Unless you are one of the precious few people in the world who knew exactly what they wanted to be the day they left college without every wavering from that career, we’ve all been through the exhausting experience that is job hunting. Maybe you’re switching careers, maybe you’re unemployed or underemployed, or maybe you’re just starting out; the point is, we’ve all been there.
Job hunting can be exhilarating, but it can also drain the life out of even the most positive and qualified candidates. If you’re not careful, the vicious cycle can suck you in for months. However, there are a few key things you can do to help keep the insanity at bay.
1. Apply with purpose.
Too many people (myself included) apply to anything and everything that seems to fit. Thanks, Indeed…I can apply with a single click and don’t even need to research the company? Awesome! You send out resume after resume, assuming that this is enough. On the rare occasion, you might get lucky, but really the better plan is to take the time to apply to jobs you are actually excited about and interested in. That interest will not only motivate you when it comes time for interviews, but most importantly will guarantee that those interviews won’t waste your time or that of a potential employer.
2. Set time frames for doing applications.
Believe me, job sites can be as addicting as stalking your ex on Facebook (admit it, you’ve done this too). One mildly interesting job can lead to another and another, and oh, yes, I would like to work for NASA as a systems engineer.
I’m sure my Psych degree can fit with that somehow. Click aaand…applied! Now what about CERN? Ooh, marine biologist! What else can I find? Don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole of endless job apps. Set aside a specific amount of time for doing job apps each day and stick to it. If you are currently unemployed, this can be especially tricky; you might, quite rightly, think of applying to jobs as your job. You think that if you’re not doing that all day, then you aren’t exerting control over the horrible, gaping future that terrifies you (I realize I might be projecting here).
The point is, as hard as it may be, limiting the time spent on job apps each day frees you up to do other things that may actually help you balance your mindset and maintain a positive, energetic sense of being. This is a vital aspect of any successful job hunt.
3. Get up and get out every once in a while!
This means you must actually put the computer down and walk away from it. Whether this is going outside to literally get some fresh air or just going anywhere else that your computer is not easily accessible, do it! Just changing locations before returning to your computer can be like doing a quick lap to reset your mental energy. Then, when you do resume your search, you’ll be more prepared than ever to give the hunt your all.
4. Change up your routine.
There are dozens of sites you can use to apply for jobs, so don’t just stick with one! Upload your resume on at least a few of these sites, and then utilize the internet to its full potential. Job sites are far more streamlined and mobile than they used to be; even in the last few years, major job boards have created new mobile apps which allow you to apply with one click.
For example, the latest mobile app from LinkedIn (LinkedIn Jobs) offers clear and easily manageable tracking systems for finding jobs, reviewing companies, and receiving regular updates on the process. Link these to mobile push notifications and your social media feeds, and you’ve got the internet doing half the work for you. Granted, some sites will work better than others, so try a few different ones out. Then, when you figure out which are most productive for you, you can buckle down and use those to their full potential.
5. Interact with the world again!
The worst part about job hunting is the lack of communication. You apply for a job and you hear nothing. Worse, you get an interview (or two or three), but you get rejected and never receive a response to your follow up emails. For whatever reason, basic communicative decency doesn’t seem to exist when it comes to job hunting (this is true of many employers, though I must say not all). It’s easy to feel like you are drowning in the silence. Therefore, it’s up to you to remember that you can and should be interacting with the world on your own.
If you are an introvert, call the people you trust most or go to a coffee shop to work every once in a while; just being around people without having to directly interact with them can provide enough social energy to revive you from feelings of isolation. For extroverts, make sure you replenish your energy by talking to people around you on a regular basis, whether that’s friends, family, or even random people you pass during the day. Just get out and interact with people! Networking is a golden word in job hunting for a reason, but it sure is hard to do that if you sit alone in your house all day.
6. Remember that BALANCE is key.
Please do not let your job hunt define you! I have done this, and I can tell you it’s the quickest way to destroy your own chances at getting a great job. I’ve had employers tell me the honest truth, which is that they hire people they like who are self-possessed and who will be able to easily fit in with the team; this is sometimes even more important than a candidate’s qualifications, because skill sets can be taught whereas personality is preset. To do this, you can’t be a neurotic mess before your interviews.
If you go into every interview thinking, Everything depends on this. I have to get this job!, I promise you, your employers will pick up on it. To maintain balance, you can’t lose yourself to the job hunt. Stay active, engaged, and focused on things and people you love. If you are a hiker, take time to head out to the mountains every once in a while. Love to read? Then force yourself to put away the phone and computer before bed, and let yourself slip into a fantasy world for an hour. It’s alright to take a break, and even better to remember that you have value and interests outside of your career. Remember, job hunting should be one aspect of your life, not your whole life.
7. Don’t give up.
This is a hard one, especially as the weeks become months for some people. Know first that the rejections aren’t about you. Just look online, and you’ll see hundreds of stories of amazingly qualified people getting rejected on a daily basis.
Job hunting is like dating; it can be entirely arbitrary at times. Just like a date may be turned off by your hair, your clothes, your vegetarianism (or lack thereof), or any myriad of seemingly insignificant attributes, the same is true of an interviewer. Maybe they really wanted to go with an inside candidate, or maybe they didn’t like the specific phrase you used; I’ve even had employers tell me they didn’t hire someone because they liked the wrong football team (seriously). It’s unfair and it’s frustrating.
Remember that your interviewers are human, and therefore subject to human faults. You will go through periods where you are ready to throw your computer against a wall and scream, I give up! I’m worthless, and no one wants me! I’ll never get a job! Please, don’t give up. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel this way, or that you shouldn’t express it. Yell, scream, sob in the shower…it doesn’t matter. As long as you get it out, you are processing your emotions; it’s when you try to hold them in that things fall apart.
Please know that this is normal, but most importantly, know that you are intelligent, talented, and that this can’t last forever. Somewhere, somehow, an employer will see the value in having you join their team. When they do, it will make the months of heartbreak that came before it seem so worth it.