If you’re not having great luck in your job search and are feeling a little down about it, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. In fact, the job search slump hits applicants without discrimination. The timing and the reasons may vary, but feeling discouraged and depleted is an inevitable experience.
But that doesn’t mean there’s not a solution. If you’ve been pumping out applications, interviewing, and hustling for a few months without success, perhaps it’s time to ask one of the following questions. Use your frustration as fuel to launch a fresh job search strategy.
1. Do You Have Tunnel Vision?
Tunnel vision makes you believe that you must land a specific position, with particular specs and hours, in the industry that you originally targeted. In reality, though, the current job landscape or your skill set may not be conducive to an easy match.
If you’ve received denial after denial—especially at the same stage of the process (i.e., no one has contacted you to set up an interview)—it’s time to step back and re-evaluate. Assess any feedback you’ve received, and examine whether or not you still feel like you’re a strong contender at this particular level or in this specific industry. Perhaps you’ll pinpoint that your level of experience is lacking and decide that a course or internship would be helpful before you continue applying to similar roles. In the meantime, you could pivot your existing skill set to another department or industry.
Alternatively, maybe you’re hearing from companies, but you’re hesitant to commit. Instead of boxing yourself in and feeling like your new job must look a certain way, consider piecing together other types of jobs to give yourself more flexibility.
For example, a “bridge job”—one that pays the bills while you figure out what you really want to do—is a great option for someone who needs financial stability but wants the bandwidth to change careers or build a side business. Bridge jobs may not sound glamorous to your friends and family, but they allow you to pursue your goals in a way you wouldn’t be able to if you were working a demanding corporate position.
Expanding your personal vision for your next job—with an eye toward what will best fit your particular needs and long-term goals—will help you discover interesting opportunities that may not have been in your line of sight before.
2. Are You Offline?
If your job search keeps you tethered to your computer day and night, you need to evaluate your in-person job search strategy (that is, if you have one at all). The fact is, the vast majority of jobs aren’t listed online, they’re filled through referrals from existing employees—so if you shift from being job-focused to people-focused, you’ll likely notice a change.
If you feel like you’ve exhausted your current network, start creating new contacts by checking out local meetups, professional organizations, or projects that need someone with your skill set. Go to industry events, meet like-minded folks, and put yourself in a position to collaborate with new and interesting people.
More importantly, for each position you apply to online, find a person—at the company, in the field, or somehow related to the work you hope to do—and introduce yourself to via LinkedIn, Twitter, or email (here’s how). Explain your goals, and ask that person if he is available to connect so you could learn more about his experience.
By extending your job search beyond your computer screen (with real-life conversations and new communities), you’ll gain access into circles that are otherwise out of reach. Take the initiative to show people your value beyond an online resume and email correspondence.
3. Are You Spending Enough Time Doing Other Things?
Before you protest, let me explain. What I mean is: Do you set aside time every week to do something you love, build out a skill, or feed a creative outlet? As you well know, job searching is tiring and stressful. One day, you could have what feels like a great interview, and the next day, a rejection email arrives from that same company. In order to keep your spirits strong and stay focused, it’s vital that you prioritize time for projects that recharge you and give you a sense of achievement.
In his famous 2005 commencement speech, Steve Jobs explained how a calligraphy class, which at the time had no practical application to his life, fundamentally impacted his designs. As he said:
…And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.
You never know how your creative pursuits will open up new lanes and provide unique advantages. So, let yourself pursue a hobby that allows your right brain to fire up and stay strengthened. These personal projects will provide new arenas for progress and achievement, which can keep you going on the days that your job search leaves you feeling empty-handed. These projects can build your mental clarity, connect you with other people, and also show up later in your life as unique opportunities.
Keep your job search strategy fresh by taking a step back and expanding your options. It will keep you invigorated and focused and help find your best path—and maybe even your next job.