challenging.

Building resilience in times of struggle can help us get through difficult circumstances. It can also empower us to dig deep and improve our lives. Moving from overwhelm to self-awareness and resolve can be a time of profound growth.   As a career coach with many years’ experience supporting clients in work search transition, I have seen this firsthand.

Witnessing the growth of people is inspiring.  I want to share how one person, let us call him Edward, is handling his work search. Edward is a middle manager with a solid, rewarding career and years of progressive experience I have been inspired by his willingness to dive into this experience and learn from what he finds.  Along the way he has grown and strengthened his sense of self-efficacy and value.  His next employer will be lucky to have him.

We talked about the middle part of the work search which can be particularly frustrating. It often feels like nothing is happening, or everything seems painfully slow:  no response to applications; often no follow-ups to interviews or delayed replies to networking requests.  Time seems to take on a different rhythm and some days can feel endless.


I asked Edward, “What have you done that helps you maintain your energy? What do you suggest for others in a work search?” Here is what he shared.

Networking for me was a huge source of energy and support and it has landed me a few interviews so far. Engaging with people and understanding what they are doing and ideas they may share about their role or other roles kept up my morale and focus.

Don’t give up. That is easy to say but every day is a new day. When you’re feeling down, don’t be afraid to talk to someone.  

Write things down! What have you accomplished? Maintain a list of things that you have completed and celebrate those accomplishments. 

Mental breaks away from the computer. Get outside and find inspiration through a simple walk, bike ride or ski!”


I also asked Edward “What specific practices would you recommend to others to help cultivate resiliency?”

Edward had an abundance of resilience-building activities that have helped him, here are the highlights. 

Establish a timeframe for your work search journey. A lot of factors impact this but most important is finances. How long can you survive without an income before resorting to taking any job you can find versus the job you want?

Develop a budget and manage spending habits if income is an issue. 

Networking is crucial – start with your friends and family. Progress to colleagues and then reach out to people you don’t know. Easier if you get introduced through a mutual colleague or friend. Best way to leverage job applications is to get recommended from someone you know. It helps to get your foot in the door and get noticed. 

Try career tests and personality tests to help you find your passion if you are not sure what you want to do. 

Take time to digest this life change. Everybody moves at a different pace and their readiness level can be different. 

Research job postings that interest you. Perhaps you never thought of a particular role until you saw the job description. Use that knowledge to seek out people in those roles and start a conversation about the role that one day may interest you. 

Career coaching is very helpful to provide support and guidance along the way 


I then asked Edward “What were your tougher parts? How did you navigate them?,” and he replied –

“Figuring out what I want to do for my next role has been one of the toughest parts. I have done various roles in my career to date so that is great for different opportunities to explore. However, my generalist background also makes it difficult for roles that command a greater number of years’ experience or roles that are of interest, but I have not done in many years.  For now, I am applying for various roles where I feel I can make a positive contribution to their organizations. 

 Making connections to people I don’t know was also challenging. I am still working on this, but the key is finding a mutual contact to connect you with that person of interest. 

 Embracing the journey learning about yourself is a wonderful experience. It can also come with a lot of stress as the reality of not having an income mounts the longer you are out of work. Self-discovery work can be helpful in determining what you want to do for your next role. 

 Having a gap on my resume is concerning but I believe that is more commonplace these days. I started using the gap to volunteer more and tune in to webinars to build learn new skills and gain more knowledge in different areas, which will be valuable for future employment.”


I let Edward know that a gap of one year in a career of over 10 years can be overlooked.  Consider using this time for additional training and experience.  Employers will notice your commitment to professional growth.


“Edward, what have you learned about cultivating resiliency that you will carry forward?”

Networking is key

Establish a support group. Leverage key friends or colleagues that have gone through this journey before. 

The journey is a rollercoaster of emotions, this is normal.

It can be a marathon and not a sprint.

Enjoy this time to learn about you. 

Learn something new. Volunteering can be rewarding while providing an opportunity to learn about the operations of a charity organization.  

Every person experiences this journey differently but there are a lot of similar emotions that we all go through. Don’t be afraid to chat with people about your and their experience. Reach out if you know someone who is going through a work search. They will appreciate it. 

Set goals for yourself that are attainable each day and each week.  Resume updating by a particular date, a certain number of applications and networking coffees per week. You never know where that next opportunity for work will come!

Maintain a resume annually. Include key accomplishments as you can forget them, the longer they remain undocumented. 

Enjoy your work but don’t let it define you! Take care of yourself and family always.  

Mother nature is awesome. Get outside and explore the outdoors to give your mind a break. You never know what inspiration may come when you least expect it. 

 Stay positive. You will find something! 


If your organization is seeking support for your workforce during their career and through a transition, reach out to us at Toombs. Find a full list of services here.

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