You sit there, with a pit in your stomach and an anxious train of thoughts running through your head. You’re worried, cranky, tired of dealing with the job search, and not sure what to do next.
Maybe you got turned down for the job you really wanted; maybe someone was really rude to you during your interview; maybe a friend said they’d email an introduction and they haven’t. Maybe you haven’t heard back from an interviewer for weeks; maybe you are mad at yourself for saying something you regret in an interview that you think lost you the job. Maybe you realized that you’ve been at this job search thing for a few months (or years) and nothing’s happening fast enough.
Whatever it is, we’ve all been there. There’s an awful moment (or, if the job search goes on a while, two or three times) in a job search where you feel at your lowest point: too unhappy and uninspired to know how to pull yourself out of it. It can make you question yourself, your skills, your approach, your core.
If you’re there – or if you know someone who’s there- here’s how to get out of the tailspin.
1) Take some time to reflect- briefly. If your annoyance comes from a clear source- like getting a call that you didn’t get the job- perhaps you can skip this step, for now. If, however, you’re feeling a broader malaise that has no one source, try writing down four lists, in this order:
–What’s not working? 5 specific things that have annoyed me or have not gone right about my job search recently
–What’s my deepest worry right now? You’re thinking it, deep down- so speak it. Bring it into the light and really look at it. Is it that you think you won’t find a job in the time you want to? Is it that you worry that people don’t want your skills? Articulate it so you can talk about it later with someone who’s supportive.
–What are the past three things that DID go well in your search? Even if it was a while ago, did someone call you back? Did you have a good conversation with someone? Did you learn something new?
–What are three things I’ve been thinking about doing, but haven’t? Have you been thinking about taking a class? Have you been meaning to reach out to someone? Don’t do these things yet– just list them.
2) Take a short break, completely, and do something that renews your spirit. Conducting a job search during your low moment would be counter-productive, like going on a first date when you’re in the worst mood ever. Don’t stop forever; stop for an hour, or a day. Or, if you can afford it financially, maybe a week, tops. (Don’t let this “break” be too long or you’ll find it’s hard to re-engage.) Take a walk in nature; call a friend; read a book; listen to a podcast; meditate or pray; get some exercise. Just stop your mind from spinning over the setbacks you’ve felt, and get centered again.
3) Get into the mindset of a “fresh start”. A friend of mine was in a low point with his job search recently and said to me that he wanted to take a break and “start over” the next day. Great, I said- but instead of thinking about it as going back to the beginning, the starting line, having to run the whole race again, think about it as coming back to your search with a fresh pair of eyes, a “fresh start.” You’ve already made progress, even if you think you haven’t. That short break gives you a breather, and you can pick up where you left off – but without the out-of-control mindset.
4) Pick ONE action that you can control/complete. Often, during the darkest days you can feel like nothing’s working, so it’s hard to know what to try next. Instead of feeling like you need a whole new strategy right away, just pick one thing that you can do tomorrow to get back on the horse. Investigate one company to add to your target list? Read about one new technology in your field? Dig on LinkedIn to figure out one hiring manager and write him/her a letter? Organize your “job search” folder on your computer? Make this “one thing” something that’s in your control, something you can learn or do without needing someone else’s reaction. (So, for example, don’t make your “one thing” something like talking to your former boss, in case he/she can’t talk any time soon.)
5) Find an ongoing sounding board so you don’t feel like you’re in this alone. Is there a job-search support group? A local buddy who can meet for coffee? A coach? A mentor? A therapist? Someone who will take a walk with you on a regular basis who doesn’t mind hearing about your search?
6) Plan some time soon for a strategic review. It’s possible that you do need a different approach, or a different strategy, and talking with someone else may bring ideas or a new way of thinking about your job search or presenting yourself. Find a way to see the big picture of what you’ve done in your search, and what’s working/not working so that you’re not just repeating activities that haven’t been fruitful.
And remember- you’re not alone. Almost anyone who’s done a job search has felt a moment of deep frustration before digging deep and finding a way to have a fresh start. You’ll get through it; everyone does, somehow. And, once you’re on the other side of it, you can be a resource and sounding board for others since you know how it feels.