How to shake yourself from the daze of a long job search and start getting conclusive results.
Although most of these tips are useful for any job seeker, all of them are intended for people who’ve been job searching for much longer than they expected, possibly even a year or more.
My own long job search story
In December 2001, I started looking for a career job in Israel for the first time, having taken a few months to relax after resigning from my managerial position at Amazon.com in France.
In July 2002, 8 months later, I didn’t have much to show for my job hunting efforts and with my savings dwindling, I was starting to feel a little desperate and more alone than ever on my job search. However, I made one major change to my job search strategy and within a few weeks, I entered the recruitment process that resulted in my starting a new job on October 1st of that year.
That major change I made is #25 at the bottom of this list of tips for others like myself who know too well the frustration of a prolonged job search.
1) Open yourself to change. There’s a fine but clear line between getting into a job search groove and a job search rut: in the former, you actually feel like you’re getting somewhere, moving closer to your next job, while the latter seems to go on forever. Once you get into a set of habits, it’s not easy to change out of them, and it’s never easy to experiment when you feel that your livelihood (and reputation?) are in the balance, but you will need to embrace change if you’re not getting the job search results you desire.
2) Take a short vacation to recharge your batteries. Vacations are also good for inspiration and meeting people, plus- haven’t you ever felt like your best ideas sometimes come to you when your mind is 100% thinking about something else?
3) Stay positive. No one’s going to give you a job interview out of pity, and no one’s going to hire you out of pity. You need to stay upbeat; your next job literally depends on it. Do whatever it takes. Build on the successes of little things like finding a new job lead, making a new contact, etc., and by letting little achievements from outside of the job search throw some good feeling into your job search. Another way to get the positive juices flowing is exercising regularly.
4) Stop job searching alone. For the 8+ months of my 2002 job search above, I spent almost every single day in front of my computer looking for jobs online, rarely ever meeting with anyone outside of the occasional interview. It was no wonder that I felt alone and isolated, which certainly didn’t help my morale. Instead, look for every opportunity to partake in your job search activities with other people, both job seeker and not, both online and off. Have lunch weekly with other job seekers you know, hang out here on JobMob, asking questions, and so on. I wish I had known of such options back in 2002 when I struggled so much to find a job.
5) Write your curriculum vitae as if it was the first time, making a full job history you can reference moving forward. Go back to the beginning of your career. For each job you had, list your title, required skills, responsibilities, achievements and anything you were proud of. Numbers are good if you have them. Were there any memorable stories that may be worth recalling in a job interview? Jot them down too, for each position. Can’t remember all the details? Use that as an excuse to re-establish contact with past colleagues or former employers.
6) Get an independent, expert audit of your job search to date. Go over what you’ve done well, what you’ve done wrong and get specific, actionable ideas of what you should be doing right now to change your luck. Look for such help from your college/university alumni association, local employment center, favorite blogging job search expert, etc.
7) Hire a job search coach. They can conduct the above audit with you, and give you those kickstart ideas.
8) Reach out to local headhunters who specialize in your industry. They’ll immediately know if your skillset is in demand based on what their clients are looking for, among other things. Get a second opinion too; you don’t want to make any decisions based on just one person’s thoughts.
9) Consider relocation. Perhaps there really is no demand for your skillset in your local area. The farther you’re willing to move, the more job opportunities you open yourself to.
10) What about teleworking? If there’s no local demand for your skillset, find out where there is demand and apply for a teleworking opportunity. This allows you to respond to a company’s needs without the radical changes of a potentially unnecessary move, or possibly to test the waters before such a move.
11) Update your skills. The irony of having a job is that you’re often so busy, you don’t have time to refresh your knowledge, and this can even be true in countries where employee education budgets are required by law like in France. Technology is always advancing, discoveries are made, new ideas are practiced. If you’ve been job searching for a long time, stop to look around and make sure you know what you need to get a job today, not what you needed to know a year ago. Add value.
12) Learn new skills. When meeting local headhunters, ask them which skills are most in demand. Browse recent job board listings to corroborate, and choose the skills that can most increase your worth within a reasonable amount of time. Then start learning every day. If you’re not someone who learns well on their own, take a course online, sign up for workshops at a local community center, college or institute. Again, add value.
