You've probably heard this before from friends or family: Job hunting is a full time job. It's also one of the most frustrating jobs around. Endless hours, dead-end interviews, hundreds of resumes sent, countless Linkedin contact requests and worst of all: no pay. It's easy to see how most people can get discouraged with the job search process. It often feels never-ending, opaque and impersonal.
In the 20 years I've been working I've seen my fair share of job searching both in my own career and as a hiring manager. Here are some tips I've found helpful to stay sane, focused and most important of all: Positive
1. Know yourself. Many people aren't quite sure what they're good at, what they're passionate about and how that translates into a career. If you know what you're good at and how that translates into a career you'll be more self-confident, more excited and passionate during the process and more motivated. Also when you find what you want your passion and excitement will shine through during the interview process.
How do you know what you're good at? Ask friends and family. Ask past co-workers. Think back to your childhood and consider moments in high school or college when you could spend hours on end doing something and not see the time go by. Here are a couple of really helpful sites that can help you better understand yourself:
16 Personalities: A great, easy to use and FREE site that allows you to do a personality test to better understand yourself. Based on the Meyers-Briggs personality tests. A bit simplistic but a good place to start.
Gallup Strengthfinder: Based off of the popular book, the theory is that if you know your strengths and build off of those you can really achieve amazing things and build confidence. This test really helps you focus on what you're good at so you can build off it from there.
Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI for short): Similar to 16 personalities but more accurate and deeper in my opinion (though it's not free). I learned a lot about myself here
2. Focus, focus, focus. Many people who look for a job adopt a spray and pray strategy. They come up with a generic resume and hit every single job board and apply for as many things as they can and feel that they've had a great days work. Guess what? Sending hundreds of CV's doesn't work. As someone who's hired a lot of people let me just say that it's awesome when I get a resume and cover letter from someone who has really taken the time to read the job description, research my company and has a resume that closely matches what I'm looking for (even if it's not a 100% match). But all too often the reverse is true. I end up seeing countless resumes that don't have the right backgrounds, skills or required experience. To top it off applicants either don't bother telling me why they are a good fit or send generic cover letters (including "Dear Mr. Recruiter" when Linkedin clearly mentions who I am and a link to my profile). Send out less resumes and be more focused in your approach. It will make a huge difference.
3. Job search is a job - treat it like one. Searching for a job, especially if you've just been let go, can be brutal. You might be feeling demoralized, down and without energy. It's normal that you might need a few days or even a week or 2 to "snap out of it." Most of us do. We're human. Give yourself some time to mourn, decompress, get rid of that anger or whatever. But once that time is up get back up on the horse and get going. The key to succeeding at the job search is to quickly develop a plan, set yourself daily and weekly goals and execute on that plan the way you would when you're working on something in a paying job. That means things like getting up at the same time you used to get up, going through a routine every day, deciding how to allocate each part of your day (for example 9am - 10am for research, 10-11am for follow up emails, calls and meetings) and giving yourself goals. For example, when I've been job searching I break up my day between emails / follow ups, research, meetings, more follow ups, more research, writing and sports. I usually break each of these down into 1.5 hour blocks and leave the afternoons for calls and interviews. The point is: I have a routine and I stick to it.
4. Set yourself goals / targets. Whether it's a certain number of contacts, coffees, meetings each week or something else, you can't measure your performance unless you set a benchmark. At least this way you'll know how you're doing. Getting a job is like sales: you have to identify a lead, qualify it, nurture it, reach out, negotiate, and close the deal. The same goes for job hunting. After a few weeks you'll get an idea about how many coffees / meetings generate how many new contacts and of those new contacts how many lead you to real opportunities and so forth.
5. Get Organized. There is great, free software out there you can use online like Trello or Asana which helps you manage and organize projects. I've found Asana awesome in helping me organize all the contacts I have, who I've talked to, when I have to talk to someone next or follow up with a company I met. You can use tools like these to keep detailed notes on all your conversations, emails or meetings and even set reminders on which tasks you need to do next and who you need to follow up with.
