Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Steps to Manage Re-entry Anxiety

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch June 7, 2021

Post written by guest blogger Angie Snyder, PsyD, Wellness Advisor

Over 14 months ago, our lives changed abruptly when we needed to stay home, social distance, and mask-up due to coronavirus.  For many, this sudden change led to life circumstances that were vastly different than how we’d lived before.  Now well documented, people across the globe have experienced great challenges including loss, grief, fear, stress, economic destabilization, and the psychological impact of monotony.  Despite all of the difficulties, some people have also found benefit and enjoyment to the changed circumstances – people have learned to enjoy a slower pace of life, more time with family and loved ones at home, new hobbies, less commuting, more sleep, and fewer demands of planning and decision making. 

Now that restrictions are easing and people are beginning to return to work, school, and socializing in more active ways, there is a whole new set of anxieties about what the near-future holds.   For example, those who struggled with social anxiety before the pandemic have had less opportunity to practice engaging with others, which has only increased their social anxiety.  People’s anxieties about re-entry include, but are not limited to:

*Fear of becoming sick with coronavirus, even if they’ve been vaccinated;

* Self-consciousness and/or fear of engaging in-person with people;

*Fear of being in public;

*Uncertainty from a shifting of relationships and concern about who remains their friend;

*Overwhelm with a flood of personal and professional decisions that were on hold, and

*Worry about returning to an unhealthy, overly-scheduled life.

Fortunately, unlike mid-March 2020, most of us now have opportunities to move more slowly and with more say in how we operate with the changes to come.  The following three steps might help you determine what is your unique, best path forward.

Reflect: Assess What You Want to Keep/Let Go – Give yourself time to reflect upon how you want to proceed in the coming months.  Journaling and conversations with a trusted friend, colleague, family member or therapist can help you determine what you value and what you want to prioritize in your days.  Ask yourself and answer, “What have I enjoyed and valued since the beginning of the pandemic, and what of this do I want to maintain?”  Perhaps you want to ensure you continue spending time playing the guitar, baking, painting, or enjoying whatever hobby you cultivated during the pandemic.  You might also want to continue monthly Zoom meetings with friends or family in another country or state.  Maybe you want to ensure that you continue to have a couple of unstructured hours on the weekend or weeknights to relax. Then, consider and answer the following – “What do I want to let go of that did not serve me well during the pandemic?” Perhaps you have been eating or drinking too much or spending too much time on the computer. 

Also, consider writing down what you know you need or want to do, but are scared to do – such as socializing in-person, going back to the lab, or traveling by plane.  Acknowledge what you’re afraid of or nervous about with non-judgmental acceptance.

Act: One Step at a Time – Once you’ve taken time to reflect, you can begin to think about what you want to commit to personally and professionally.  Even if you’re anxious about that activity or responsibility, gently encourage yourself to take a first step.  Anxiety is fueled by avoidance, and the longer one avoids something, the scarier it seems.  So do go forward and make plans to meet in-person with a friend, but don’t overextend yourself with too many commitments too soon.  Going slowly is also important to help you titrate discomfort.  While some discomfort is okay and helps to rebuild the “muscle” of returning to work in-person, commuting or socializing, too much anxiety can inhibit growth and thus thwart your efforts.  Enjoy the luxury of choice where you have it, and move slowly and intentionally forward toward your goals and priorities.

Communicate: Your Feelings and Boundaries – When you know what you want to do and what you don’t want to do, you can more clearly communicate this with your friends and colleagues.  Practice assertively sharing what you are most comfortable doing for your safety or mental well-being.  If you are nervous about returning to the lab, consider speaking to your PI to learn what protocols are in place to ensure a safe work environment and what choices you have to balance work in the lab with work from home.  If people invite you to a large gathering, and you prefer to start with a smaller group or an activity in a less crowded environment, let them know that you want to see them, and articulate options that would be most comfortable to you.  

Overall, be gentle with yourself as yet again you adapt to change; and, remember to take care of yourself and reach out for support as needed.


