Mid-January. It’s an interesting time of the year because, for many of us, this is when the high of the new year starts waning and we’re left to propel ourselves forward toward resolutions and dreams on grit, determination, and willpower alone. This can be an especially tough time for those among us who swore up and down that magical things would start happening with our careers, just as soon as the ball dropped in Times Square.
And so, if those magical things aren’t yet making their debut—or if the job search just feels like it’s dragging on and on—what do you do to keep from curling up into a big ball of woe?
Here are five strategies to help you endure a rugged job hunt.
1. Refuse to Cave
Through each of the toughest challenges I’ve navigated—in my career, in my personal life, and in multiple running races—I’ve busted out an important coping strategy. It’s almost embarrassing how simple it is, but I’m telling you, it works. I just remind myself that I will not cave, period.
No matter how hard, how maddening, or how gut-wrenching the situation, my first order of business is to smack myself across the head with the simple message, “I will not cave. Caving is not an option.” And once I’ve re-committed to weathering the storm? I’m equipped to deploy one of the strategies below.
2. Repurpose Pep Talks and Recovery Strategies From Your Past
You’ve committed to not caving, which is terrific. Now what?
Try recalling specific moments from your past where you simply had to rally and, when you did, you ultimately prevailed (or progressed). Did you play sports in high school or college? Have you completed some sort of difficult competition that challenged you physically or mentally? Did you recover from a terrible breakup? Of course you did. We all have something.
Flash back to the specific strategies and mental pep talks you used through these times, and apply similar ones to this very situation. Sometimes, in our panic and despair, we forget how awesome and powerful we were in overcoming an earlier curveball, mess, or conundrum. When you realize you’ve done it before, it will help you to remind yourself that you can—and will—weather this one, too.
3. Spend Energy Only on Things You Can Control
So, here’s the thing. You can’t will your resume to pass through a prospective employer’s resume scanning software. You can’t make a recruiter call you back at the exact moment you want to hear from her. You can’t influence how many other qualified candidates apply for a job. These are the types of things you simply cannot control; thus, you shouldn’t waste another second dwelling on them.
Focus your energy instead on what you can. Literally, make a list of the aspects of this job search that you can influence or impact. Maybe you decide to call that person at your dream company who your friend knows. Maybe you figure out—once and for all—how to use LinkedIn to your advantage. Maybe you take an online Excel course to shore up a required skill. By thoughtfully considering what you can control—and then acting on these things—you can get out of ruminate mode and make moves that may actually be helpful.
4. Turn it Into a Game, One That You Intend to Win
When survivors of major catastrophes are interviewed, it’s not uncommon to hear that they attribute their ability to stay alive to gamification. They didn’t panic, nor give up. Rather, they navigated through the situation as if they were playing a game of strategy, one that they intended to win. I often encourage distressed job seekers to view their entire job search in much the same manner.
Most of us enjoy winning games. We like to feel like we’ve outwitted the competition, figured out the winning formula, or found the secret passageway. Do this with the job hunt. Set up mental milestones, with each one serving as a victory once achieved. It’s incredible how one’s perspective can change when you shift something that most people think is terribly un-fun into a spirited, strategic undertaking.
5. Get Help
We are humans, not machines. And when things don’t go as planned, we sometimes begin feeling very sad, mad, or hopeless. Job search almost always requires stamina, sometimes tons of it. If you’re feeling distraught to the point that it’s disabling you, for heaven’s sake, don’t go it alone.
Raise your hand and let the closest and most supportive people around you know you need help. Tell those you trust of your struggles, and if you know how they can help, be specific so they lighten your load in a way that will be meaningful. If you need to, contact a professional career coach, or even a therapist. Every one of us needs more than just a pep talk from time to time, and there’s absolutely no shame in that.
Developing resiliency isn’t easy, especially when the January blues roll in like a freight train. But it’s vital for anyone in the midst of a lengthy job hunt. Pause and take a few deep breaths if you need to, absolutely. But then strap on your boots then find some new ways to muck your way to victory.