Having just pulled myself out of a period of struggle, I feel newly qualified to write this post.
1. Have a plan: Since this can be a long, tough process, having a plan will help you feel more in control. Rather than measuring your progress against vague hopes and employers responses, you can measure against your plan, so you can accomplish things within your control.
To make a good plan, you need to know that everything takes longer than you think it will. Here are some numbers from my experience:
- Initial resume: If you haven’t updated your resume in a while, expect this process to take a couple weeks. Why? Although the first draft might take you just an hour or two, you’ll probably want to send your resume to a few trusted advisers to look over. Then they will probably give you some painful edits to make.
- Getting in touch with network contacts: Between LinkedIn searches, profile reading, and writing a decent email, just sending your first contact request will probably take 30 minutes (sounds ridiculous, I know). Then, I wouldn’t necessarily expect to speak to the person for another week at least. I’ve actually gone as many as 6 weeks before having a conversation.
- One application: At a bare minimum, you should edit your resume and base cover letter for the specific qualities listed in the job description. For me, this takes about an hour, though I’ve done it in 20 minutes before if the job is similar to one I’ve applied for before. If I don’t know the company already, I spend some time checking out their website, Glassdoor, and news articles, which can add another hour.
- Company research: Before talking to anyone from a company, I will usually spend at least an hour reading up on news and getting an idea of org structure.
- Exploring opportunities online: job board and random internet browsing can take endless amounts of time, but may be worth it and is a good activity for when you’re feeling a bit low.
- Recruiter time: If a recruiter says they want to do something in x days/weeks, expect the real time to be double that.
Now that you have some of that in mind, get a sense of how much time you can reasonably devote to your job search each week and schedule a regular block of time to work on your job search. I recommend a chunk of at least 2 hours. This applies whether or not you are currently employed. For the next several sessions of time, map out exactly what you plan to do (e.g. I will look through online job boards, I will reach out to industry contacts, I will finish my application for x company, or I will finish at least 2 applications).
Set milestones for yourself: (Note: this is not something I did well). Taking your scheduled time and progress into account, set some milestones for your self to re-evaluate your search. Basically, say to yourself, if this doesn’t seem to be working in 6 weeks (or whatever time frame), I will re-evaluate. Until then, I’ll stick with this course of action. For example, if you’ve decided to only focus on your very niche industry/role for your initial search, but you’re worried that you’re limited your options too much, you can just tell yourself, I’ll try this and not worry about it until I hit my milestone. At that point, you might decide, maybe I still want to stick with these jobs, but I need to tweak my resume, or I need to work on my network.
2. Recognize what’s not under your control and try not to worry about it. The number one rule for not being an anxious mess is to forget about your application after you apply/interview etc. Clearly, this is easier said than done, but it really does help to tell yourself “I’ve already done everything I can” (if you have indeed have reached out to network contacts etc.). Other tips for making this work:
- If someone isn’t responding to you, or you are expecting a follow-up, set a date in your calendar to follow-up and then forget about it until then.
- If you share details about your job search process with friends/family members, they will probably ask how it is going as a way of expressing their concern for you. It can be hard to deal with questions like “how did xyz pan out?” if you are still wondering yourself or dealing with a rejection, so it may be wise to limit the number of people you tell about opportunities you’re looking at. Most people will get the hint if you just say “it’s going well” or “I don’t know yet” and leave it at that. If the questions are a recurring thing, you can also politely say that you prefer not to get into the details. It’s probably good karma to let people know that with job searchers, it’s generally best not to ask – if they want to share something with you, they will.
- Remember that there’s no way for you to predict or control the outcome of your application. Employers might have internal roadblocks that have nothing to do with your abilities (more on this). Remember that if you’re making progress on your plan, you’re doing fine. Your plan is in your control, but other people’s actions are not, so don’t worry about what you cannot control.
3. Keeping up your spirits:
- Remember that it’s hard for employers to find good people too. They would much rather you be a great candidate than not.
- Even if you think you have a good chance of an offer or several solid leads, always keep looking. That way, if the opportunity falls through, you aren’t left with nothing in the pipeline (because that’s a terrible feeling)
- Be gentle with yourself: My personal philosophy is that if something is already in the past, there is no reason to beat myself up about it. I should just try to do better in future. I know this can be really hard to do at times, and it took me forever to develop this mindset, but even if doesn’t work at first, it can’t hurt to tell yourself that.
I think doing yoga regularly really helped regulate my emotional ups and downs during this process, for several reasons. I encourage you to find an activity that gives you similar benefits:
- I did a 30-day challenge (yoga every day for 30 days), and it really helped give me a sense of accomplishment outside of my job search
- Since I was not working, it added some much needed structure and planning to my day
- Exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy!
- Yoga also encourages a meditative state and gratitude for the little things in life. This was pretty key, though I only recently realized this.
I’ve been doing some reading about the power of positive thinking, and I would really encourage you to try it. If you’re feeling frustrated, stop and write down the progress you have made, rather than focusing on what you haven’t accomplished. One practical way to develop a more positive mindset is through this challenge. If that’s a bit much for you, maybe just take 10 minutes a day to write down 3 things you’re grateful for and 1 positive experience.
(Sorry if this section was too new-agey for your tastes!)
This is part of my job search guide. It’s a work in progress, but take a look! And please let me know if you have any feedback (even minor edits)