It may be that administrators shut down your company with no warning, or you are forced to take a redundancy, or you fall on your sword for a decision that never was yours to begin with. These are the circumstances where you have no time to reconcile yourself for change.
The first few weeks are a flurry of preparation. Exciting times prevail as you ramp up your efforts for employment. You investigate and select a professional resume writer, collaborate on the development of your resume, complete interview coaching, and start setting up your Linkedin profile. Your confidence soars as you see yourself on paper how others will see you—confident, competent; a can-do person with a portfolio of skills and achievements of which can you can be justifiably proud. You start networking. Just like everyone says you are supposed to do. Every day you’re calling recruiting firms, seeking out past colleagues and friends; a coffee here, a coffee there. You hear rumours of firms about to hire and you send in your resume, call contacts and get your friends to keep their ears open. You have a couple of interviews.
Weeks go by and with the passage of time, feelings of doubt start to invade your thoughts.
You mentally check off what it could be that you’re doing wrong. Your resume is fantastic; all the recruiters say so. Leads haven’t materialised; companies have decided not to proceed with projects or roles, recruiters are no longer buzzing around you. When you call them, they’re non-committal, cool. You get the feeling that they’re trying to brush you off. Your “better than sliced bread” moment has mysteriously disappeared and it feels like there’s always something they want that you don’t have. Now you haven’t been placed early, you feel a little like a house that’s been for sale for too long. Everyone who would want to buy it has seen it and has moved on to newer properties on the market.
You’re convinced now you’ve done something wrong. Did you pitch your salary too high? Is it because you don’t have enough education or you are “over qualified”? Did you try too hard or were you too laid back? You wrack your brains remembering your last interview in detail, going over everything asked and answered. What could you have said wrong? Why doesn’t the recruiter call you more often? He knows how worried you are!
Suddenly, without warning, someone you haven’t met before replaces the optimistic person you were. This new iteration of you is plagued with self-doubt, rarely smiles and looks like he carries a great burden on his shoulders. Convinced that your whole approach is flawed, you kick yourself mentally that you didn’t jump on this earlier. You call your resume writer wanting the resume revamped to make your appeal broader for a wider audience, you spend hours searching job boards. You feel embarrassed that you’ve “forced yourself” on friends and decide to pull back on those coffees. You can only imagine how pitiful they find your desperate attempts to gain information.
At home, your partner is concerned. His or her efforts to remove that look in your eye are met with a dismissive cold shoulder. You don’t need pity or your partner’s disapproving eye. You know you’ve failed.
Why even bother? You sit on the couch and watch the TV without really seeing what’s on. Maybe you’ll review the situation again tomorrow, but today you just can’t deal with any more rejection.
The scene above is played out somewhere in your community, your neighbourhood every day. The negative impact of a long job search frequently brings about feelings of depression, loss, bitterness, anger and often hopelessness. These feelings in themselves create a cyclical situation—who wants to hire someone with an obvious chip on his shoulder or one who carries his burden with such lethargy that a smile seems like too much trouble?
There are no simple fixes to what can become a serious problem affecting not just the jobseeker, but families and extended groups of friends who want to help but don’t know how.
While it sounds trite, maintaining a positive outlook really is important and action—doing something—is equally important. If you are doing something then you are working towards your goal. If declining finances are an issue, then staring listlessly at the pile of bills on the table won’t help. What action can you take to take the pressure off? Call your bank, perhaps the extra payments you have made on your mortgage can allow you to temporarily cut back on mortgage payments, perhaps your loan can be extended. Contact utility suppliers, make arrangements to pay. If you are doing something, you are occupied and thinking ahead.
Doesn’t your résumé say that you anticipate and solve problems? Well here are some problems to solve. What else can you do to take action?
Give yourself a break from the unrelenting misery. What can you do to give yourself a break mentally? Go for a walk with your partner. Do small maintenance repairs around the house. Clear up your garage. De-cobweb the eaves. Keeping busy is important to clear your mind and the fresh air will do you good.
Come to terms with the fact that people, on the whole, want to help. Go back to having coffee or lunch with friends. Isolating yourself isn’t the answer. If you’re afraid that your “down” mood will alienate your friends then listen more than you speak. You’ll never know what you may hear as they complain about their jobs and the current project or situation. It may be something you can act upon.
Give recruiters a break. Or at least, adjust your attitude. Do you know how many sad, desperate, bitter people they see in any one day? Can you imagine what is it like to break bad news every day? Of bearing the burden of hundred’s of people’s distress? Give them a break and back off. If you have information to pass on from your lunch with friends that could be a concrete job, share it with them. They’ll be happy to pursue it if it is exists. It’s called a lead, and recruiters love leads, making placements and being paid.
Don’t torture yourself by setting yourself up for failure. Have you been applying for roles that are beneath your level of skill just to get any job? Stop doing that. It does nothing for your self-esteem to miss out on a job that you could have done 20 years ago, and frankly, you’re not the person for that job any longer. People don’t just hire individuals in isolation with a set of skills. They hire for their ability to fit in with a team. That lesser job is probably being filled by people all under 25. Realistically, they don’t want “dad” in the department. You’re just not a fit.
Can you complete a training course that will help keep you motivated and polish up a few outdated skills? What is available in your line of work that will be helpful?
Keep to what you know. Don’t go on a tangent thinking that you should run off and get a job in a factory or join a circus. Unless you’re an experienced factory worker, you won’t get the job. Unless you have a background as a lion tamer or ticket seller, there will be no joy there for you either.
Remember what you know. The higher you are up the ladder, the longer jobs take to fill. It simply makes sense. There are fewer jobs at the top of the pyramid. The salaries are higher, people tend to stay in these jobs longer. Be realistic about this. You are a unique commodity. If you have been successful in the past, you will be again.
It’s all a numbers game and a waiting game.
(Note: if you are having feelings of hopelessness and you are having dark thoughts, we urge you to seek the help of professionals. Beyond Blue is one of many organisations in Australia who can help. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
I am a member of the Career Collective. A group of experienced career professionals who blog on specific topics every month. Look for our posts on Twitter #careercollective. Meantime, check out other member articles on this topic–links at the bottom of this article.
Please see other discussions and possible solutions from Career Collective members.
@MartinBuckland, Job Search Made Positive
@heathermundell, Help for the Job Search Blues
@heatherhuhman, 10 Ways to Turn You Job Search Frown Upside-Down
@LaurieBerenson, Ways to Keep Your Glass Half Full
@resumeservice, Don’t Sweat the Job Search
@careersherpa, Mind Over Matter: Moving Your Stalled Search Forward
@WorkWithIllness, Finding Opportunity in Quicksand
@ErinKennedyCPRW, Dancing in the Rain–Kicking the Job Search Blues
@keppie_careers, What do do when you are discouraged with your job search
@DawnBugni, It’s the little things
@ValueIntoWords, Restoring Your Joy in Job Search
@jobhuntorg, Just SO VERY Discouraged
@barbarasafani Making Job Search Fun (Yeah, That’s Right!)
@GLHoffman, How to Overcome the Job Search Negativity
@ExpatCoachMegan, Dealing With Job Search Stress: Getting to the Source of the Problem