by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Lack of success in a job-search can take its toll as the time looking extends much longer than you originally thought, especially if you are unemployed. You may begin to question your skills and abilities, and whether you will ever again find a job in your field. What can you do to break the potential downward spiral and remain upbeat and optimistic about your future prospects? Here are some strategies for helping you get through this rough patch in your career.
Reassess your job-search goals and strategies and make necessary adjustments
If you have been unsuccessful thus far in your job search, it’s time to take an objective look at your goals, strategies, and tactics. Are you sending out resumes and getting no responses? Is your resume as strong (and professional) as it can be? Are you following-up all job leads? Are you using your network? Are you spending too much time using online job boards? If you feel as though you are putting out a lot of effort, but not getting any interviews, then you need to assess these strategies. If you are getting interviews, but not getting any offers, then you need to assess your interviewing and post-interview follow-up strategies. Finally, if you are making a career change, are you attempting too large a stretch?
Consider reviewing some of the many tools we offer in these sections:
Set smaller goals for yourself — and celebrate each achievement
Sometimes a goal as big as a job-search take on a life of its own and become intimidating — almost overwhelming. If this is the case for you, the best strategy is to break down your job-search tasks into smaller activities. Don’t look at your situation from the macro level; instead, focus on each of the many smaller steps it takes to find and obtain a new job. And once you achieve your daily goals, reward yourself with something that will take your mind off your job-search temporarily.
Develop a set daily schedule with the goal of achieving a set number of job-search tasks
Once you have identified all these smaller goals in the previous strategy, use this strategy for achieving them. Consider setting small daily job-search goals for yourself, such as talking with three people in your network, or following-up three job leads. Job-hunting is often a cumulative effect of many activities, so get started on completing several job-search activities daily.
Keep your job-search skills sharp
The longer it has been since your last job search, the more likely you are in need of polishing those job-search skills — especially your interviewing skills. One of the best techniques for keeping your interviewing skills sharp is role playing. Seek out a friend, colleague, or mentor to ask you the tough interview questions in a mock interview situation — and then keep tweaking those answers until you have confidence in your interviewing skills.
Talk with a career counselor or coach and get feedback
At some point in your job-search, the best solution may be to bring in a professional to evaluate your job-search goals and strategies and give you the pointers you need to get your job search back on track. Consider using a professional, such as a career coach or career counselor. Many metropolitan areas have One-Stop or other publicly-funded career centers. Or, if you are a college graduate, consider contacting the career professionals at your alma mater and ask for assistance.
Join a job club and get key support from other job-seekers
One of the best tools for some job-seekers is a job club, where members get together regularly for moral support, skills updating, and the sharing of job leads. Many communities have job clubs, but if yours doesn’t, consider starting one yourself. Look for announcements in the business section of your town’s newspaper, free employment newspaper, phone book, or even local religious organizations.
Read more in our article about job clubs.
Expand your network of contacts
No job-search technique is stronger than networking, yet networking is often misunderstood. Networking, which you should do year-round not just when you are job-hunting, simply means building relationships with other people. You don’t ask people in your network to hire you; rather, you simply tell them the type of job you are seeking and ask them for advice and to keep their eyes open. In fact, they may know their company is looking for someone with your skills, but more likely, they may know another employer who is looking for someone with your skills. So, expand your network! Join a new organization in your profession or your community. But don’t stop there — jump on the fast-growing bandwagon of online networking.
Seek out other alternatives to regular employment
If the job outlook doesn’t look good in the short-term, rather than spending all your time seeking a full-time position, you might consider several alternatives. You might consider temping, which is often in demand and a good way to build skills and get your foot in the door with various employers. You might also consider going to work for yourself as a freelancer or consultant. Finally, you might also consider volunteering, even if only for a few hours a week, to gain valuable experience and make new networking contacts.
Find ways to increase your marketability
Don’t allow yourself to lose ground while you are job-hunting. Find ways to increase your marketability, such as through volunteering or additional training/education. Thus, even if you are unemployed for a period of time, rather than having a conspicuous gap on your resume, you can showcase your improved skills.
Reward yourself by taking breaks to get away from stress
Perhaps one of the best things you can do is find things to do so that you are not living and breathing your job-search 24/7. Take time each day just for yourself. Walk, jog, or ride your bike. Visit a nearby park. Visit your local library. Do something to physically and mentally get away from the stress of your job-search.
Final Thoughts on Succeeding Through a Long Job-Search
Perhaps it’s a bit too “New Age” for your taste, but I truly believe there is something to the power of positive thought. If you are pessimistic about your chances in an upcoming job interview, chances are the employer is going to sense those vibes. A long job-search can certainly be discouraging and hard on the ego at times, but as best you can, you need to rise above these feelings and focus on the positives — and following some of these strategies should help get your job-search moving in a positive direction.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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