How to Handle a Long Job Search

It can get discouraging when the search drags on. Here’s how to stay focused.

Whether you’re just entering the workforce or find yourself currently between jobs, your job search can become exasperating and nerve-racking. And the longer that the job search has dragged on, the worse it feels. The hope you had may transform to resentment and then sheer resignation. You might feel your motivation waning.

Here are some ways to cope with a long job search:

Identify Difficulties

There’s a lot of randomness during the job search process, making it difficult to understand why you haven’t gotten a job. Occasionally a firm already has a person in mind for a particular job. At times there were just a lot of qualified applicants for a position. But, sometimes there are things you’re doing that are hindering success.

You should review your entire application package to make sure you’re not doing anything that is causing problems. If you’re not getting interviews at all, then sit down with a good Career Coach to get a detailed evaluation of the resume and the cover letters that you’re sending out. Maybe you’re not conveying your qualifications properly. For instance, many people making the transition from the military to civilian jobs have hard time communicating what they have learned out of the terminology of the armed forces and into the language that hiring managers use.

If you are getting called in for interviews, but aren’t getting positions after that, then it’s time to hone your interview skills. After each interview, write down all the questions you can remember and jot down notes about how you respond to those questions. Then, have a mock interview who has experience doing interviews. They might be able to recommend some things you can do differently the next time.

Expand Your Network

People typically apply for jobs that seem perfect for them and possibly a few others that aren’t ideal. The problem is that you usually miscalculate your chances of getting a job, the same way people miscalculate their odds of winning the lottery just because they bought a ticket.

Consider applying for a wider range of jobs than you think you should. That will improve the chances that you’ll receive an offer.

You are not required to take a job just because it is offered to you. If you go through the recruiting process and conclude that you simply don’t want the job you’re offered, you can decline it. At least you’ll gain some reassurance that you can get an offer.

Stay Active

Work days usually pass in a blur. But days when you are out of work can drag on, because you’re not mentally engaged. A few days playing video games might be fine, but you really need to stay active during the job search. The best thing you can do is to network with people who might consider hiring you.

One possibility is to register with a temp agency. In the past, temps were mostly people who did menial jobs for low pay. Now, though, agencies also have jobs for more skilled workers that can fill in at firms while someone is on leave or can bridge the gap until the firm can afford to hire a full-time individual. A great way to get yourself in the queue for a position at a company is to already be working for them.

Another possibility is to volunteer for an organization that needs your skills. It is easy to think about volunteering as being mainly about walking dogs or delivering meals. Those are wonderful opportunities, of course, but nonprofit organizations also usually need help in their offices to keep finances in order, maintain websites, do marketing, or do outreach. Working in that context can help you refine your skills and may also bring you in contact with people (mainly board members of the nonprofit) who might be hiring. Even one day a week of this kind of volunteer work can add a lot of value during a long job search.

Stay Grounded

Finally, don’t endure the stress of a long job search alone. Many people deal with their stress by becoming introspective and avoiding social interactions.

Find some people in your life that you trust and let them know how you’re feeling. That should keep you motivated to continue your search instead of giving up hope. It will also make the most difficult days more tolerable. There will be days when it is difficult to treat yourself with compassion. On those days, you need the energy of friends and loved ones.