When young professionals (who I am affectionately trying to call #yopros) enter into a job search when unemployed it can be daunting. There are typically a variety of reasons you might find yourself in this situation, some including:
You recently graduated from college (or maybe even high school). During the final months and weeks of school you were focusing on finishing. You studied for finals, you wrapped up all of your projects and you said goodbye to your classmates and favorite teachers. You knew you should be job searching and you did a little, but you ended up in a place where graduation came and went and now you are left without a full-time, post-grad job.
Your spouse is in the military or moving up the corporate ladder and you’ve followed them and their career, ending up wherever they are stationed. You want a fulfilling career, but you’ve often put it on the backburner so your partner could pursue their dreams. You are now in a place where you will be for a few years and you know it’s your turn to start a career you’ve always dreamed of. However, finding exactly what that career is and how to translate your varied work experience to land that career is proving tougher than you imagined.
You recently lost your job. Maybe the company decided to go a different direction and laid people off or maybe you simply dropped the ball one too many times and actually got fired. Now you find yourself sitting at home trying to figure out what your next move should be and how exactly to go about landing that opportunity.
All of these situations can cause large amounts of stress and anxiety because there is pressure to get a job and get that job soon. In these moments of constant job searching you can feel very disheartened and discouraged because your whole day is consumed with finding a job.
I have clients who have experienced these exact situations and I wanted to share the advice I give them because sometimes the hardest part of a job search is ourselves, our mind and the cognitive states it moves through as we cycle through job searches, applications, and interviews.
When you apply for jobs, there are a lot of jobs you will not be offered. You will get rejected. Often people do not talk about rejection. No one is making a LinkedIn or Instagram post saying, “Hey, friends! Just got another rejection email from a job today and I think this one was automatic. Love that it feels like a real human never even looks at my application which I spent hours on. Happy Monday!” People hide this side of the job search (and usually life in general). So when people are in the moment of job searching and facing rejection they feel alone and hopeless. They feel like, “I suck!” or “No one wants to hire me.” or “I’m going to live in my parent’s basement forever.” This attitude is not only unhealthy it will actually be detrimental to your job search.
As a career coach I can talk all day long about how to tailor your resume and how to craft your cover letter, but what I want to address today is how to handle the emotional and mental strain of a job search. Below are five strategies to live by if you are jobless and entering into a job search.
Treat your Job Search like a Job
This means you need to develop a daily schedule. When you’ve got nothing but time and a dwindling bank account staring at you it is very easy to think you should spend all of your waking hours job searching. It’s easy to be totally consumed with this. However, this is a quick way to burn out and start down the road to depression and anxiety. You’ve got to set job search parameters. My advice is to not spend more than five hours a day sitting at your computer job searching. Maybe you think that isn’t enough, but trust me, it will be enough if you handle the rest of your day accordingly.
7:00 AM: Wake up, coffee/tea, breakfast, read/listen to the news
8:30 AM: Hit the gym or go for a walk (listen to personal development books or podcasts during this time)
9:30 AM: Start job searching and completing job applications
12:00 PM: Meet a friend for lunch (even if you have to bring your own because money is tight)
1:30 PM: Continue job searching and completing job applications
4:00 PM: Run errands, call your mom, clean your bathroom-- do something productive
6:00 PM: Cook dinner while talking to your partner, friends or listening to personal development books/podcasts
7:30 PM: Enhance your skills for your profession. Spend this time ensuring whatever skills you need for the job you want don’t get rusty. Or develop a new skill to show you’ve taken time to learn on your own
9:30 PM: Watch your current binge worthy show or unwind in whatever way you find helpful
11:00 PM: Lights out, go to bed at a decent time and get in a full 8 hours of rest
2) Work Smarter, Not Harder
Make sure the time you are spending on your job search is being spent effectively. It is easy to get lost for hours and hours in a job search blur. The internet is vast and the hole of jobs is deep. When you have your five hours set aside for the job search at your computer, make sure you are using your time working smarter not harder. Identify the best websites for your industry and set up alerts. Target specific jobs and key words so you are seeing mostly the jobs you’d be excited about. Don’t forget to look at company and professional association websites for job postings. Keep track of the jobs your are applying for by using a spreadsheet. There is nothing worse than getting a call from a recruiter about an interview and you have no idea which job they are even calling about. Keep track of the positions.
