How to survive a job hunt

Wake up. Check email – nothing but junk. Have breakfast. New email alert – random messages from a mailing list I’ve unsubscribed from multiple times. Read a few pages of my library book before I realize my eyes are glazing over the words and nothing is registering. Look longingly towards my bed and consider going back to sleep. Stay put at desk. Open Scrivener, scroll for project to work on. Minimize Scrivner. Check email –  nothing. Close computer. Reach for phone. Unlock phone. Check email – nothing.

This is the cycle I’ve found myself during the last several months of an agonizing job hunt. It is not unheard of to apply for 120  jobs only to receive a single response five months later that leads to a dream opportunity. So then was the time you spent on all 119 applications a complete waste?  Instead of thinking in terms of waste, what is important is to not let a job search totally consume looking on the bright side even while the sunshine is blotted out by the dark clouds of unemployment.

But how?

1. Set a schedule. While looking for new jobs it might feel like every moment you spent not searching or applying is a moment wasted. In fact you cannot spent all day applying for jobs and if you do, it can be seriously detrimental not only to your eyesight but to your health. If looking for a job is a full time job then you need to take breaks and do other things during the day. Set a schedule of 3 hours in the morning and 4 at night and during that time do nothing else. Don’t be tempted to ‘check’ instagram because before you know it you start an application at 8am check Instagram at 8:15 and at midday realize you never completed the first application and have been scrolling the morning away. Make sure that the time you set aside for a job search is actually used for just that. This way, when you unplug you can enjoy the well earned break.

2. Use the period of unemployment to learn something new or tackle a goal so that if 5 months later you don’t have a job, at least you can have something else to show for the time. Whether it be a newly knitted scarf, a recently started blog, or perfected cookie recipes the results of which were enjoyed by you and your family. If you can organize yourself well, there will definitely be time for such enriching activities.

3. Live! Yes perhaps you are faced with poverty due to unemployment but find ways to get out and be a part of society. This will be necessary especially when the rejection letters start streaming in and you are reminded daily that  ‘you were not among the most qualified candidates’. It’s very hard to not feel sorry for yourself because you still haven’t found a job after X amount of time. It is also quite isolating and hard on the self-esteem constantly to be searching in earnest for something with no idea of when you will find it. Go for a walk or a bike ride, or meet up with your friends for some free events.  Make time to meet up with friends or go for walks or people watch. If money is an issue which it likely will become at some point, find things to do that are free or cheap. Eat before you leave home so you won’t be tempted to spend money you don’t have. 

4. Resist the urge to obsess over callbacks. I have never been more addicted to checking my email and my missed calls list than now during my job search. When I apply for a job at 8am, I refresh my email for rest of the day fully expecting to receive a job offer or at least an interview request by 4pm! I know that this is completely unreasonable but desperation manifests in strange ways. Sometimes it’s necessary to put the phone away and close the computer. Take some time to read a book or meditate in silence and know that there will never be a situation where an opportunity will be missed because you took more than a few hours to reply to an email/phonecall.  If you check your email at least once everyday you should be okay. The same with phones and missing calls. 

5. Change up the scenery. Skipping the coffee shop to avoid shelling out for over-priced lattes is a good idea. But after the third week of job searching in the comfort of your home, it can get a little too comfortable.  Changing your environment can spark inspiration. With lively wi-fi equipped cafes and co-working spots all over major cities, sometimes we forget the original (free) co-working spot – the local library. Many libraries have outdoor garden areas so pack a lunch and spend the day alteration between job searching, discovering new books, and enjoying lunch on a wooden picnic bench. If you cafes are more convenient but you are on a budget buy simple drinks. An americano is half the price of a latte, an iced tea is half as cheap as a smoothie. You can even bring a pack of biscuits from home, I’m sure no-one will notice. 

Finally, be more selective with the jobs you apply for. There’s nothing like getting rejected for a job you didn’t even want to begin with. Don’t apply for jobs just because they are posted. It’s better to take the time and submit an excellent application for 5 jobs you really want than submit shoddy applications for 20 just for the sake of numbers. 

They say it takes on average 6-8 months to find a job. That’s 2 entire seasons. Instead of being hold up in a dark cave in front of your computer and feeling sorry for yourself make time to be a part of society, take care of yourself and know that what is yours will find you eventually. 

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