If there’s any time of year when job-search fatigue swoops in and threatens to stop you cold in your cover-letter writing, resume-tailoring, application-sending game, this may be it. The holidays are a thing of the past, the temperature’s dropping, and the reality of the situation is pretty much in your face.
Regardless of whether you’re working and want to leave the company you’re with or you’ve been unemployed for weeks or months, looking for a job can really suck. You don’t see positions that interest you, or you do, but your efforts at connecting with someone at the organization fail miserably. No one responds to your email, or you go in for a meeting and think you’ve nailed it until you learn that another candidate has been chosen. No matter where you are in the process—how many places you’ve applied or how many pre-screen phone interviews you’ve had—one thing’s for sure: Job searching can be exhausting.
But you can’t give up. You have got to push through the lows, keep at it, and know that the end is in sight in the form of an amazing new role. Ahead, smart, witty, refreshing advice for hanging in there from our very own Muse career coaches.
1. Identify the Problem
Job search fatigue is typically a mixture of physical and emotional exhaustion. When we become fatigued, our body and our mind are communicating with us. Our work is then to pay attention to where the fatigue derives from. Are you losing steam because you aren’t really that excited about the jobs you’re applying to? Are you physically tired because you have to search for a job after a day in the office? Are you discouraged because you haven’t heard back on your applications? Only once you’ve isolated the cause can you start to think about strategies to help you push forward.
2. Take a Breath
When your efforts aren’t working, the natural tendency is to run faster, harder, and more frenetically. Apply for more positions. Stay up later surfing job boards. This can be incredibly counter-productive (and demoralizing if you still get nowhere fast). It’s almost always better to stop for a few. Take a breather. Seriously, no one’s going to die if you take a few days off. When you’ve regrouped, try to objectively troubleshoot which parts of your strategy aren’t working. If you’re not sure, consider investing in a professional job search strategist, who may be able to pinpoint what’s wrong. You can use that information to fine-tune your game plan and run at it in a more strategic way.
3. Just Ask for Answers
Job hunting’s filled with highs and lows. It’s natural to feel bummed or stressed at points during the process. Identify situations or people that trigger your frustration, so you can anticipate your reaction and create emotional buffers to help you cope better. For example, maybe you’re sent into a tailspin when you don’t hear back right away after an interview. Rather than be derailed by endless worrying, deal with the uncertainty productively: Ask your interviewer directly when you can expect to hear back—lessening the impact of that trigger.
4. Hold Meetings In-Person
The best way to overcome this feeling is to transition your search from online submissions to in-person connections. 70% are landing their dream jobs through networking, so the best thing you can do is move away from the computer and engage in the real world. Through job fairs, meet-ups, industry events, and other networking opportunities, you’ll make the human connections needed to get inspired about your search, grow your network, and even discover the elusive ‘perfect job’ that wasn’t posted online.
5. Get a Bridge Job
Fatigue is twice as likely to strike when you’re in-between jobs. The thought of ‘How will I pay the bills?’ adds so much extra pressure. Taking on a bridge job (a temporary position) can help you avoid burnout. Part-time work as a barista or dog walker isn’t glamorous—no question there. But this will ensure that the rest of your search is intentional and not born from intense panic about your wallet. That, and getting out of the house on a regular basis has a certain magic too.
6. Step Away From the Computer
Step away from the computer, and set up a coffee date with a trusted contact. Reach out to someone in your network who works for a company of interest to you. Attend a professional association meeting or industry event. Focus on one-on-one relationship building so you can cultivate mutually beneficial contacts. Work with a coach, who can help you explore approaches to get you out of your job search rut and develop new, more dynamic techniques.
7. Volunteer With a Nonprofit
Dedicate a few hours a week to doing volunteer work. This will not only give you a break but will add additional transferable skills and experience to your resume. It allows you to expand your professional network and may lead to connections with potential employers. Based on a LinkedIn survey, one in five employers have hired a candidate because of their volunteer experience.
