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Tips on how to take the mental pressure off when searching for your next career move

As stressful situations go, searching for a job is right near the top.

It involves selling yourself, something that doesn’t come as second nature to many of us. There’s polishing up your resume, applying for jobs, going to interviews, and the rejection of not receiving a call back.

That stress can be compounded if you’re a new immigrant, perhaps still learning the language and adopting to life on the east coast, at the same time feeling pressure to find a job to support your family.

Livinus Numfor understands that stress all too well. He came to Canada in 2012 from Cameroon, where he had been a high school teacher. Moving to Toronto, he found himself doing odd jobs for approximately a year before he decided to upgrade his education at Ryerson (recently renamed Toronto Metropolitan University) and the University of Guelph, obtaining a master’s of science in health management.

Not happy with his first job after graduation, he launched an all-out job search, applying for an average of three jobs every day across Canada and the United States.

“It was incredibly frustrating and I tried to stay as positive as I could, but there were times I was ready to give up.”

His persistence paid off in 2019 when he secured his current job as health promotion specialist with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, based at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. The position involves meeting with individuals and community groups and he is now in the process of starting a support group in the Yarmouth area focused on dealing with mental health issues within the immigrant community.

When asked to share some of his coping strategies, he points to spending time with friends and doing activities he enjoys, such as playing soccer.

While the Atlantic provinces have traditionally had a high unemployment rate compared to the rest of the country, Serge Boudreau says the pandemic has tipped the scales in favour of workers. Boudreau is vice-president of business development for Career Beacon, a Moncton-based online recruitment and talent management site that operates throughout the region.

“In my 20 years in the business, I have never seen a market like this,” he says “There is a lot more demand for workers than there is supply and employees definitely have a lot of power right now.”

Boudreau says the dynamics of the labour market began changing around 2016 as baby boomers started exiting the workforce in significant numbers and there were more people leaving the job market than entering. He says COVID-19 has moved things into high gear as many people decided either to retire early or start their own business, a trend sometimes called the “great resignation.”

“I don’t see things changing a great deal, at least in the short term,” he says. However, he says immigrants seeking to enter the job market may face more challenges. Boudreau recently talked with an immigrant to the region who had applied for 42 jobs and didn’t receive a single call back.

He says in some cases there may be a conscious or unconscious bias against immigrant workers, especially in smaller communities where the immigrant population is relatively small.

“That is changing slowly,” Boudreau says, but it often results in people moving to larger centres where job prospects may be better.

While it isn’t always easy, Elizabeth Baker says it’s important to stay positive. The Education and Awareness Program lead for the Nova Scotia Division of the Canadian Mental Health Association says life since the pandemic has been unlike anything that has been experienced before. Try using affirmations like a motivational saying or a quote and take some time for yourself to relax and decompress.

The Canadian Mental Health Association website offers a number of tips on dealing with stress  and leading the list is walking or exercising. A survey conducted by the association shows just over half (51 per cent) of  those responding cited walking or getting some exercise outdoors as the best stress buster.

Schedule time each day to go on a job hunt and try to stick within that time frame. As well as keeping your job search on track, it can also help you achieve balance with your personal and family life. However, don’t be afraid to switch up the routine if it’s becomes monotonous.  Making occasional changes to a schedule can allow you more freedom in your day and allow you to do what you want when you want, which can help you better prioritize your tasks. Go for a walk, watch a movie or read a book, for example.

When talking to your family or loved ones about your situation, be honest about it. There’s no need to sugarcoat the situation or to lie about it. When job hunting becomes stressful, it’s important to talk about it with your loved ones. By being transparent, your loved ones will be able to help you in the best way possible.

The association notes there’s no one right way to deal with stress. For some, practices like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, prayer, or breathing exercises can help deal with stress and create a more positive mindset.

Baker says stress is part of life and the goal is to take control of the stress so it doesn’t control you. Whatever stress buster-technique works best for you, don’t be afraid to use it even at times when you are not feeing stress.

She says looking for a job in a new country during a pandemic is uncharted territory and she urges people to practice, “self-compassion. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re dealing with things differently than somebody else.”

Andy Walker

Andy Walker has been a journalist in PEI for over 30 years. After a career working for both PEI's daily newspapers, covering everything from the provincial legislature to hockey games, he has been a full-time freelance writer since 1997. Andy has been editor of the Island Farmer, a biweekly publication which covers the agriculture scene, since 2000. He and his wife, Angela, have four adult children and they reside in Cornwall.

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