Try to imagine the following scenario:
Recently graduated, you’ve decided that it’s finally time to really buckle down and spend some time looking for and applying to jobs. Full of hope, promise, and excitement, you sit down at your computer, stretch out your arms, and psych yourself up with the best internal pep talk you can think of. “Yes! You can do this.” “There’s a great job out there, just waiting for you to find it!” “Let’s go get PAID!”
For the first hour or two, you don’t encounter too much to change your mind. You’re probably a little buzzed from the two extra large coffees you’ve already had, but despite the elevated heart rate and twitchy toes, you’re feeling pretty good. You’ve even found a couple of jobs that you’ve decided to apply to and you’re sure that, at the very least, you’ll get an interview.
And then the hours turn into days. You’re starting to get frustrated with the lack of new job postings on the online job posting boards you’ve been checking two, three times a day. You’re beginning to feel twitches of rage when you read the words, “2-3 years of experience in the field required.” Just where are you supposed to get that experience?! You just graduated!
Before you know it, it’s been a few weeks since you gave yourself that initial pep talk, and that rock-solid pillar of optimism that you started this whole process with has been slowly but steadily eroded by the sand-laden desert winds of apparent futility. You haven’t gotten any calls to schedule interviews, and you’re getting desperate. “Please, please don’t make me go back into the restaurant industry,” you plead.
And with that last, desperate thought, you know: You’ve lost your perspective.
It would probably be more accurate to say that your perspective has changed. As I wrote last week, perspectives vary and have significant implications not only for the success of a job search, but for mental health in general. Even the most optimistic among us have days when we would like nothing more than to crawl into a dark corner and sulk like there was a tomorrow. But we should still try to get back to that position of optimism as soon as we can.
Even if optimists are a little annoying, and even if we see the world through rosier glasses than is truly justified, there’s plenty of evidence that optimism is good for you. They’re more likely to be happy. They tend to be less stressed out. Heck, they’re even less likely to die!
Lots of other writers have written about optimism and the job search process. I don’t really want to focus on why it’s important – I would refer you to the linked articles if you wanted to look into that issue further. Rather, I think the remainder of this post would be better dedicated to some suggestions on how you can instigate and maintain an optimistic outlook – a helpful perspective – in your job search. Below are my 5 tips to get you started.
Tip #1: Get away from job posting sites.
It’s a well-known fact that 80% of jobs are never advertised anyway. Trust me, spend enough time looking at ads on craigslist and anyone would start to feel a little bit funny. Limit your time spent on any and all posting sites to 20% of the time that you set aside to spend on your job search.
Tip #2: Personalize your job search.
So if you’re spending less time on posting sites, what should you be doing instead? There’s no one answer to this question, but many of the good answers focus on the idea of getting out and talking to people. Send the odd email to people you haven’t seen in a while, let them know you’re in the market. Arrange to talk to people in the field you’re trying to break into. Even if you feel like your network has abandoned you, there is still hope.
Tip #3: Use anything and everything as a source of feedback.
By the time you’re a few weeks into an unsuccessful job search, let alone a few months, you’ve probably tried a lot of things that haven’t worked out the way you hoped they would. Maybe you’ve had some interviews that didn’t go that well. Maybe your resume hasn’t caught the attention of employers like you wanted it to. Whatever the case, take some time to reflect – schedule it in if you have to – on how things are going. What’s working? What’s not? The only way the latter is of any use to you is if you try to learn what didn’t go well and what you can do differently next time.
Tip #4: Express gratitude.
This is a trick that has been widely studied by researchers in the field of positive psychology, such as Martin Seligman. They have discovered that happier people tend to do certain things more. One of those things is to reflect on what, and more importantly, who, they are happy to have in their lives. Take some time to tell the important people in your life that you’re thankful for them. Write them a gratitude letter and visit them to read it out loud. I can almost guarantee that this will make you feel better. It’ll also probably make you cry. In a good way, of course.
Tip #5: Do something else.
When you’re stuck, trying something repeatedly that isn’t working, the course of action that makes the most sense is to try doing something differently. Maybe you need a few days or a week’s break from the full-time job that searching for a job can be. You could also try shifting your focus for a while to looking at volunteer opportunities – not only will there be more of those around, the feeling that you’re trying to contribute may also make you feel better.
And just for fun, here’s a hilarious picture of Dawson pulling the “ugly cry:”
David Lindskoog is a career advisor with SFU Career Services, and Dave’s Diary is an ongoing series of journal entries touching on various aspects related to careers and well-being. Look for updates every Friday.
Want to hear my thoughts on a particular topic? Send me an email, and I’ll do my best to include it in my next post!