I have been hearing from a lot of people lately about how worn down they are. 7+ months into the pandemic, the stress and pressure just keep building. Marathon job searches, remote work/school challenges, financial and marital stress—it’s no wonder we are feeling depleted. It’s just not a sustainable way to live. Rock climbers experience this on long climbs. It’s called “getting pumped.” You can only go so far, so hard before your arms build up with lactic acid and give out.  

As much as we all would like to just fast forward through this moment we’re in and “get back to normal,” we can’t really do that. But job seekers can take a page from a climber’s playbook by taking active measures to avoid fatigue so they can meet their job search goals.

Understand your own limitations and adapt

As a climber, I learned this very quickly when my 5’2” frame could not make the same moves as my longer-limbed climbing partners. A little creativity and a lot of determination helped me find other ways of moving myself up the rock. Some worked well (heel hook!) some did not (I’ll just dyno!).

You will hear about people conducting a job search as if it’s a 9-5 job. Maybe that works for some, but for most people it doesn’t. You may only get time in for job search activities when your kids don’t need help with their remote learning. Block out the time that works best for you. And use tips and tricks to do your job search more efficiently, like setting alerts for certain types of positions (thank you Google Jobs tool!).

Plan your breaks

My favorite tool to employ as a climber is the “active rest.” The active rest is just what it sounds like: it’s a rest. But because a climber can’t always take a break when they need it (um, where’s the hold?), the beauty of the active rest is in planning for it. When you climb, there’s this moment before you begin your climb when you take a good look at the wall. Your eyes scan for the more challenging parts of the climb and the places where you will rest. The idea is to find a good place to rest before moving on to the crux (the trickiest spot). Sometimes it’s an obvious spot like a ledge, other times it’s a nook to wedge yourself into just so you can take a moment to shake out your arms. There’s nothing like being on the rock, feeling the fatigue setting in and then seeing that rest spot is only a couple moves away. You think “I can totally do this!”

In a job search, if you know you can do two weeks of solid job searching before you begin to lose steam, then plan two weeks on and one week off. Block time off in your calendar for your break, write it on a sticky note. Give yourself visual reminders that allow you to see the reward you will get after two weeks of networking and applying to jobs. There’s no need to go full steam 100% of the time.

Aim for the summit, but don’t ignore the crux

Rock climbers always have their eyes on getting to the top. Sure, they may take a break or make a lateral move, but it’s all to help move them toward their ultimate goal: the summit. It’s so important that you don’t let anything completely sideline you. Always keep moving toward your goal: to land a new job!

As important as reaching a summit is, if you’ve ever heard a climber talk about a climb, they’re often fixated on the crux. The crux is the hardest part of the climb and the part that tests the climber’s strength, stamina and perseverance. It’s by getting through a crux that a climber knows what they are truly capable of.

Conducting a job search right now can be exhausting, but taking stock, planning your breaks, and staying on track will help keep you from pumping out before you reach your goal. And maybe someday in the not-too-distant-future, after you’ve landed a new job, you’ll reflect on your job search and realize that the most trying moments were the ones that gave you the most insight about what you are able to accomplish.