Separating from the military without having a job lined up is nerve-wracking enough. Being in the same position months later can be a lot worse.
Unfortunately, it’s quite possible for veterans to be faced with this kind of situation in today’s still-sluggish economy. It can easily lead to “unemployment fatigue,” which not only can affect your confidence, self-esteem and general well-being but can also harm your relationships with friends and family.
I can speak from personal experience on this one because I had to deal with unemployment fatigue after separating from the military in 2003.
For the first couple of months, it felt like a pleasant vacation. Then I realized four months had gone by, and I hadn’t had a single job interview. As time went on with still no job lined up, I found myself becoming impatient, having trouble sleeping due to anxiety and losing confidence in myself.
I also found that my relationships with family and friends were becoming strained because they wanted to help in the most well-intentioned way, but to me it felt like I was simply being pushed.
It’s not much fun feeling that way. But there are some things you can do to ward off, or at least minimize, unemployment fatigue and maintain a healthy perspective so you’re ready for any opportunity that comes your way. Here are a few:
1. Make a plan. Ideally, you should do this well before you separate. But if you put it off while in uniform, get on it now. Map out where you want to be six months, a year, five years down the road, and sketch in what you need to do to make that happen: taking certain school or training courses, relocating to a specific area, whatever. Then stick to the plan as best you can.
2. Maximize your job search efforts. While you’re scouring the job postings, make time to get out on the street and attend job fairs and workshops. That kind of face-to-face networking can greatly boost your chances of finding a good job.
3. Stay active. If you enjoy a certain hobby or sport, stick with it. Being a couch potato is sometimes too easy when you’re struggling to define the next phase of your life. Keeping your mind active and body in shape will help you maintain a positive outlook.
4. Learn something new. Don’t box yourself into thinking you need to stay in the same career field you were in while in uniform. You could go to school to learn something different. This could lead to a new passion and a new career.
5. Give yourself some R&R. Take some family time — or just some “me” time. Searching job postings for 10 hours a day will only bring you closer to unemployment fatigue.
6. Be realistic. You just separated from the military and are entering a civilian job market that is still quite volatile. If you’re having trouble finding work, know that you are not alone. With many companies still cutting back, many Americans are struggling to find good jobs.
7. Be your own commander. You have to take charge of your life because no one is going to hand you anything. It’s up to you to make it happen.