6. Do sports. I can't stress this one enough. Doing even 20-30 minutes a day will make a world of difference. I do 20 minutes of yoga each morning to start off my day and then bike 10 miles. It helps me stretch out, focus, wake up and start off on the right foot. Simply put: there is no excuse not to do it. Even if you can't afford a gym, a bike or whatever there are lots of things you can do to stay in shape. I found a number of YouTube Yoga videos online and if you couple those with some of those elastic bands you can get on Amazon.com for $20 you're set. So find something you don't mind doing and put 20 minutes in your calendar every day as part of your routine.
7. Give thanks every day. OK, this one may sound simplistic and maybe even a bit childish but particularly if you're feeling down what I've found helpful is to keep a diary where every morning or evening you you sit down (or whip out the laptop) and write at least 5 things that went well for you that day. It can be anything. The point is that you'll always find somethings that went well. Maybe you had a good interview or a friend made an intro to someone that you should talk to. Maybe you finished a long job application. No matter how rough your day was you'll always find things that went well and things to be thankful for. I've found that stopping for 5-10 minutes and being thankful for what I have helps me maintain perspective. Things are never as bad as they seem.
8. Meet lots of people! No matter how many online job boards you use, how long you spend on Linkedin or how many resumes you send out the research still shows that between 70-80% of jobs aren't even published. More importantly, an article in NPR several years ago also revealed how companies usually receive about 6 applicants for each job! The solution is: get out and network. There's simply no way around it. The key to networking is to grow your network. Not everyone you speak to will have a job for you but they will know several people who know other people who might. Think of it as the law of probabilities: the more people you reach out to, the greater the chance you'll find something. The cool thing as well is I've often found that 1. Networking gets me out of the house, clears my head, gives me exercise (I walk to many of my meetings) 2. Networking helps me make new friends and 3) Networking always helps me learn new things. What you may also find is that, particularly with folks you know, they will know things about you and can also give you valuable advice about things you might be good at or even career options you haven't even considered. Networking is awesome. Get out there and meet someone.
9. Use your downtime. Sometimes people ask me: "what about getting into an industry I don't have any experience in? How do I do that?" Well, if there's one thing you may have when you're job hunting it's downtime. A couple of things I do which have been really helpful:
a) Write. That's exactly what I'm doing right now. I'm writing. I'm having a conversation with you. I'm thinking, writing and sharing advice and at the same time I'm learning about something I'm passionate about: helping people find jobs they love. Often when you write you have to research and when you research you learn new things. But also the great thing about writing, especially if you enjoy it, is that it helps position you as a thought leader. As someone who knows what they're talking about and is excited about that subject. For example, let's say you have to follow up with a recruiter you talked to last week about a job. What do you think will be a more effective? A simple email asking him / her where they are in the process or a friendly email that says "Hey, I hope you're doing well. I recently was doing some research on your industry and thought I'd share this post I wrote on Linkedin about the topic." The first approach is what everyone does. The second one is a soft sell which shows you care and are researching and developing expertise about the company's products and industry. It's also a friendly reminder ("by the way, any news?").
b) Read. Sounds obvious but if you're really interested in an industry / company that you don't know a lot about your best ticket is to read about it. Reading will not only develop your knowledge about the industry and company but it will also provide ammunition for your writing. More importantly it nourishes the brain and keeps you sharp. One of the #1 killers of the job search process is that the longer you're out of work the more your skills atrophy. The brain is a muscle, the more you use it the better it will work. Reading helps immensely and also helps fight off those moments when little else is happening.
10. Give back. One of the things I've found to be very helpful is to spend some of my time giving back to others. I do that by meeting with entrepreneurs and young people looking to start new businesses. I really enjoy meeting people, hearing about their ideas, their problems and giving them advice on how to build their businesses. We each have different ways of "giving back". Maybe it's helping your kid's school. Maybe it's volunteer work with young kids or the elderly. Getting out there and helping others makes you feel alive. It makes you feel good. It can also be a source of learning and inspiration. For me, I find it's good for the soul and I like knowing that I'm helping people. In the grand cosmic wheel of things if you believe in good karma then maybe someone will help you too.
Never let the job process get you down. Stay focused, stay organized, stay fit and help others and you might just find that this process actually has some enjoyable parts to it that you don't get while you're working.
Best of luck and if you found this article helpful please pass it along! Also feel free to shoot me any questions you might have in the comments.