While a small minority of people I’ve met seem to really enjoy the job hunting process, and thrive on the challenge of going out and promoting themselves to new organizations, let’s not kid ourselves — for most folks, the job search journey is a roller-coaster ride and there are points where one is likely to feel significantly lost, stuck, frustrated, and confused.
All of this, I can assure you, is perfectly normal and part of the learning curve. And thankfully, the vast majority of people seem to overcome these sticking points eventually, gain traction, and successfully land a new assignment. This being said, however, one can certainly accelerate their success rate by taking these emotional “road blocks” seriously and embarking on proactive steps to minimize them. On that note, while I’ve written some posts in the past offering detailed suggestions around how to address career-related motivation and confidence issues, today I’m going to try a different tack. Below, you’ll find a short punchlist of different ideas that both myself and other coaches/counselors have come up with for addressing common job search barriers.
While this list doesn’t go into great detail, my hope is that it will illustrate just how many potential approaches can be utilized to shake off the job search doldrums — versus just letting these issues fester and stubbornly sticking to your same routine, day after day, hoping they’ll resolve themselves.
1) Are you feeling frustrated by the job search process and struggling with negative, self-defeating thoughts? If so, you could potentially try…
• Surrounding yourself with positive people and distancing yourself from cynical, uninspiring folks
• Exercising regularly to release endorphins, increase your energy level, and feel the pride of accomplishment
• Giving yourself permission to keep living your life; don’t feel guilty if you’re not job hunting every second
• Reframing negative thoughts into positive ones as soon as you catch yourself engaging in pessimistic self-talk
• Reciting any negative thoughts you have out loud, in a funny voice, to take the power out of them
• Slashing your financial burn rate and streamlining your spending to give yourself more breathing room
• Volunteering time to those less fortunate in order to maintain perspective and gratitude about your situation
• Evaluating your expectations of what’s “normal” in a job search these days; could they be outdated?
• Asking yourself “what will I regret NOT using this time off to do?” once you’ve landed your new assignment
2) Are you feeling confused by the job market, how to approach it, and what to be doing, exactly? If so, you might consider…
• Reading a steady stream of books, blogs, and/or articles on job hunting to “get smarter” about the process
• Picking the brain of other people who have landed jobs recently to see what worked (or didn’t work) for them
• Engaging your school’s alumni office or career center to see what potential resources they might have to offer
• Hiring a career coach or attending a career-related class, webinar, or workshop to improve your search skills
• Reading some classic sales and marketing books, since ultimately, these are the core disciplines of job hunting
• Managing your job search like a formal project and breaking it down into distinct daily tasks you can complete
• Researching and building a list of relevant target companies/contacts so you always have “another call to make”
• Committing to a daily output goal of some kind (measure this in actual deliverables, not time) and sticking to it
3) Are you feeling a bit isolated, lonely, and anti-social due to your career situation and the fact that you’re not going into the office each day? If so, perhaps you could…
• Apply your free time to reconnecting with all those former acquaintances you feel guilty about losing touch with
• Get more involved in your hobbies and interests, attending related events and joining some meetup groups
• Change up your routine to be around people; search from a coffee shop, the library, or a co-working space
• Devote more time to getting involved in faith-based activities, events, or volunteer opportunities
• Search out job search support groups where you can network with others who will understand your situation
• Get more involved in professional associations and groups, either off the offline or online variety
• Kick off a research project (e.g. write an article, form a new group, give a talk) related to your career interests
4) Are you finding yourself struggling with motivation/accountability issues and putting consistent effort into your ongoing search? If so, you might be able to break through this by…
• Setting a clear agenda on a daily/weekly basis and establishing a reward system for successful progress
• Creating a formal tracking system for monitoring your progress and capturing all the steps you’ve completed
• Recruiting an “accountability partner” (often another job seeker) you can meet regularly for mutual benefit
• Figuring out the specific places and times of day when you’re most productive — and adhering to them
• Again, joining a job search support group where a bit of peer pressure might help raise your accountability level
• Treating your job search as a portfolio piece; would outside observers be impressed by your efforts, to date?
• Going to a ton of interesting events, aside from job hunting, to break up the monotony and stay un-boring
• Setting additional goals you can totally control, such as diet/exercise, to gain a sense of daily accomplishment
5) And lastly, if your confidence is really suffering and you’re struggling with pangs of inadequacy as a result of your employment status, I’d suggest you consider…
• Engaging your brain via some form of new learning whether through school, online courses, or self-study
• Reviewing past job evaluations, testimonials, and performance reviews to remind yourself of how good you are
• Practicing some of your top work-related success stories/examples; get your “success stories” down pat
• Conducting research into the new trends/skills/competencies in your field so you can jump the curve
• Gaining some training in whatever software applications you know you should be fluent in, but haven’t learned
• Conducting informational interviews with relevant people to stay professional and plugged into the market
• Asking a wide variety of people (friends, customers, vendors, supervisors, subordinates) to serve as references
• Volunteering to work on a project in your professional discipline that will keep your skills sharp
• Using a personal branding survey like this one to solicit positive input/insights from people who know you
Again, while these lists are presented in “lightning round” format and certainly far from comprehensive, the main point I’m trying to make is that when your job hunt isn’t going well, you have options. You can experiment. You can try stuff. You can form new habits and engage in numerous proactive activities to try to break out of the funk. The only real approach that doesn’t often work well is to keep hitting the same roadblocks, hoping they’ll magically resolve themselves without any real action on your part. In fact, I’d be tempted to label this behavior the definition of insanity — you know, as in the old cliche about “doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results” — but as an article in Psychology Today wisely pointed out, this phenomenon isn’t actually insanity. It’s good old-fashioned avoidance. So recognize it, when it pops up!
Hope some of these thoughts were helpful and if you need further details — or have any other great tips for getting around some of the common psychological pitfalls of job hunting — please don’t hesitate to share them!