For most people, a new calendar year brings celebration, enthusiasm and possibility. We write hopeful resolutions in our journals, craft vision boards to set positive intentions, and greet every conversation with a resounding, "Happy New Year!"
But 2021 is not normal or typical for many people, especially if you're in the midst of a job transition or moving from the military to the civilian sector. While you're focused on potential career options, connecting with prime networking contacts, and ensuring your resume and cover letter are in ideal shape, the people around you might come across as stressed, anxious and less than optimistic.
This part is not normal. With more people working remotely, job sectors feeling the strain of shifting and uncertain markets, and pandemic fatigue taking over, your ability to be patient and diligent is critical.
Consider this checklist to help you stay focused, motivated and ready when opportunity presents itself:
1. List what you can (and can't) control. Seriously, make these lists. Even if it feels foolish, write down what you have the power to influence (i.e., how you organize your day, how much time you spend on social media, who you follow up with) and what's outside of your control (i.e., unexpected emergencies that arise, what someone else says online, whether someone answers your call or responds to your email).
Stress often comes when we feel we're losing control over things we actually can't control. By listing what's realistic, you may see you have more options than previously believed.
2. Write down what gives you energy. Do you feel inspired watching TEDx Talks about overcoming challenges or new technologies? Are you energized when you help others? Do you feel uplifted when your workspace is clean and organized? Make note of what gives you energy and makes you feel inspired and happy.
3. Ask yourself: Who inspires you? Who, in your life, lifts you up? Are there people in your network who are consistently cheerful, motivating and positive? Are there online influencers who post messages that you're always saving and referring to later? Do you reference literary figures or heroes from books who inspire you to persevere?
Make note of these people and where they are in your life.
4. Celebrate every positive milestone. Did you send a resume and get a positive response? Celebrate! Did you reach out to three contacts on LinkedIn with a well-written note and schedule two phone meetings? Cheers! Were you able to look at the camera during the entire Zoom job interview without getting distracted? Yay for you! When stressed or uncertain, celebrate the milestones that confirm your actions are moving you forward.
It's important to recognize the things you're doing well and seeing positive results from.
5. Keep communicating. If you're tempted to retreat when things get stressful or you're feeling anxious, now more than ever you need to connect with others and communicate. Likely, the person you're reaching out to is feeling similar emotions and could also use a check-in.
Now is not the time to isolate and wait for the stress to pass.
6. Draw upon your skills of resilience. During your time in the military, you learned how to be resilient, to adapt and to overcome -- physically, emotionally and spiritually. Draw upon the same strength and focus you used then to help you now.
The environment you're in today will change -- maybe tomorrow, next week or this Spring -- and you want to be ready and prepared to meet the opportunities that are presented.
As you navigate your military-to-civilian transition in 2021, recognize that the things that feel "off" or different to you are likely new for all of us. The world changed in 2020, and so did many of the companies, industries and systems on which we all relied. This is a great time to learn, adapt and find new paths forward to create a career for yourself in the private sector, if you can stay focused, motivated and open to possibilities.
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