Staying Optimistic During Your Job Search
It's hard to stay upbeat and positive when you’re applying to jobs for months and offers don’t come in, all while your finances are suffering due to lack of income. Under these conditions, it is easy to become self-critical, get discouraged, and lose your confidence. If you get stuck thinking pessimistically about your situation, you’ll lose hope quickly and head towards poor mental/emotional health. Avoiding this pitfall requires a shift in mindset.
Here are six tips that will help you keep your mental game strong while persevering through these choppy, job seeking waters.
1. Organize a Daily Job Search Routine
Organizing yourself by creating a base routine for each day of the work week and on weekends will go a long way to keep you sane during this challenging time. Place your schedule on a daily calendar and check off each responsibility as you complete it. It is quite likely that during the first few weeks of your job search you will need to be more aggressive in the amount of time you put into your job search routine. This makes sense since you will be starting off from the beginning. You will have more research to do initially (on companies and people in your network), more job postings to review, and more applications to submit. At about the third week, you should balance out with more regularity in your routine and less time commitment. Below are some guidelines and tasks you should totally consider incorporating in your daily routine while job searching:
- Start your day as if you're going to work. Get dressed, have a morning routine (breakfast, exercise, etc), and set aside a dedicated area to focus on your "work" (i.e. job searching). Create a mini home office, with the resources you got on hand, to set the stage for productivity. Make sure you schedule in breaks.
- Review your applications that you've submitted already and check for updates. Also, search and review any new job postings from online search engines and job boards.
- Continue to research companies you want to work for and as you find companies you like, track down their career pages. Prioritize high-interest or high-potential jobs for the next stages. For jobs you really want to get, try to learn as much as you can about the company and position and then create a strategy to track down contact information of a recruiter or a hiring manager of that open position. Introduce yourself and what you can bring to the company.
- Re-write your cover letters and make any changes to your resume to target each of the jobs you are applying for that day. Send out cover letters and resumes and complete any online job applications. Remember it is better to send out 10 well-targeted cover letters and resumes to the right people than it is to send out 100 general ones.
- A few days during the week, review your finances and stay on top of them. Plan a budget and constantly evaluate your spending and areas you can save money.
- Schedule networking meetings with friends, colleagues, ex co-workers, etc and communicate how your job search is going. Be open to advice and leads, this will help break up the routine a bit, fight some of the loneliness, and also has the potential to add leads to your job search.
- Look for, sign up for, and attend online webinars, seminars, or workshops that are available to help you. There are many of these being offered (many of them for free!) that go over skills on resume and cover letter building, looking for job openings, time management, interviewing, etc. State and local support is also available. Reach out to your local unemployment offices, community centers, churches, schools, and colleges as many of them hold career support groups or career services that can be very helpful.
2. Resilient Mindset - Focus Only on What You Can Control
Resilience is the process of being able to adapt well and bounce back quickly in times of stress. Stress may mean that there are problems or challenges that cause you to overexert yourself. This may come in the form of financial issues, health problems, relationship issues, and/or your job or lack of one. Developing resilience can help you cope adaptively and bounce back after changes, challenges, setbacks, disappointments, or failures. A key to build up this resilience is to try to focus on only the things that you can control and not dwell on the things you can't control. In other words, being frictionless, have the things you can't control flow out of your life like water flowing off a duck's back.
Additionally, a resilient individual tends to have the following characteristics:
- Views change as a challenge or opportunity
- Demonstrates resolve and commitment to problem solving
- Recognizes their own limits to control a situation
- Engages to lend support to others
- Builds close connections with others
- Has personal and collective (group/team) goals
- Is self-efficacious
- Uses stress as a trigger to do better
- Celebrates past successes
- Has a realistic sense of control and the actual choices they have
- Has a sense of humor
- Takes an action-oriented approach
- Demonstrates patience
- Is adaptable and tolerant of negative consequences
- Exercises optimism
- Tends to have faith - it could be religious, but it could also simply mean having the belief and firm conviction that things will work out despite the realities perhaps appearing opposite
3. Join Support Groups - Job Seeker Clubs
Support groups are a great way get together with people that have similar goals, aspirations, and challenges too. For job seekers, these support groups help with all aspects of the job hunt and can be a tremendous source of help to not only land a job, but to keep sane in the meantime. Job searching can be a grueling process and having the support of others can mean the world to some of us who have little to no support systems. Don't be shy and get out there.
