Looking for a job when you’re unemployed sucks. There is no way around it. Below are some things – 9 to be exact – that you can do to make your job search suck less.
1. Be realistic
All job searches take time, patience, and thick skin, and yours probably won’t be any different. No matter your qualifications or connections, it is very rare for anyone to leave one place and instantly land in another. Don’t expect it for yourself because you’ll probably be disappointed. And, since the job search is disappointing as it is, you don’t need to add any extra layers to it. You will experience rejection. You will bomb interviews, and be ghosted by HR folks. It is the nature of the beast, so don’t take anything personally.
I’m not saying that there isn’t any place in the job search for optimism, but the expectation that you’re the unique and special snowflake who will have an easy time on the market is a psychological set up. So what can you do? Research the hiring timelines for your industry and positions that you’re interested in so that you can have a realistic context from which to work. Some industries recruit on specific cycles, whereas others are constantly hiring. Some only hire from specific applicant networks while others are more open to considering nontraditional applicants. Figuring out the nuances of your industry can help you have a better handle on 1) how long your job search might be and 2) how best to prepare yourself for what it to come.
2. Set weekly job search goals (not daily)
Having a daily goal of applying to, say, 5 jobs may sound innocuous… but what if you only find 2 that you want to apply to? What if one asks a bunch of supplemental questions? What if you’re just over it and don’t feel like filling out another online application? This is why weekly goals are better. I’m all about micro goals, but daily goals during a job search are a little too micro because you never know when things will be posted or how long it will take for you to apply. Also, if you’re just #unabletocan, then pushing out an application might mean that it’s not your best work. You never want to apply with documents that you’re not proud of. By setting weekly goals, you can stretch out your workload and ensure that every application is getting the proper attention.
3. Chunk your work and block your time
While it may seem easier to work on one thing at a time, it is much more productive for you to chunk your tasks together while you’re on the active job search. Along with this, you should set designated times to do each task. Look up jobs. Then update your resume. Then do your cover letters. Then do the applications. Why? It’s all about getting in the zone. Once you’re started on a particularly daunting task (like writing a cover letter), it’s easier to keep going if you stick with it. Instead of doing one application document at a time, bulk edit your resumes then write the cover letters. This way, you don’t have to keep stopping and starting. Use your mojo to knock stuff out! (The resume and cover letter resources in the Worksheet Library can also help you when you’re stuck!)
If you’re doing this, just be mindful of tailoring each document to the right job… then attaching them to the right application! This is where naming the documents with position/institution titles comes in handy.
4. Keep a schedule
When you’re unemployed, the hours and days can begin to run together. Other than looking for a job, you don’t have many (if any) pressing tasks so it’s easy to laze away the hours on Netflix or in a book. (No judgement, both are great!) While this may sound like ‘living the dream’ to employed folks, it gets super depressing when everyone you know is working and you’re not. This is why it’s helpful to keep a modified work schedule while you’re not working. Wake up around the same time every day. Exercise. Give yourself a time block to do job search things. Take a lunch break. Write down what you’ve accomplished every day. Act like you’re still working, because the job search is work! Sticking to a routine can help you feel more accomplished, and make the days go by faster. Also, it helps you stay in a groove so that when you do go back to the workforce, you’re not struggling to adjust to the schedule.
5. Learn a new skill or take up a new hobby
So how will you fill your new schedule if you’re not spending the whole time applying? With some decidedly not job search related activities. Think of something that you’ve always wanted to learn how to do and learn how to do it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to use Photoshop or knit a scarf, or take up running… Whatever it is, now is your chance to do it! It might be tempting to pick something that will be useful on the job search, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as it’s something that 1) makes you happy and 2) takes your mind off of the job search, then go for it. Unemployment should not define your existence.
6. Search in terms of skill set, not job title
Speaking of skills… If your job search is going nowhere, it might be helpful to think of your ideal work situation in terms of the skills you’d like to use rather than a specific job title or position. Taking such an approach can allow you to broaden your search from a specific industry to anywhere that your desired skill set would be valued. For example, if you’re interested in data analysis but can’t find a research position, it could be fruitful to look into marketing or financial services – two industries that rely on data to drive decisions. Obviously you’ll need to do your research to see if the other aspects of these new industries fit with your career values and desired path, but it’s a new place to look. And sometimes, if you’ve hit a wall in your job search, you need to make a pivot.
7. Tap into your support system, or find one
As I’ve both stated and alluded to many times in this post, looking for a job sucks. It’s a demanding and often demoralizing endeavor, especially if it’s a long journey back to employment. For these general reasons, and probably more personal ones, you shouldn’t go through this rough time alone. Find people who get it, people who understand how it feels to be out of work, and talk to them. Seek out the people in your life who have your back, and lean on them for support. You need it, so don’t be afraid to ask for it.
8. Conduct informational interviews
Informational interviews are meetings with people who have the job(s) you’re interested in. These aren’t interviews in the sense that you’re auditioning for a job. Rather, you’re meeting with people to get more information on what they do and how they got there. Meet them for coffee and pick their brains! People love to talk about themselves, so it’s not too hard to get massive amounts of info. This information is useful when you’re in an interview because you can speak to the position with more of an insider’s eye rather than just from what’s on the job description. In addition, informational interviews can boost your network because if you impress the person you’re talking to, it can open doors to opportunities that aren’t advertised. (Fun fact: ~70% of positions are filled via network connections.) You can find people to informationally interview on LinkedIn. It’s pretty much the point of the site, so use it to your advantage.
9. Practice positive self-care
Don’t dwell on being unemployed! Whatever you do, don’t do this. It’s unhealthy and unproductive. Yes, you don’t have a job. This is a fact, but it’s not a forever fact. The more you ruminate on it, the harder it will be to move forward. This is why you should practice positive self-care. #5 on the list is one way to do that, but other ways are through activities like exercise or hanging out with friends… basically, anything that will make you feel better and is healthy. Drinking a lot or indulging too much on junky foods may feel good in the short term, but your body will hate you for them! (Speaking from experience here…)
What did I miss? What are some of your strategies for maintaining sanity on your job search? Let me know in the comments!