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with Jessica Loftus, Ph.D.

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I Need to Search for a New Job, but I Just Can’t Get Started

A laid-off restaurant worker shares concerns about searching for a new career. Learn active steps for making a career decision (along with a few tips on reducing bad habits) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

I began my career in the restaurant industry when I turned 15. After bussing tables for a year at a local family restaurant, I earned a promotion to Host. Soon after, I filled in for servers when they called in sick. At first, I received mediocre tips, but as I got to know my regular customers, my tips increased. When I turned 21, I landed a plum server job at a high-end restaurant downtown. Wow! I started averaging $50 tips per customer table, bringing home hundreds of dollars per night on weekends and a little less on weekdays. I even had lucrative health-insurance benefits.

When I turned 40, I loved my work and I especially loved my regular customers who requested me by name. However, I started struggling with foot and back problems resulting from 25 years of working on my feet in a high pace environment. I also developed COPD as a result of my 25-year smoking habit, common to restaurant workers. My labored breathing made it more challenging to move as quickly.

I knew I had to find a new career – some time. That some time hit me like a brick in March 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. I happily accepted the opportunity to apply for unemployment benefits when my restaurant reduced operations to carry-out service. I needed a break anyway. For the first few weeks, I binge smoked, binge ate and even binge drank on occasion. In a chronic state of bloated fatigue and mild stomach upset, I often rationalized that I’ll find that new career – sometime.

But each day, the pandemic-related news grows bleaker. The death toll rises, stay-at-home orders extend, threats of meat and other food shortages loom, unemployment claims increase, social distancing and mask orders tighten. I feel terrified when I consider the possibility of returning to my server job, especially given my health issues. I need to find a new career – now.

But I never considered other career options before. Heck, I never even prepared a resume before. I got all my jobs through friends and impromptu interviews. Where do I even start? How do I find the energy to conduct a career search? When will I ever find a job in this economic climate?

Sound familiar? Even if you have conducted successful job searches before, the world of work is changing rapidly. Here is a step by step process to choosing a career and finding a job.

Start on the Right Foot

First, consider addressing your bad habits such as smoking, occasional over drinking or eating junk food. Address more serious problems such as alcoholism or drug addiction with professional help or 12-step support groups. Improve sleep by maintaining a consistent sleep and meal schedule, refraining from use of screens for at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and writing down worries, ideas, to-do lists shortly before you try to sleep.

Minimize procrastination by breaking up tasks into small chunks and trying the five-minute rule.

Then, consider various job options – a full-time job, freelance work, a part-time job you love plus a part-time job that pays the bills or starting a small business.

Identify Your Strengths

Assess your interests, skills and traits through online assessments (many are free). Consider career values (e.g., money vs. time with family) in the process.

Brainstorm Job Options

Check out job possibilities such as the top 100 US jobs and companies hiring amid COVID-19 pandemic.

Research Occupations

Use smart strategies to learn about jobs, such as US govt information, job search engines, virtual job shadowing and networking.

Weigh Job Options

Find your dream job – eventually. Sure, you may need to take a less desirable job for the short run, but keep your eye on finding a job you genuinely love.

Overcome Roadblocks

Beef up skills with online courses and pursue your new career with a glass-half-full attitude.

Search for Jobs

Follow tips from experts. Do the work and persevere despite an unsettling pile of job rejections. Remember that potential employers are assessing your fit for a particular job, not your value as a person!


Story to be continued.

Story was told with permission.

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I Need to Search for a New Job, but I Just Can’t Get Started

Jessica Loftus

Jessica Loftus has worked as a licensed clinical psychologist and national certified career counselor for more than 20 years. She currently offers counseling sessions via telehealth in Illinois. Her website,, outlines steps for making a career decision. details. See her retired blog, "Pet Ways to Ease Stress,"

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APA Reference
Loftus, J. (2020). I Need to Search for a New Job, but I Just Can’t Get Started. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 May 2020
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