3) Don’t be an All Eggs or Make It Rain Type of Job Searcher
There are typically two types of people who job search. We’ll call them All Eggs People and Make It Rain People. All Eggs People tend to put all of their eggs in one basket. They find a job they are super excited about, they apply for said job and then they wait. They sit on that job until they hear something. At the point in time when they are rejected from the job opportunity they then search and find another job, apply, and wait. This is putting all of their eggs in one job basket and it is a bad strategy. You want to have multiple jobs in the hopper so if one falls through, you’ve got others waiting in the wings. On the other hand, you’ve got folks who will apply for so many jobs they can’t see straight. These are the Make It Rain People. They make it their mission to apply for as many jobs as humanly possible. I’ve met people who say they’ve applied for 50-100 jobs in one day. Typically what this means is they are submitting generic applications. They take the same resume and cover letter and just submit it to job after job. Not only does this typically not work because it disregards applicant tracking systems and recruiters’ eye for tailoring, but it also can lead to embarrassing mistakes like writing the wrong company name on a cover letter. You don’t want to be either of these types, you want to find a balance. Keep track of your applications in a spreadsheet (mentioned above) and make sure you are applying for jobs you are actually interested and excited about. Tailor your resume and cover letter specifically for those positions and once you’ve submitted one, move on to the next. This is even true if you’ve moved to the interview phase of the job search. Only when you’ve officially accepted a position should you then remove your name from the candidate pool of interviews you had previously accepted.
3) Take a Break
That’s right, if you need permission, consider this your green light. Even though you do not have a job and you feel the pressure mounting, it is okay to do other things besides job search. When you experience rejection and anxiety from the pressure of not having a job it can be easy to think you need to spend all of your time job searching. But this is not effective. Take a Saturday AND a Sunday off. Go golfing, hang out with your friends, watch an entire season of Scandal. Don’t even think about the job search. Give your mind and your emotions a break. Again, it’s about balance. You can’t spend all day, every day watching TV because then you’re just unemployed and not actively job searching. But it is okay to take a break. Maybe after a couple of weeks you decide to take an entire week off. It’s important to know yourself and what it will take for you to rejuvenate. Do what it takes because your mental and emotional state will affect your job search. Which leads us to...
4) Confidence Breeds Success and Vice Versa
When you are job searching and receiving rejections your confidence takes a real nose dive. Few things feel worse than opening your email inbox to see a rejection email from a position you were excited about. But it happens to almost every job searcher at least once. The key is to keep your confidence high. If the job search isn’t breeding confidence then you need to find a way to increase and maintain your confidence in other ways. Maybe you can volunteer at a local shelter or professional organization where you can feel as though you are contributing. Maybe you can spend time with your nieces and nephews claiming the title of best Aunt ever. Maybe it’s meal prepping all the meals for the week for your family so you can buy back an hour or two each day during the week. Or maybe it’s simply going to yoga everyday because you can crow pose better than most seasoned instructors. Whatever you can do to prove to yourself you are a success, do that. That small success will boost your confidence because we do not live our lives in silos. The confidence from one arena of life will spill on to others. Make sure you do at least one thing each and every day that you can be successful in and you will take more confidence and energy into your job search.
5) Talk To People
When you are in a situation where you are without a job and looking for a job, the easiest thing to do is sit at home behind a screen and blast applications off into the universe and hope that someone will give you a chance. But as Rachel Hollis says, hope is not a strategy. Sitting behind a computer is only one way to job search and often times it’s the least effective. I know the last thing you want to do when you are job searching is to go out and talk to people about it, but that’s exactly what you should be doing. Talk to your friends. Talk to your family. Talk to former colleagues and supervisors. Talk to connections from LinkedIn. Talk to friends of friends who are connected at places you are interested in working. It’s hard to pin down an exact percentage, but any Google search will show you that 70-85% of jobs are landed through networking. I know, I know, it’s often the most dreaded job search strategy, but that’s because people make it out to be way worse than it needs to be. Here’s my advice, talk to your friends, family and former colleagues about your feelings. Share with them your situation and ask them about their lives. Don’t make it all about you or your job search. Just use this time to catch up, have a laugh and share some stories. It will make your soul feel good. Plus, the more people who know what you are looking for and skills you can offer a company the more advocates you have out there. Then, yes, talk to LinkedIn connections, friends of friends who are recruiters or work at organizations you are interested in. But again, don’t talk about your job search. Yeah, that’s right. I want you to talk to these people with genuine interest and curiosity about them, their jobs, and their company. Ask them questions, listen to their answers. Get to know them as humans. When they start to ask you questions, be honest and open with them. Never ask for a job. Never ask them for anything. If they like you and believe you’d be a good fit somewhere, they will go above and beyond to connect you. If you ask them, they’ll likely feel awkward, used, and maybe even a little manipulated. And likely, you’ll also feel gross and that feeling will hold you back from reaching out to others.
Job searching is hard. It is especially hard when you are unemployed. Handling the unknown, the what ifs, and the probable rejection can bruise our egos, emotions and self-esteem. The way you handle yourself during this is important. Take care of you first, fill your bucket. Read/listen to personal growth books and podcasts. Ensure you are communicating with positive, upbeat people who believe in you. Try to stay out of the tornado of negative self-talk. You can do this. You WILL do this. You have skills and experiences companies are looking for. It is going to take some time, but remember hearing “no” will open up the door to the right “yes”, you’ve just got to stay the course.