Don’t Let Your Job Search Depress You

Priscilla Claman

If you are looking for a job right now, it is certain to take longer than you would like. The culprit is not just the recession — job boards have made it easier to apply, so now it’s the norm that hundreds of resumes from across the world chase the same job. With that amount of activity, the job search has become more like a marathon than a sprint.

And because the job search takes longer with so many still out of work, inevitably more people are frustrated, even devastated, by it. Many employers use automated systems to cull the resumes down, which makes the process more impersonal and harder to penetrate.

So how do you keep your spirits up in such a tough environment? I asked this question of several people, including Lila, a Greek marketing professional job-hunting in Athens (which has got to be one of the toughest searches out there).

The best advice Lila gave was to manage your feelings. Becoming negative, cynical, or depressed will work against you. When you get angry with yourself, it shows, Lila says. Don’t believe you can easily fake energy and enthusiasm. Most interviewers will pick up your real feelings.

Actively manage your feelings so that you actually are happy, focused, and energetic. Admittedly this is not easy, especially for the millions of long-term unemployed. Here are some changes that should help in this culture of rejection:

Be your own good manager. Since searching for a job is indeed a full-time job in itself, manage yourself appropriately. Bad managers are never satisfied, setting impossible goals and then punishing people for not accomplishing them. Instead, set reasonable weekly goals for networking, researching, or applying for jobs. Reward yourself for accomplishing your goals or doing something difficult. And never beat up on yourself for doing things wrong or not doing enough, the way a bad manager would. The people around you should be good managers too — encourage them to be supportive.

Don’t just sit there, do something. This means get out of the house. Take a class. Join a professional group — they generally have special benefits for unemployed members. Volunteer. Check a few things off your bucket list. Do anything that will get you out, teach you something new, connect you with new people, and perhaps become a new line on your resume.

Multitask — don’t ride the rollercoaster. Most people put all their eggs in one basket and stop looking at other jobs once they have had an interview. Later, if they are turned down, they become even more discouraged. They then have to fight an uphill battle to motivate themselves all over again. I call this the rollercoaster approach — as the prospects of just one option working out rises and falls, so do your emotions, which I usually draw out like this:

claman_diagram 1 (a).jpg

But when you keep initiating new search activity until you get an actual offer, you won’t get so depressed if you are turned down for a job, because you’re still pursuing other options. And you won’t have to start the process all over again:

claman_diagram 2 (a).jpg

Keep to a routine. Manage your time as if you were working. Keep a regular schedule for researching new positions, following up, and volunteering. Work in exercise — you’ll look and feel better. A daily and weekly schedule will provide the structure that will enable you to have a sense of accomplishment.

I’m going to give Lila the last word on how to keep your spirits up during a job search. “Remind yourself of the people who love you and that you love back. This positive acceptance from loving and being loved creates miracles. It is a huge hug of protection when you really need to feel safe, while you are in the storm.”

This post is part of the special series The New Rules for Getting a Job, and an adapted version of it is included in the HBR Guide to Getting the Right Job.

Priscilla Claman is president of Career Strategies, Inc., a Boston-based firm offering career coaching to individuals and career management services to organizations. She is also a contributor to the HBR Guide to Getting the Right Job.

Don’t Let Your Job Search Depress You