9 years ago, I enrolled in a programme to become a certified Life Coach but lacked clarity on where this new skill and knowledge would take me. Since then, I have carried my coaching work across continents and countries to India, China, USA and now as Key Skills Coach for Hopscotch.ae in Dubai. 

However, I had not anticipated how much of this coaching would be women-centric. It is a source of endless joy for me to coach women who are setting new life and career goals for themselves. A large part of this coaching and soul searching dwells on where they want to focus their work energies. They set goals, clarify expectations, identify challenges and determine actions. My wrap up session is quite interesting and the source of inspiration for this article:

Me: Other than actioning the areas we discussed, what else are you going to do?

Coachee: (looking startled) Don’t I have enough on my plate?

Me: So, when you need a break from job hunting and networking, what will you do?

Coachee (now very startled): Nothing at all! Isn’t job hunting a full time job?

My answer to that is a resounding “no!” Job hunting is a long drawn out process which requires preparation, planning, re-planning, organizing, re-organizing, determination, networking – the list is a mile long! 

Often at  times, there is lull between an interview or meeting and the next step. Sometimes, it isn’t even a lull -but rather  just a deafening silence. So, the critical question is – how do I meaningfully direct my energy to job hunting but also keep my self occupied with other fulfilling activities?

One of my closest friends describes job hunting here as a “soul destroying” process. As a champ of going through this process several times over, here are some “soul preservation” tips!

Take up a new hobby

For the longest time, I wanted to learn swimming and my move to Dubai presented a great opportunity to fulfill this dream. After 10 classes, I swim like a fish with damaged fins but I’m bursting with pride and joy! If you look past my lack of grace, three fabulous things are happening to me:

I’m acquiring a new life saving skill

I’m boosting my self- esteem at a time when it may be getting battered on other fronts

I’m experiencing energy, happiness, enjoyment and anticipation (of improvement!)

Some principles I adopt when deciding my new adventure are given below. 

Start something

That is of benefit to me (and only me!). I don’t take up activities that involves spending (even) more time with my daughter!

Where the change is visible so friends and family notice, comment and encourage you, that is sustainable.

Live your life “as if”

I have friends who have confessed to crawling back into bed after dropping their children off to school or nursing their coffee/ tea for an hour or two before exercising. By the time they get back, shower and have lunch, the children are back! This has been my nemesis, too, especially in cold weather. But I decided on my first international move that if I’m serious about getting back to work, I must adopt the “as if” principle i.e. behave and schedule my day as if I’m working. 

No matter what the weather or how late I’ve slept the previous night, I’m running outdoors or at the gym at 7.15 am – as soon as my daughter leaves for school. Before this, I’ve decided meals to be cooked, grocery shopping to be done and clothes I’m going to wear! Much to my husband’s amusement, I even wear make-up and jewellery and I am in my study room by 9.30 am, all dressed up (and sometimes no where to go!). But my many international moves have taught me that the discipline of planning my day and thinking ahead makes my transition to work so much easier.

Find a partner (and inspiration) in crime

If you are always in the company of people who are in a good place in their life, you might find it difficult to push your- self. This isn’t meant as a judgement, but I have friends who decide to step up their volunteering at school while they are job hunting. 

They surround themselves with people who have a different mission and focus in life and are not likely to get a sympathetic ear or critical feedback on discussions around job search, new leads and frustrations. In Dubai, I’m fortunate to have women friends who have similar professional goals as me. We exchange notes on our meetings, interviews, networking efforts and keep each other company at networking events.

Inspiration is a very personal choice – I rarely look to famous figures like Bill Gates or Sheryl Sandberg for inspiration as they are too far removed from my life. I seek it in ordinary people that I encounter in my daily life. My friends mentioned above serve as my inspiration when I observe their hard work, their (superior to mine!) networking skills and their ability to bounce back in the face of rejection.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned when (not!) job hunting is that getting to the goal (i.e. a meaningful job) can be painful but the process can be joyful simply because of the “soul preservation” strategies I have learnt to use!

Archana Bhatia is Key Skills Coach at Hopscotch.  She can be contacted for 121 coaching and mentorship at 121@hopscotch.ae