By Barbara Poole, a master-certified coach and president of Success Builders Inc.
Q: I’m so discouraged. I’ve been looking for a job for months, but I can’t seem to get past first base with the employers I’m submitting applications to. Help!
A: Being in the job search process these days can definitely feel more like a marathon than a sprint. It’s an employer’s market right now and they can afford to be choosy and take their time filling positions. With an ample supply of applicants who have vast experience and are willing to take a cut in both salary and job level in order to land a position, it can be very discouraging to feel like you a swimming in a vast sea of competitors. Couple this with the very real economic pressures posed by being between jobs, and the impact on self-esteem that comes with transition, and you have all the ingredients for an emotionally challenging period of time – this, when you most feel the pressure to be upbeat and on top of your game.
While it is important to consider how you might redirect your job search, it is just as critical to deal with the psychological impact of a prolonged quest for employment. In fact, taking steps to ensure your own well-being may just be the most important element of your strategy right now, since you want to appear capable and confident for employers. Try these approaches to keeping your energy and your spirits up during this period of time:
1. Don’t take what happens in your job search personally. It can be very discouraging to be on the receiving end of what feels like an endless string of “no’s”, or worse yet, the lack of any kind of response to your applications. This is not about you; it’s largely about the circumstances of the job market right now. It’s important to remember that the search process is in many ways like the numbers game of sales. Rejection is just a part of the process, so don’t allow yourself to get too attached to any one opportunity. Give the application your best shot and then move on.
2. Build in rewards for yourself for the right activity as opposed to outcome. This is about identifying what you CAN control and letting go of what you can’t. In a tough market, it’s important to submit a sufficient number of applications and well-crafted resumes to harness the power of volume in your search. That’s the part you have control over. So acknowledge yourself for generating that activity and build in affordable little rewards for yourself like a bouquet of flowers from the market or the occasional Starbuck’s.
3. Take a time-out to do something playful and light. It’s difficult to make a full time enterprise of something that feels discouraging. Another way to reward yourself for generating sufficient job-search activity is to take a day off from the process now and then. Leave it all behind and go to the beach for the day, or take a bike ride to the park.
4. Step up your self-care. None of us runs well on empty, and it’s easy to feel depleted in the midst of a prolonged job search. It is really important during this period f time to eat well, get plenty of rest, and get good exercise and fresh air to protect your immune system and keep yourself in top form.
5. Lean into friends and loved ones. There is nothing like the boost that community provides to lift your spirits when you’re feeling sad or frustrated. This is the time to lean into others for support, for a shoulder, or for a good belly laugh. Chances are you know someone else who shares your circumstances, so use this time as an opportunity to connect and be reminded that you are not alone.
Despite how discouraged you might feel, remember that slow and steady wins the race. Stay focused on what you can control, take very good care of yourself, and know that somewhere out there is a job with your name on it. In due time, you will find your way to it, and the frustrations of the job search process will be nothing more than a distant memory.
First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, October 9, 2009.