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Beating the Job Search Blues

By Susan P. Joyce

It's easy to get discouraged after working at a job search for a length of time with no apparent success.

Job search success will come, but it never seems to come soon enough. Here are some tips to help you keep your spirits up:

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1. Recognize that losing a job is something that will happen to everyone eventually (probably more than once, too!).

You're not "bad" or "incompetent" because you are unemployed, although if you've been unemployed for several months, you may think that you are. Consider that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, particularly if you were part of a corporate layoff or downsizing.

See what you can learn from it (pay more attention to office politics or to the signs that the company was headed for financial difficulties, etc.), and move on.

[If the job loss was a big surprise, you may need to go through a period of mourning. Then, if you are angry, dump the anger so it doesn't sabotage your job search. It's been highly recommended to write it all down. Spill out the anger and the frustration and the injustices in writing. You don't need to do anything with what you've written; you just unburden yourself of the anger by expressing it harmlessly. There's research that shows it helps you to move on with your life.]

2. Join a local face-to-face job club.

Check your local public library, town hall, and places of worship. Look for "job clubs" -- goups of job seekers, usually lead by a career or job search coach. Often they meet weekly or twice a month. Go to at least 2 meetings so you get a chance to understand how the group works.

Job clubs will expand your local network. Most importantly, you'll also see that you are not the only smart, competent person struggling with the strange new rules of today's job search.

You'll have another set of eyes to look at your resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn Profiles, etc. You'll also be able to exchange leads -- you know about a job at Company A that's not right for you, but it is right for someone else in the group, and vice versa. Members help each other find connections and jobs at local employers.

Avoid the "pity party" groups. A very few job clubs focus on members complaining about how unfairly they've been treated. I'm not disputing that they may have been treated unfairly, but that kind of discussion doesn't really help you move forward, confidently. It usually leads everyone to feeling frustrated and defeated. Not helpful!

3. Understand that a job search can be a long, tough process.

Being unemployed for several months is not "proof" that you are stupid or unemployable. It IS a very tough job market, and many people who will be fabulously successful in the future are unemployed right now. Some things are beyond our control, and the job market is one of those things.

4. Don't spend a lot of time trying to "fix" what is "wrong" with you.

This isn't the time to tear yourself apart trying to change into something you aren't. You can't go from introvert to extrovert, or vice versa, if that's not who you really are. Chances are VERY slim that you are really as imperfect as you feel right now, anyway.

5. Don't obsess about any bad job market news you hear or read.

People seem to feel obligated to let you know "how bad it is out there." Don't listen! Many of the horror stories are NOT true, and even if they are true, the person or people involved are probably quite different from you. 

Good news
doesn't seem to qualify as "news" so you don't see it in print or on TV, but it happens every day.  According the the U.S. Department of Labor's JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey), more than 5,000,000 jobs are filled every month in the USA - a FACT (but not "news").

Focus on positive things right now, not negative. This is not "avoiding reality." This is staying upbeat and positive so you can recognize (and pounce on) the opportunities coming to you.

6. Don't focus on the job boards. Move on to LinkedIn. 

Limit the amount of time you spend working the job sites. Working the job boards may give you the feeling that you're accomplishing something, but, for those of us who are a bit shy or just discouraged, it's also a way to hide from making the real (human) connections that will be more helpful. Being comfortable with the technology of an online job search is critical, but an effective job search is more than just using the technology, and the sad truth is that very few people (fewer than 10%) actually find jobs through job boards.

LinkedIn.com is the current "happy hunting ground" of the majority of recruiters. So, join it, if you haven't already, and connect with your friends, former colleagues, and target employers.

If you feel you must spend a few hours every day online, use most of the time for LinkedIn:

  • Polishing and updating your Profile.
  • Participating (carefully!) in Groups
  • Writing "long-form posts" to demonstrate both what you know and your communications skills.
  • Connecting with people you know, etc.

[MORE: Guide to LinkedIn for Job Search.]

7. Give yourself a break.

Finding a job IS a full-time job, but don't work yourself to a frazzle or exclude time to relax. You'll be more effective if you take time to "recharge your batteries" with a little relaxation every day. Borrow a good mystery novel or a video from your local library, have lunch with friends, go to a movie, whatever works for you. Have a REAL life in addition to your job search.

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About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.