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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

3 Times You Actually Should Quit the Job Search and Take a Breather

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Often when a tough task isn’t quite clicking, you know the best way to change things up is to take a break. You’ll come back refreshed, with a new perspective that can help you break through a mental block.

And yet, so often when the job search is getting people down, they take a more-is-more approach. Your first 10 applications haven’t gotten a response? Send 15 more! You’ve been spending 30 minutes each day browsing open positions? Bump it up to an hour!

This motivation to double-down is understandable: If you’re actively searching, odds are you’re either unemployed or unhappy in your current role, so you want to know you’re doing all you can to find something ASAP.

However, the last thing you want to do is get in your own way. With that in mind, here are three signs you should back away from the search for a little bit, plus ideas for exactly how to do it.

1. You’re Applying to Every Job Under the Sun

I know: Desperate times call for desperate measures. When your bills are stacking up or you don’t know how you’ll stomach one more day in a role you hate, you decide any job would be better than your current situation.

The issue with that mentality is that hiring managers can smell it a mile away—and it turns them off. They’re looking for hires who are excited about the scope of work and who’ll be able to contribute to the company. If it’s clear that you applied simply because there was an opening, there isn’t a compelling reason to move your candidacy forward.

Take a Break

First things first, take a few days off. Yes, that sounds terrifying because the perfect position could be posted during that time; however, if it was, how would you even distinguish it from the rest? Take time to check in with yourself: What would you love to do in an upcoming role and what skills do you possess?

Once you have some clarity, get back to the search, but this time, be strategic. Muse Writer Kristen Walker suggests using a “9-out-of-10 rule.” As she explains, “Essentially, if a job does not rank as a 9 out of 10 in terms of both your level of excitement and competency, then it’s not worth applying to.” Fewer applications translates to more time to make them as strong as possible. Plus, you’ll have a stand-out answer when you’re asked, “Why are you interested in this position?”

2. You’re Obsessing

OK, to some degree pretty much everyone obsesses when waiting to hear back about a job. It’s normal give it a lot of thought—after all, landing a new role can mean a good deal of change, and that’s exciting (and even a bit scary).

But, you know when it’s taken over your life. It’s all you talk about—and you’re visiting with anyone who’ll listen just to discuss it some more. You turn down social invitations, quit going to the gym, and haven’t done your laundry in weeks, because every spare moment goes to checking your email and the company’s website.

Fast-forward and either you’ll have landed the amazing opportunity or you won’t have—but regardless, you’re setting yourself up for major disappointment. Why are you unhappy in either scenario? Because after months of ignoring every other person and aspect of your life, you’ll have to rebuild. In the midst of acclimating to a new job (or having to put yourself out there again), your mile is minutes slower, your plants have died, and you missed your cousin’s birthday.

Take a Break

Yes, looking for a new position can feel like a full-time position in and of itself, but you still need to find the balance. If you don’t have time to look for a new role, Muse Editor-in-Chief Adrian Granzella Larssen advises scaling back your efforts at your current job. She suggests you still do great work, but don’t clock in overtime every single day.

You can apply this same strategy to your search efforts. Yes, you want to follow up on any emails a timely manner, but no, you don’t need to check your inbox throughout a meal with friends. Sure, you want to be brushing up on how you’ll answer common questions and negotiate your salary, but you don’t need to skip the gym from here on out in order to do it. Give the hunt no more than 100%—and the rest of the time, step away from the computer and invest in the other parts of your life.

3. You’re Advancing, But Not Getting Offers

This is one of the most frustrating—and most obvious—signs that the “go big or go home” approach you’ve taken isn’t working. If you're landing interviews, but you’re never extended an offer, something isn’t clicking.

If you kept stalling at the same point (e.g., making it to a phone screen, but never called for an in-person interview), you could study up on the aspect that’s tripping you up. However, sometimes you really don’t know what you’re doing wrong. You’re a finalist, and just when you expect to hear how much the company wants you, you’re told you’re not a fit.

Take a Break

Let’s start with the good news: The fact that you’re seeing some advancement means your application has good bones. You probably have a solid resume and cover letter, and you’re applying for jobs that are well-matched to your qualifications.

However, if you keep feeling like you’re missing an elusive “it factor,” your best bet it to back away for a bit and reflect. Are you sure you’re not blowing the salary question every time because you’re not 100% sure you want to relocate? Maybe you stall when you’re asked why you’d do a great job because you’re not entirely convinced this is what you want to do. Look for any signs you may be getting in your way at crunch time; or better yet, reach out to a career coach who can walk you through a discussion of your goals and strategy.

When you want to make a change in your career, you usually want it yesterday. And while this sense of urgency is beneficial in motivating you to put in the energy to find a great new role; it can also cause you to overdo it. So, if you’re spending all of your time applying but not seeing the results you’d hoped for, mix it up and “quit” searching for a bit. Scaling back could make all the difference.