Stay Positive During Your Job Search by Keeping It Real

Life is strange: you try to cope with a miserable job one day and then you’re trying to cope with the misery of not having that job the next.

It wasn’t that long ago that I sent out 70+ resumes in one month. Only heard back from one employer. I was rejected. From an internship.

That’s right, I actually applied for an internship. As a thirty-year-old with ten years of work experience.

If you’re struggling with finding a job, most people will say something that boils down to stay positive. To be honest, I have no idea what that means. But I know how to help you keep it real.

1. Accept rejection

Now, coming back to those 70+ resumes—

Typical office job offers attract dozens and even hundreds of candidates. On average, you’re competing against 250. All of whom want to be among the five or so who make the interview shortlist. Then, only one will get the job.

So, you need to accept that rejection is the most likely outcome.

Now, I know that the word rejection doesn’t give you a warm and fuzzy feeling. But acceptance does. Yes, it’s tough, but the best you can do is not to dwell on things you can’t control. Finding a job will take time. Job openings are filled within one or two months, so you might not land anything for a few weeks even if you’re the perfect candidate.

You need to make sure your resume will pass muster. Or rather, pass the applicant tracking system (ATS). There are many good sample resumes out there, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If you want to get ahead, make sure you put the right keywords in your resume. Keep it real, though—a good resume sent it better than a great resume drafted. Being rejected after an interview always stings, but, as Nancy Christinovich of Plagiarism Check.org says:

“First of all, don’t take it personal, and don’t blame anyone. Ask for feedback, learn from it, and adapt your interviewing style accordingly for your future interviews. To handle a rejection, don’t pin all your hopes on one job. Consider 4–5 different employers at one time, apply for their positions, and network with those organizations. This way, there’s plan B.

Also, I would recommend taking 24–48-hour rest after a rejection. Rejection is always stressful: you’ll be sad, disappointed… Not the best condition to demonstrate your professional strengths to interviewers, right?” Pro Tip: Always turn failure into teachable moments by asking yourself questions about being rejected from that job.

2. Looking for a job is a job, so remember to clock out

On average, job seekers spend 11 hours a week looking for a job. Some will only spend a few hours per week on contacting a few friends and browsing job ads. Others will push on 24/7.

You’ve got to put in the time and apply yourself. But once you’re done for the day, you’re done for the day.

I sent out 70+ resumes in a month. That’s something like 4 resumes per day. Trust me, it took a lot of time. I had to find a job ad I liked. Then, I had to create an account to submit my resume through an Applicant Tracking System.

I was doing this while holding on to a few projects on the side. Once that month was up, I thought, “This is it. I’m done. No more applications. This is what my life will look like forever.”

Don’t kill your motivation the way I did. Pace yourself. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Pro Tip: Yes, social media can help you find a job. But staring at that LinkedIn Notifications button is as effective as rainmaking. Optimize your profile and move on.

3. Make the most of the time you now have

Do whatever you find pleasant and relaxing. You don’t have a 9-to-5 to hold you down—this is your time to catch up on life. It’s easy to get caught up in browsing job boards, tracking LinkedIn notifications, or consuming vast quantities of career advice. There’s a point of diminishing returns here, though.

Also, don’t worry about how you spend your time off from looking for a job.

Don’t go down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out what hobbies translate into better job-seeking performance in order to pursue them. If you enjoy journaling, don’t ditch it in favor of transcendental meditation just because of some sciencey-sounding claims.

Pro Tip: Pastime activities should remain a source of pleasure not become something optimized for job-seeking purposes.

4. Rethink your choice of career

Getting rejected 70+ times hurt. Being declined an internship was so shocking it never fully sank in. But—

Long story short, I broadened my search and looked outside my domain of expertise. I lucked out: a friend recommended me to someone, I did some work on spec, and landed the job.

In the end, I didn’t merely find a new job, I made a career change. Or, rather, a career leap. Suddenly, I was doing something meaningful.

Listen, I don’t want to tell you that being unemployed is the best thing to happen to you. It’s not. But, since you aren’t constrained by your old job, why not consider switching career paths?

Don’t make it a whole new mission, but mixing things up a bit might be useful for sanity’s sake. Brainstorm what your abilities and interests are and have a look at all those job ads you decided to ignore because you “don’t stand a chance.”

Pro Tip: Apply for positions the reasonable-and-professional you wouldn’t consider a few weeks ago. It’s actually fun. No expectations, no drama.

5. Catch up with education and skills training

Employment gaps and long-term unemployment are red flags for recruiters. If you’re between jobs, address any chinks in your armor by taking on skills training.

Pro Tip: There’s an abundance of workshops and courses available “in real life” and online. Here’s a monster list of MOOCs (or massive open online courses.)

Again, don’t assume that getting 10 Coursera certificates will get you a job. Do it for personal development and to help recruiters see that you aren’t wasting time. That the situation is more about your circumstances rather than character.

A lot of people find purpose and consolation in helping others by working for a cause. Consider doing some volunteer work.

This is not some ultimate “resume hack.”

You don’t have to make it an unpaid full-time job. Even a few hours per week is great. You’ll be making the world a better place, so thank you.

And, yes, I know. It sounds lame. It’s no substitute for an actual job. But, hey, it’s something to take your mind off the job search. Something that might make you feel useful. Plus, side-hustles look good on a resume.

There is more than one way to deal with the job hunt.

The bottom line? Don’t zone out. Zen out

Thanks to Victoria Sawtelle

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