How to stay resilient while looking for a job during a recession

Article by Jasmine Williams May 6, 2021

For Students

Whether you're a high schooler looking for a summer job or a recent college graduate starting your career, it's tough out there right now. Here's how you can take control and build resilience as you navigate today's job market.

Whether you’re still in school and planning your time off, or you’re a recent graduate looking to step into your future—the end of the school year tends to be a time of possibility and anticipation of what’s to come.


But this year, things are complicated. Due to COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout, young people are graduating into one of the most challenging job markets in recent history. Unemployment rates have hit record highs, and employers are hiring fewer entry-level positions and interns—or cutting these roles entirely


Which means finding a job right now might be tough. But it’s not impossible.


Many industries are surviving, even thriving, through these times, and many more will continue to prosper in the future. If you’re a student or new grad feeling uncertain about your future right now, here are a few key steps you can take to help you navigate looking for a job in 2021.

1. Practice acceptance

Things may look pretty bleak right now, but it’s really important not to shy away from the realities of the current job market. It can be tempting to look the other way, to stall or avoid job hunting entirely. But that can actually hurt you in the long run because it prevents you from learning from and adapting to the situation.


Rather than resisting the situation, practice acceptance. As writer Christine Carter explains, “Acceptance is about meeting life where it is and moving forward from there.” Once you see and accept the reality of your situation, you can take action instead of remaining stuck or paralyzed by uncertainty or fear.


Practicing acceptance also applies to your emotions about the situation. For example, accepting that you’re facing a tough job market doesn’t mean that you won’t (or shouldn’t) feel frustrated, disappointed, or sad. Acceptance also doesn’t mean that you believe that your situation will never get better. You can try to make the best of things while acknowledging that things are complicated. You may not feel 100% optimistic about your career all the time—and that’s okay.


The key is to acknowledge what you can’t control (like a global pandemic) and lean into the things you can control (like skilling up with free courses, asking your network for support, committing time each week to applying for jobs, etc.).


And remember to give yourself grace. If you’re feeling discouraged, know that that’s valid and ok. Rest, do something that brings you joy, tap into your support system—and when you feel able, keep going.

2. Embrace mindfulness

Mindfulness is a great tool to help you keep going. Mindfulness is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”


Right now, you might have a lot of questions with very few answers. Will I be able to get a job I’m interested in? When will the economy recover? Should I switch careers or pursue post-grad education? All of this uncertainty can be very stressful and anxiety-inducing—especially if you’re just starting your career.


If you’re feeling stressed or anxious about your job prospects, practicing mindfulness can help you calm down by bringing your attention to the present moment rather than worrying about the future or even past decisions you’ve made.


For example, if you’ve been getting down on yourself for not picking a recession-proof career path, remember to have some self-compassion. ‘Current you’ may have made a different decision, but ‘past you’ did the best they could with the information they had. Remember to be kind to yourself during these times and stay focused on the present. 


If you’re curious about mindfulness but not sure where to start, check out our mindfulness course to learn more about the practice and try out some simple exercises.

Students share their thoughts on mindfulness:

3. Build your network

A global pandemic and recession may be entirely out of your control, but one thing you can do right now is to start building your network. Take this time to develop new relationships with people working in industries and companies you’re interested in. It’s estimated that up to 80% of jobs are filled through networking, so if you’re only relying on job sites to land your next position, you could be missing out. 


If you’re new to networking, start by creating a list of ‘dream employers.’ These are companies and organizations that:

  • Have what you’re looking for in a potential employer (things like location, values, culture)
  • Have roles that you would be interested in
  • Hire people with your skillset, education, and experiences


Once you’ve made a list, reach out to friends and family to see if they know anybody working in your desired fields or companies. Alumni groups, industry-specific professional organizations or associations, and local community groups like Chambers of Commerce or Rotary Clubs are also great places to network. 


Last but certainly not least, you can use LinkedIn or Google to research interesting people and make new connections. For example, recent University of Toronto grad Melody Bagaa used LinkedIn’s employment site search function to find alumni already working in her field. She sent out emails asking alumni for advice or to connect her to jobs. Many of them responded right away, and some even sent her job listings and made referrals to their company, which helped her land her current position.

Remember: you've got this

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in so many ways, and job hunting is no exception. There have been record-breaking wins and losses, epic struggles, and game-changing innovations. It’s impossible to know how these changes will impact us in the years ahead, and the uncertainty can be overwhelming, but it’s important not to lose hope.


It may be hard to graduate into a recession in the wake of a pandemic, but as author Glennon Doyle aptly writes, ”We can do hard things.” You’ve got this. And the Open P-TECH community is here for you.

Want more tips for building resilience?

Make sure to save your spot for our short event on May 18, “It’s not you—it’s really hard to find a job right now”, where we’ll cover essential mindfulness tricks, strategies to manage stress, and resources to help you continue to sharpen valuable workplace skills. You can save your spot, here.

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