Undertaking a job search is like riding a rollercoaster- the fear that consumes you as the car is slowly, jerking back and forth, pulled up the steep hill, your hands gripping the safety bar for dear life not knowing what lies ahead… and then the amazing rush you feel hands raised, screaming with joy, wind flying through your hair as you hit the downhill. Similarly, in your job search there are the scary moments-multiple days (or weeks!) of submitting applications with no response, asking yourself if your applications are even being received or if your email is malfunctioning. Then, the exciting times when your called for a second interview at your dream company and you begin imagining what you’ll wear the first day at your new job!
Managing the ups and downs of a job search is not for the faint of heart but using the following tips will help you survive the ride:
- Engage in “Career Conversations”: From the outside, especially when seeking your first professional position or a step up in responsibility, other’s career paths appear to be linear, straightforward, and consistently on an upward trajectory. However, most people’s careers have plenty of twists and turns- one step forward, two steps back; mix in a layoff at some point along the way and/or the need to take a lower level job at some point due to family obligations or health issues, and you have something closer to reality. Engaging family, friends, and mentors in conversations about their own career paths- the good, the bad, and the ugly- can help you develop a more realistic understanding of how careers actually unfold.
- Create a Schedule and Set Goals: Approach your job search like any other project, complete with a work plan, schedule, goals, and a budget. Set a routine that gets you going each day and provides structure to your process. By having a schedule, you can avoid overdoing your efforts such that you have no down time and at the same time minimize feelings of guilt when you aren’t looking for work. Build in time for hobbies, fun activities and self-care, all of which will help you be more productive when you are looking for work, and you may even make some great connections along the way!
- Keep Using Your Skills: Whether through volunteer work, helping a friend, tackling a project for yourself, or doing some freelance work, continue using your skills. Keeping your skills sharp will maintain your confidence, remind you of the value you bring to potential employers, and provide you with examples to share during interviews. Volunteer work in particular can be a bridge to a new position, allow you to build connections, and provide social interaction which can counteract the isolation often felt during a job search, all while doing some good out in the world! To find opportunities to volunteer check out: org, californiavolunteers.org, or score.org.
- Build a New Skill: Learn something new because when we are learning we are growing! Whether through formal or informal education, there are an unlimited number of classes you can take to build your knowledge and skills. These classes also can be a way to determine if the subject matter of a career holds your interest and meet others who enjoy the subject matter. There are a variety of options for taking a class, from traditional community college courses, to university open classroom programs, to adult learning programs, to online options from sites such as LinkedIn, Udemy, or Coursera.
- Set a Non-Job Search Goal: Looking for a job often feels like a great deal of activity with very little to show for your effort. Consequently, setting a non-job search related goal- something completely within your control and fairly easily accomplished- can give you that needed sense of forward progress- knowledge that things are getting done. Your goal might be as simple as cleaning out a drawer, weeding a small area of your garden, trying a new recipe once a week, or building the habit of doing 25 sit-ups while your morning coffee brews. Whatever goal you chose, once you accomplish it, set another!
- Focus on the Big Picture: When you are in the midst of a job search it can feel all consuming. Your entire being seems to rest on what to say in your cover letter or whether you’ll get a call for a second interview. Reminding yourself of the bigger picture and that your current job search doesn’t completely define you will help you put the process in perspective. Taking care of yourself through exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, and minimizing alcohol and marijuana will keep centered and healthy throughout the process.
- Evaluate Your Efforts: At the end of each week reflect back on what went well, what needs improvement, what do you need to recommit to. If your job search isn’t progressing as you had hoped, maybe it’s time to try a different strategy. Perhaps you are applying for positions that aren’t a good match for your skills, or your resume could be revised so that it is more focused or includes more relevant accomplishment statements. Maybe another mock interview would help you hone your interview skills, or you need to expand your networking efforts. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your trusted network to seek their input and ideas. Discussing your successes and challenges with other job seekers also can be tremendously helpful as you learn from each other. Sometimes an outside perspective is just what you may need to provide that new idea, resource, or contact that will reinvigorate your search. Often just a slight correction in your approach can open up much greater opportunity so don’t shy away from making adjustments throughout the job search process.
Using these tips will build the resilience you’ll need to withstand the highs and lows of the job search process. If you’d like some help, reach out and let’s make a plan!