Staying Positive During a Long Job Search

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch June 14, 2021

We have often remarked that a job search is more akin to a marathon than a sprint. In truth, job searches can be long, exhausting, and demoralizing.  Even in the best of economic times, job searches average six to nine months. The hiring landscape during Covid has been pretty bleak, although we are seeing signs of improvement on the horizon. About 55 million Americans filed for unemployment since the pandemic began, so you are not alone in your job search woes. Here are some tips to help keep you positive and motivated when a job search stretches on, and on, and on…

1. Focus on the things you can control.
Take it one day at a time, one application at a time. Many people find that it helps to build a daily schedule for themselves. Sometimes job searching can feel like a full-time job, but it doesn’t need to occupy every waking hour. Make sure you are spending time on creating quality applications and seeking help from mentors and advisors along the way. But it is also important to attend to other aspects of your life as well – allowing time for self-care, socialization, etc. In a job search, the only things you have control over are preparing quality materials and preparing for a successful interview. The rest is out of your hands, so try not to ruminate on these external factors.

2.Try not to personalize rejections.
This one is really tough! Remember that everybody experiences setbacks and rejection – you are not alone. A job search is sometimes a numbers game and you are bound to lose out on a number of opportunities until you find your win. It can be helpful to try and seek feedback from these rejections. Was there something that could have been improved in your application? Interview? Use these as learning moments to improve as you go forward but try not to dwell on these negatives for too long.

3. Don’t lose confidence. 
This happens frequently to long-term job seekers. You start doubting and second-guessing yourself and all your decisions. Take some time to reflect on your accomplishments. Make a list of all the things you are proud of. Remind yourself that you are capable and remarkable.

4. Persevere!
Whatever you do, keep at it! Many job seekers become overwhelmed or lose hope very early on in the process and stop doing all the things they need to do. Consistency is key to seeing any long-term results, so try to maintain your commitment and momentum. You job search will eventually come to an end; try to keep next steps and the big picture in your mind as motivation.


LinkedIn Skills Assessments

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch June 21, 2021

A few years ago, LinkedIn (LI) rolled out a new feature to help make it clear to employers that you have the necessary skills.  LI developed online assessments which have been designed by subject matter experts and are in different topic areas like business, technical, and design.

LI users can take an assessment by navigating to the skills section of your profile and selecting the relevant Skill Assessment. These assessments are timed. If you have a disability, you can activate the accessibility feature for Skills Assessments which should give you more time to complete the test.

By default, your score is private; however, if you score in the 70th percentile or higher, then you will have passed the assessment. Passing means you have the option of displaying a “verified skills” badge on your profile. You have full control over the visibility of your results and can choose to display badges or not.  If you don’t pass, you can take the assessment again once you’ve brushed up your skills. However, keep in mind that you can only take each assessment once per three months. 

LI developed these assessments because 76% of professionals said they wished there was a way to verify their skills in the hopes of standing out against other candidates. If you are job searching, you might want to take a look and consider taking an assessment to verify your skill sets.


Job Search Checklist

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch June 28, 2021

Job searches can be overwhelming and sometimes it is difficult to know exactly where to start. Resume Worded has put together a step-by-step checklist to help you stay organized and task-oriented.  Here are the things you’ll need to think about when job searching:

Your Resume/CV
These introductory documents are what help you get an interview. A strong resume/CV gets past initial filters/screens and makes a strong impression on hiring managers. Make sure you understand what type of document (resume, academic CV, federal resume) to use for the job you are applying to. Create impact on your document through strong content and a clean, easy to skim format. Lastly, always have another set of eyes look at this document to help you edit for errors.

Your Online Presence
When you are job searching, you should assume people are looking you up online.It might be a good idea to make all of your personal Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, SnapChat accounts private. One account that should have a public present though is LinkedIn. Take some time to update it and optimize it with keywords for your intended career path/sector.

Finding a Job Online
Cast a wide net when searching for jobs online. General websites like Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor can be helpful; however, you will also want to utilize niche job boards related to your field. Science Careers and Nature Careers often have relevant job postings. You might also want to check some professional associations connected to you field.

Applying for A Job Online
Your resume/CV and cover letter are your first introduction with an online application, so they need to be near perfect. Make sure you focus on quality not quantity and tailor each document for the relevant posting.

Getting an Introduction/Referral
A huge part of job searching is networking. Don’t hesitate to be in touch with your contacts and ask for resume referrals when appropriate. Informational interviews are a great way to learn more about a career path and a company, so start reaching out now and having these conversations. People who actively network tend to shave time off their total job search, so in the end it does pay off!

The key to interviewing well is in the preparation. Learn about the employer and your interviewers. Know what type of interview you might anticipate. Then,  practice as much as you can! Rehearse or write out your answers to typical interview questions. Think about interview questions you have struggled with in the past. And last, but not least make sure you have prepared thoughtful questions for each interviewer.

If you are a trainee at the NIH, OITE Career Services is here to help with your job search questions and concerns. Find out more here.