When I finished grad school and first started my job search, it actually felt exciting. I envisioned myself landing a high-powered job that I loved, strolling down city streets to my office in fabulously fashionable suits, and making my mark in the corporate world.
Cut to four months later, and I was sitting on the couch, in my not-so-fashionable pajamas, desperate for a job, searching for anything available. And unfortunately, I’m not alone. Many people—even people with advanced degrees, plenty of experience, and stellar qualifications—are feeling the blues of searching for jobs to no avail.
Sound familiar? If you’ve found yourself in job search desperation, here are a few good ways to ease your anxiety, take back your sanity, and maybe even score a new gig.
1. Be Realistic—But Don’t Settle
You’re probably hearing a lot of “any job is better than no job!” right now. Well, trust me, that’s not the case. It might be tempting to apply for any job posting you see, but it’s important not to take a position you know you’ll be miserable in. I’ve been desperate for a job. Beyond desperate. But, I’ve walked into places where I immediately knew that my soul would be crushed if I worked there. And in the long run, it’s just not worth it.
Before you apply to any more jobs, make two lists. Your first list should detail your “dream” offers—position title, salary, responsibilities—and the second should contain what you would be OK with taking. While this may sound silly, listing what you want in a position really helps to not only evaluate what kinds of jobs you want, but also how “low” you’ll go. And anything below that? Don’t even bother applying, it’ll only drain you.
2. Expand Your Horizons
Most of us love the comfort of familiarity, especially in a time of crisis, but the best way to get out of a rut is to mix things up. Start small: Those job search engines you use every day? Take a break for a few days and find some new ones. You’ll give your tired eyes a break and renew your drive, too.
Also, you’re a lot more likely to find a job when you have help—so think about new ways to expand your search using other people. Consider working with a recruiter, who can help you find a job based on your skills and career choices. Or, meet with your college’s career office—even if you graduated a few years ago, most schools offer career support for their alumni. Finally, network. Are there new groups or organizations you could join? Different events you could attend? There’s no substitute for just getting yourself out there.
3. Surround Yourself with Positive People
I’ll admit it—I’ve had a lot of job rejections. And that’s mainly because you need five years experience to even land a job as a hostess. But all that rejection threw my ego for quite a spin, and it was tough at times to be optimistic.
I know staying positive is a lot easier said than done, but as negative thoughts take over, that attitude will come across to people, including potential employers. So, it’s important to surround yourself with people who are positive, supportive, and who care about you. Try to focus on the good feedback you receive. Whether it’s from past interviews, that professor who loved you, or that organization you volunteered for, having someone tell you that it’s not you, it’s the economy, really does wonders to revamp your confidence level.
4. Use Your Time Wisely
Being jobless can be a blessing in disguise. If you’re not working, you have the invaluable time to work on something else: you. For weeks, I sat on my couch and just applied for jobs without breaks—and that’s when I really became desperate and depressed. Then, I cut back to four hours a day, max. That not only made my job-searching time more productive, but it left the rest of the time for other things in my life.
Use this time to try something new, such as learning a second language or joining a new exercise class. Volunteering is a great way to be productive, and it can provide great resume-boosting experience, too. Making time for myself completely reshaped my confidence. Yes, I still needed a job, but I calmed down and had a much more positive outlook.
After really evaluating what I wanted, and what my bank account needed, I eventually landed a temporary position, which has led to other opportunities! Yes, it's tough, but try to remember that your job search desperation isn't forever. Keep up the work (and the optimism)—and you, too will be on your way to something new.
Photo of person looking frustrated courtesy of Westend61/Getty Images.
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