13) Followup with old contacts. You probably told everyone about your job search back when you began looking? That was well over 6 months ago, and unless they know better, they may think you’ve already found something. Send a gentle reminder that you’re still available.
14) Stay in touch with your contacts. Once you’ve reached out to someone, whether at the beginning of your job search or now so much later, stay in contact with them so that they are less likely to forget about you. Also, don’t break contact again once you do find something, leaving them to feel used. Perhaps you can help them back somehow.
15) Find new contacts. Over months of searching, it may feel like you’ve exhausted all your contacts. Discover new networking opportunities by joining local associations or networking groups, attending conferences and Tweetups, both offline and online; if they’re locally-based, you can then carry over an online meet into a real world meet. Learning new skills (#6 above) will also introduce you to new communities of people.
16) Reapply to a former employer. As long as you left a good impression on the way out, they may only be too happy to have you back since they know what you’re capable of, making for a shorter, less-expensive recruitment and a quicker integration. Another good reason to stay in touch with your ex-colleagues and ex-bosses (at least, the ones you enjoyed working for).
17) Start consulting as soon as possible. Whether you’ve been looking for work for 1 week or 1 year, get yourself business cards that say you’re a consultant in your field of professional expertise. When people ask what you do, reply “I consult on X, but am also available for full-time work” and hand them a business card, which leaves a better impression than just saying “I’m looking for a job”. Plus, you might even get some clients, which is a great way to fill a resume gap while potentially leading to a permanent position with a client company or business partner they referred you to.
18) Offer job trials to prospective employers. Let employers see what you can do by working in a temporary job capacity for them or on a per-project basis. However, the end goal should be definitive i.e. a ‘yes or no’ achievement, to prevent employers from taking advantage of you.
19) Get a temporary job. Use a temporary job to impress employers into finding ways to convert the position into a permanent one. Also a great way to build your network of contacts even more, and discover other jobs, both temporary and permanent. You might even decide you like the temping lifestyle and aim for those types of positions, which are in constant demand due to natural company turnover.
20) Line up information interviews. If you need a hook, find a magazine/trade publication/blog (your own?) to whom you can submit an op-ed or guest post and then tell companies how you’re researching an article for them. If you write well, aim for this interview reason first. Otherwise, you can always take notes or record the interview on your cellphone and then hire a freelance writer to finish the article for you.
21) Be selective in which positions you choose to apply for. Aim for the quick win by applying for jobs you have already succeeded in. This will mean fewer jobs to apply for, but will increase your chances of finally getting a positive response. Fewer job applications also means less demoralizing rejections or non-responses, and more time for other more interesting job search activities listed here.
22) Avoid career changes. Similarly to the previous tip, now is not the time to look for a change in career direction. It’s much harder to convince someone you can do a job without any experience than when you’ve already succeeded in that role. That said, be open to new opportunities if such an unexpected offer comes your way.
23) Volunteer. There are many reasons to volunteer while on a job search, but these are even more true on a prolonged job search. Achieving through volunteering will improve your morale in leading to new contacts while potentially improving your skills, if you choose an appropriate organization to volunteer for, such as the leading association of professionals in your industry.
24) Consider a move downward. Like an army that retreats to fight again another day, it’s better to take a step down the career ladder than stay off it entirely. This can be tricky as employers may see you as overqualified and you may be frustrated by not being able to show off all that you can do. All that really matters is what you can achieve for your new boss and how you can leverage that into a position that will allow you to meet your potential. Even entry-level jobs can be used to springboard you back up the ladder again.
25) Be flexible. Take a good hard look at the self-imposed limits of your job search and decide which limits you can remove, opening yourself to new job opportunities. In the story of my 2002 job search in Israel, what made a big difference was my decision to no longer limit myself to jobs in Israel itself, and with that, my wife and I returned to France with a good job in hand, found almost immediately after I’d become more flexible.
26) Keep trying! Don’t give up. New opportunities can appear at any time. In hockey, a goal scorer in a slump will eventually score as long as he keeps shooting pucks at the net. Likewise, if you persevere in following best practices while trying new ideas in looking for leads, growing your network and improving your skills, something will eventually come your way.
Next week, I’ll tell you how to answer that often-asked interview question for people on a long job search: how to explain your resume gap.
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