8. Pursue a Hobby
Sometimes it’s best to get involved in something else. I often suggest that my clients go out and do something where they can meet other people in an activity related to a hobby, such as sports, cooking, or arts and crafts. I emphasize that they attend something where they can meet new people and get out of their home. This way they can continue to build their network without it feeling like work. You never know who you’ll meet—maybe it will be someone who works at your dream company.
9. Offer to Help Out in a Field That Interests You
Volunteer doing something you love or want to learn more about. If it’s an issue you care about, you’ll feel good about making a difference. If it’s a new area, you’ll have the opportunity to discover hidden interests that could even refresh your job search!
10. Network With the Right People
Invest your time and energy into the recruiters, hiring managers, and employees in the area of the company with which you are looking to work. Having conversations with people is more rewarding than submitting your job application through a website. Attend events and use professional online platforms to make connections, build rapport, and network your way to success.
11. Launch a Side Project
One of the biggest rewards you can give yourself to break up the job search is to start a side project, or continue to work on a project you’ve already started. Think a personal blog, newsletter, podcast, social club, or anything you decide to build in your spare time. Side projects help enable your inner creative genius and increase your confidence, which recharge you for your job search.
12. Cheer Someone Else Up
This may seem counterintuitive, however, we know from research in positive psychology that one of the best ways to cheer yourself up is to make someone else happy. Try doing this by complimenting a friend, helping out a stranger, or finding some other way to make someone else’s day a little better.
13. Take Time Off
Depending on your circumstances, take time off to do a major reboot on your search. Instead of thinking about how to get your next job, ask yourself why you want it in the first place. Yes, we all need a paycheck, but what is your deeper motivation? What do you do love about the work that you do or desire? Why are you interested in a particular company or role? The more specific and clear you can be about who you are, what you have to offer, and what you want to experience, the more focused and excited you will be about potential opportunities.
14. Change Your Password
Change your password. No, not to a capital letter, four symbols, a number, a jumping jack, and a unicorn. Change your password to your short term goal, long term goal, or something that motivates you. (Think Directorin5years! or PromotionbyEO16.) Your password is the one thing that you enter several times a day, to log onto your computer. It’s a great way to start the day grounded in what is important to you and reiterate that importance all day, every day until you have to refresh to a new motivation.
15. Take a Mental Health Day
The best thing you can do is to take a mental health day, which is a free day to think about what you’re going to do. The secret is not to schedule anything that day and really think about what you want to do with your life. The reason a weekday is better than a weekend day is most weekends you are busy and you have a ton of stuff to do. But, having a day off of work is a free day to read a motivational book and really have some down time, which you wouldn’t normally have had.
16. Put Yourself Out There
Bold, decisive action is what’ll unlock the door to the life and career you’ve always wanted. At a certain point, you need to close your computer, get outside, take a class, attend an event, connect face-to-face with people who might be able to help you, and in some cases, march right up to someone, introduce yourself, and make an offer on the spot! So many people are very timid and uneasy when it comes to just ‘getting out there’— but when you find the confidence to do it, that’s when the real breakthroughs occur.
17. Find a Silver Lining
When you're in the midst of an exhausting job search, it can be reviving to find a new hobby and/or make a new friend in the process of looking for a job. Not only does it relieve fatigue and stress, but it can also expand one's horizons and have long-lasting benefits. There are not that many times in one's life where they have the time to explore new things, so you should take advantage of the freedom while you have it.
18. Temporarily Unplug
You've got to take time out for yourself, if the job search is exhausting you. Too many job seekers don't refresh their brains and are always just plugged in. For a morning, day, or weekend, turn off your phone, shut down your laptop, and eat meals with the TV off. Listen to music, but stay offline. When you return to the digital world, you'll feel renewed and ready to dive back into the job search.
Need a little help in your job search? Book one of these coaches for a one-on-one strategy session.
Stacey Lastoe is the Senior Editor/Writer of The Muse. She started writing short stories in the second grade and is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to write and edit professionally. Her work has appeared in YouBeauty, Refinery29, A Practical Wedding, Runner's World online, and The Billfold among other publications. She enjoys running and eating in equal measure and lives with her husband and dog in Brooklyn. All three of them are avid New York Mets fans. Say hello on @stacespeaks.More from this Author