There are few experiences in life more taxing on your self esteem than looking for a new job. It’s even more harsh, if you’re currently unemployed or underemployed. You may start your search feeling like you have something special to offer, but that feeling quickly dissolves when you fail to receive responses, application after application.
During a prolonged search, I’ve seen dreams of career advancement, enhanced financial security, and increased job satisfaction vanish and replaced with feelings of defeat, depression, and worthlessness. Let me tell you, with today’s average job search lasting 3 to 8 months, your mental and physical health cannot withstand that kind of sustained negativity.
So, let’s restore some hope, shall we? Here are my top 5 strategies for career seekers who feel their confidence eroding with each passing day.
Give Yourself a Break (Emotionally)
If you’re feeling bad or low, beating yourself up is not going to make you feel any better. In fact, it will make you feel worse (and then you’ll have that whole snowball problem to contend with). Take a breath and acknowledge those negative feelings – you’re entitled to have them. Job searching is hard. It doesn’t take a verbal rejection to feel rejected, all it takes is a lack of action: not being called, not invited to interview, or not kept in the loop on the hiring process.
All the silence and waiting is bound to make you feel unimportant. You’re allowed to feel like this – but don’t live there.
Act as your own best friend – say the same things to yourself as you would a friend or family member. Remind yourself of your best qualities, your strengths, and all you have to offer (both professionally and personally).
Give Yourself a Break (Physically)
Yes, you want a job search strategy that’s consistent. Yes, you should be scheduling blocks of time to complete job search activities. But, please, don’t be involved in your search every day. Don’t be sending out applications on your phone in the middle of family dinner. Don’t be staying up until 2 am scouring job search boards.
Don’t be so preoccupied with your search that it becomes your entire life. Engaging in exhaustive, marathon job hunting and application sessions is a sure-fire way to make critical errors.
Taking breaks will increase your mental sharpness, your creativity, and provide some clarity – all of which is good for your overall health and sanity! Use breaks to engage with something that makes you feel more connected to you - go for a run, read a book, bake a cake, or watch re-runs of the Good Wife. A little self-care will go a long way in promoting a more positive outlook.
Focus on Outcomes You Can Control
You can’t control a Hiring Manager’s recruitment timeline. You can’t control a company’s selection or application process. You can’t make the phone ring through sheer force of will (though, wouldn't that be great?).
Don’t waste precious mental energy ruminating over things you can’t control.
Give yourself a pat on the back for the little victories, for the progress: sending an email to former colleague to maintain a potential contact, soliciting a LinkedIn recommendation, taking a free online course to bolster your professional development, tailoring your resume for a specific job, creating and following an action plan, reaching-out to someone at your ideal company to establish a connection. These little actions (that you control) will eventually produce your desired result.
Choose to See Things Differently (and Less Personally)
It’s important to keep in mind that usually, when someone says or directs an action at you, it says more about them than it does about you.
At the same time, don’t project your worst fears on someone else’s words or actions. Just because you’re worried about a gap on your resume, a lack of post-secondary education, or limited experience in a certain industry, doesn’t necessarily mean the hiring manager is worried about those same things.
Your interviewer seems bored or distracted? Don’t think: “I must be uninteresting or unqualified”. Instead: “She must be under a lot of pressure to fill this role” or “Maybe there’s something wrong with the culture here”.
Received zero response from 5 jobs for which you thought you were perfect? Don’t think: “Clearly I’m not meant to have this kind of job” or “I’m destined to fail”. Instead: “A more perfect opportunity is out there for me”; “My true value just hasn’t been recognized, yet”; or “Maybe I can review my strategy to be sure I’m marketing myself clearly”.
If you’re the type of person that can always find something wrong, this may feel completely foreign to you – but, that’s all the more reason to try it.
Fake It ‘Till You Make It
If you really can’t summon any genuine confidence when you send that resume or walk into an interview, pretend you’re confident. Pretend you deserve the role. Act “as if”.
Just like the act of smiling can make you feel happy, the act of behaving confident can make you feel confident. Change your outward behaviour, and the inward feeling will follow.
I know it’s tough out there among the job hunters. I’ve been there myself and I’ve stood side-by-side with hundreds of career seekers during their search. You will get through it; the other side of your search is waiting for you. Keep reminding yourself that you deserve the job you desire.
Your turn! What are you doing to stay sane during your job search? Let me know what's working (or not working) in the comments. Need a quick pick-me-up? Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Can't wait to hear from you!
Tammy Banfield is a professional resume writer and certified career coach who specializes in helping talented and ambitious women advance their careers and find rewarding, fulfilling jobs.