Soul Suck: How to Win at the Job Search Without Losing Your Soul In the Process
FACT: Looking for a new job totally blows.
Now that you’ve resonated on that one for a moment, let’s come back to some more real talk. There is very little that is fun or exciting or rewarding about the job search. As a matter of fact, there are other words that would oft be used to describe it: “Confusing,” as in, “I know what field I’ve been in…but what on earth do I want to do NOW?” “Ego-shattering,” as in, “I am perfectly qualified for this position, my resume looks great, and I nailed my interview…so why did they stop calling me?” or even “Defeating,” as in, “WHY DID I GET A DEGREE AND SETTLE INTO A CAREER IF IT MEANS I’M GOING TO BE EITHER OVER- OR UNDER-QUALIFIED FOR EVERYTHING?” (Don’t worry…definitely no personal attachment to that one.)
Yes, it is the truth. Looking for a new job can be soul-crushing. But it doesn’t have to always be that way. I covered the mental/emotional difficulty of unemployment in an earlier article, but there is something to be said specifically for the Hunt for New Red Career October (or January, February, etc.) Here are some tips on how to make sure you don’t hate your life while you’re figuring out what to do with it next:
- Spend some time figuring out what you want. Earlier last year, when I was looking for a new career, a wise friend kept reminding me to run toward something instead of just running away from something. I knew he was right, but I had no idea what to be running toward. I had only had experience in one field, and all I knew was that I wanted something else. Unemployment can be a great time to play make-believe; try to imagine yourself in different roles and in different industries. Chances are whatever skills you already have are transferable to other positions, so start to play with those ideas a bit! Waiting tables can be great experience for beginning a sales career, administrative work can provide good insight into hiring or human resources, and so on and so forth. Take this time that you have to think about your next step and move forward with purpose.
- PLAN PLAN PLAN. If you’ve read anything I’ve written for CGN, you’ll notice a common theme in my articles and personality: make a plan. Then make another one. Make a plan for your plan (I really love planning.) When I first became unemployed, I panicked and just applied for everything I saw. That is not fruitful. When I finally calmed down, I created a targeted plan to get me closer to my goal. I woke up at the same time every morning and then headed to a coffee shop for a mocha and 6 hours of job research. It kept me organized, it was productive, and I wasn’t sitting at home all day watching reruns of Scrubs and watching my life decay before my eyes.
- Find your niche. CGN founder Marcy Twete wrote a great article recently on niche job boards. Get away from the CareerBuilders and Monsters of the world–they are largely fruitless as we move into new technological ages. Start to look at places directly catered to your field. I prefer LinkedIn and SalesJobsNetwork.com, myself. I am also a huge advocate of recruiters–they need you just as much as you need them. Don’t sift through 80 pages of “get rich quick by working from home!” schemes. Instead, work smarter and not harder by finding your niche and starting your search there.
- Patience is a virtue. I’ve spoken to veteran job searchers and recruiters alike: standard time for employers to really get moving on open positions is 4 weeks. If you have no patience, welcome to the club…we all need to cultivate that virtue a bit more. Don’t lose hope because you haven’t heard anything back in 48 hours. Instead, keep applying and you will eventually see the fruits of your labor. I spent 4 weeks in December sending my resume to hundreds of places in the industries I wanted and didn’t start hearing anything until January…but that’s when I got 8 different interviews. Don’t fret if it doesn’t happen right away–just think about how great the results will be very soon!
- Allow yourself a bad day... Being optimistic in this state is extremely difficult and if you can do it more days than not, then you ought to be proud of yourself. If you hit your breaking point, though, don’t allow that to be another reason to get down on yourself. Find that support system and vent it all out. Start fresh the next day, but give yourself time to be upset. This is a crappy situation and it’s okay to recognize that sometimes.
- …but don’t let it consume you. Work is something we do typically for 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, if not more. It is the bulk of our adult lives. When you are without a job, it can sometimes feel like you are without purpose, especially when you are working so hard and not seeing any positive results. Do not let yourself go to the bad place for more than two days in a row…you will get stuck there and you will not apply for as many jobs, you will not interview well, and the cycle will feed into itself over and over again. Do not self-sabotage by letting yourself go under.
This can be a cruddy time and it can wear on your soul. Remember to take care of yourself in positive ways. You’ve probably got some time on your hands–start to think about where to put that time that will benefit you most. It might be more time of self-reflection, volunteering opportunities, or picking up new hobbies, but make sure that you don’t lose yourself and the lessons that can be learned in this period. With or without a job, make sure to properly feed and water your soul…so it doesn’t dry up and blow away before the next phase in your career.