Laid off, let go, out of work? Finding a job is a full-time effort, and there are lots of potholes along the way. Getting started, staying focused, creating a structured workday, and avoiding impulsive decisions to do other things are hard for ADHDers, but, with the right plan, you can do it.
Losing a job is stressful, and we know what stress can do to ADHDers. We lose our keys, shop impulsively, and procrastinate. Our minds spin so fast that we are unable to prioritize or make a decision. We go into shutdown mode. So the first thing to do after a job loss is to reduce stress, even before sprucing up your resume, portfolio, or cover letter. Here’s a seven-step plan that many of my clients have used to look for work.
First things first. File for unemployment insurance and COBRA insurance right away. Receiving a weekly check will alleviate financial stress. Check your state’s guidelines, since rules vary from state to state, and guidelines change (see sidebar). Don’t let a below-par resume hold you back from applying to the required number of jobs needed to get unemployment. Start by applying to some jobs that you are least likely to get while you fine-tune your resume for the jobs that you really want.
Don’t put off filing for COBRA insurance just because you have 60 days to do it. COBRA allows you to keep your group health care coverage after leaving your employer. Apply for it during the first week after leaving the job. Sixty days can go by fast once you start searching for work. If you find that applying for COBRA is confusing, go to the official site: dol.gov/ebsa/cobra.html, where you can get free assistance. Other websites charge a fee to help you apply for it.
Take a step back. Most people who have lost a job will benefit from taking a little time off before they start a full-blown search. They need time to process what has happened or to relax. Never feel guilty for taking a short vacation or finishing a small project around the house. Some people take a few days; others, a few weeks, depending upon their financial situation.
Don’t isolate yourself. Losing a job is upsetting. Reach out to family and friends for support and comfort. Double up on appointments with your talk therapist or coach. If you don’t have a therapist, think about finding one to get you through this rough time. You shouldn’t feel alone during a tough patch, so reach out.
Focus on self-care. Eat nutritious, protein-based meals, get eight hours of sleep daily, and exercise several times a week. You will have more energy and emotional balance if you are well rested and focused from exercise and from a healthy diet.
Start the search. When surfing the Web for job opportunities, ADHDers easily kick into hyperfocus and lose track of time. My client Brian solved this problem by limiting his searching to mornings. He sent out applications after lunch. He also set a goal of sending at least one application a day, but aimed for four a day. As it turned out, he averaged three a day. He attributes his success to limiting his surfing to the morning.
Keep the search going. One comment I hear a lot from my ADHD clients is about how hard it is to start the job search at home. My client Carla started off with a bang by applying for unemployment and COBRA in the first week, but she sent out only two job applications the second week. She did, however, clean up her apartment and watch the second season of House of Cards. The solution was to pack up her laptop and go to the library to work. The number of applications she sent soared.
My client Jake didn’t like the idea of leaving home to go to the library, despite the fact that he was getting little done. His solution? He began to think of his home office as a corporate office. He got out of his pajamas, dressed in casual business clothes, and sat at his desk promptly at 9 a.m., just as he had at his former job. Supervising himself was easy. As his own boss, he made a promise that if he got to work at 9, fully dressed, he would get an hour for lunch and could leave at 4. Jake had to admit that he was the best boss he ever had. He eventually found a new job.
Stay organized. As my client Nick searched for jobs, contacts, phone numbers, and cover letters got lost in piles of papers. So he created a separate folder for each job application, and made a check-off list on the outside of it. When he did a phone interview, completed an application, sent a resume, a cover letter, or a thank-you e-mail, he would cross it off the list.
Nick, like many other job searchers, overlooked job-search expenses, which he could deduct from his income tax (see sidebar). In order to keep track of them, he created a bright orange pocket folder and placed all of his tax-deductible expense receipts in it.
The good news is that more companies are hiring these days. But even when the financial crisis was at its worst, my clients were able to find work and keep their sanity, thanks to this seven-step plan.