CareerOneStop is the US Department of Labor’s job services website, follow the link to find local job clubs on the website. You can also use your local chamber of commerce website for local job clubs as well. On the event website, Meetup, you can search for job clubs near your home. You can also search for Groups on Facebook or Twitter to see if there is a local job club.
Public libraries, colleges, and universities often have job clubs, alumni career services, or networking groups as well. Look up those organizations near you and reach out to them via email or via phone. Check out what they have to offer.
If you are looking for a club or group that is specialized and/or caters to a specific group or industry then begin your search by researching organizations that cater to that industry or specialization. Finally, if your searches don't reveal a group that fits your needs, then why not create your own?! Platforms like Meetup and Eventbrite allows you to create groups and share them via social media to advertise your group.
4. Engage With People via Networking
Most of us don't engage in networking because people find it terrifying to talk to strangers, but the honest truth is that we "network" all the time. Networking is simply getting to know people and whether you realize it or not, you probably "network" every day and everywhere you go. When you introduce yourself to others or strike up a conversation with the person next to you in line, when you meet a friend of a friend, when you catch up with a former co-worker, or stop to chat with your neighbor - all of those things are networking. You're getting to know others and building connections. The stranger next to you in line, your neighbor, the friend of a friend, and your former co-worker ALL have the potential to help you with your job search. They all have something to teach you and they all have their own network of people. Building these connections with people around you and with strangers as well gives you the foundation for a strong network that can support you to reach your goals.
Besides networking to help further your job search goals, networking is also about helping others. When you network properly, you're giving as you are receiving, so always be willing to lend a hand if you can. As you mature in your job search journey, make sure you give back by helping others that are just starting off their job search or others who may need job seeking help.
5. Reflect to Find Meaning & Purpose and Fuel Self-Development
What does it mean to “follow your passion” - especially when it comes to finding a job? It's a tall order for anyone to answer that question because we are all multi-faceted people with different layers to who we are while managing societal pressures and demands. To start, it can be useful to figure out what has meaning and purpose for you. What moves you? What drives you? Your answers may not necessarily be a career-related, but it could help you figure out how to bring meaning and purpose to different parts of your life. Reflect within and try to answer these few questions:
- Have you developed a sense of your true self and have you defined the values you want to live by?
- Are you able to help maintain your well-being with physical activity, proper nutrition, and adequate rest? If not, what holds you back? What are your barriers?
- What do you love to do that gets you excited and energized?
- What does your best self look like? Values? Characteristics?
- If money wasn't a concern, what would you be doing with your life?
- What activity makes you feel happy, whole, and centered?
6. Volunteer In the Meantime
Volunteering is a wonderful way to keep busy while you're out of work. It truly is a win-win scenario, where the organization directly gains, but you too can indirectly gain as well. Volunteering can help keep your thoughts positive, your skills sharp, and work experience current. Here are five tangible benefits you can experience by freely giving of your time:
- Develop a sense of purpose: non-profits typically cater to the most vulnerable people and animals in society and knowing that you made another living being's life better directly through your actions is bound to make you feel purposeful and useful.
- Make valuable connections: there is always the possibility of getting to know others and expanding your network. You never know who maybe able to lend a hand to you in return.
- Address your employment gap: typically the job hunt takes a 4-5 months to build up and eventually ending in a job offer. However, for some of us and for many of us living through the effects of the 2020 pandemic, landing that job may take half a year to over a year. Unfortunately, employers are not keen on hiring people out of the job market for too long and this presents a problem for unemployed job seekers. Volunteering offers the perfect bridge to connect your previous work experience to current times where you're unemployed while showing that you're productive and effective with your time.
- Build up your expertise or gain new skills: organizations that rely on volunteerism typically have a wide range of tasks they need help with. Utilize this opportunity to continue to develop your proficiency on a particular skill, try a new career path, or pick up a new skillset.
- Stay busy and productive: one of the biggest benefits could be the fact that you're keeping yourself busy and productive. Staying at home for a prolonged period of time would drive anyone lonely, deranged, or depressed...even when you're being productive at home. We are social animals and we instinctively seek to create connection with others. Volunteerism gives you an outlet to keep that mind off the things you can't control when you're looking for a job.