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Beating the Job Search Blues

By Susan P. Joyce

Beating the Job Search BluesSometimes a job search feels like you are climbing a mountain, like the guy on the left with limited resources and tools.

Endless effort and stress, but...

Success seems out of reach.

It's easy to get discouraged after working at your job search for a length of time without apparent success.

Job search success will come, but it seldom seems to come soon enough.

Be prepared to spend several weeks or months in your job search. Keep learning and keep networking, and you will win!

7 Steps to Beating the Job Search Blues

Here are some tips to help you keep your spirits up and to succeed in your job search:

  1. Recognize that losing a job or having a long job search is something that will happen to everyone eventually (probably more than once, too!).  

You are not "bad" or "incompetent" because you are unemployed, although if you've been unemployed for several months, you may feel that way. Consider that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, particularly if you were part of a layoff or business closure.

See what you can learn from it (pay more attention to office politics or to the signs that the company was headed for financial difficulties, etc.), and move on.

If the job loss was a big surprise, you may need to go through a period of mourning. Then, if you are angry, dump the anger (but not on social media!) so it doesn't sabotage your job search.

One strategy to overcome anger is to get busy. Focus on figuring out what you want to do next (target jobs) and where you want to work (target employers). This focus will help you identify your most important keywords.

With focus, your networking, social media, reading, writing, and thinking will be centered on your future. That will make it happen.

[MORE: The Top 25 Keywords for Your Job Search.]

  2. Understand that current recruiting practices have changed substantially.  

Very likely, you have not needed to job hunt very often, and probably not in the last 3 or 4 years. Technology has changed recruiting, and continues to impact how job candidates are found and are vetted.

Recruiters use technology MUCH more than in the past, from applicant tracking systems (a.k.a. "ATS"), the dominance of LinkedIn (below) to find and to verify candidate qualifications, to the growing use of artificial intelligence (a.k.a. "AI") to screen candidates.

Because of these dramatic changes in recruiting, effective job search techniques are very different than they were just a few years ago.

Having the right keywords in the right places on your resumes and LinkedIn profile is essential today. This is known as "personal SEO" -- a new and very important part of job search today.

With good personal SEO, your resume will be found in the ATS when you apply. With good personal SEO, your LinkedIn profile will be found when a recruiter is searching LinkedIn for qualified job candidates (your next job may find you!).

Having a perfect resume is important, but it is definitely NOT your only job search tool today. And, in fact, today your resume may not be as important as having a great LinkedIn presence (profile and activity demonstrating your professional skills).

Resumes are still important, but one version of your resume used for all opportunities will most likely fail now.

[MORE: Guide to Personal SEO, Guide to Effective Resumes, and How Top ATS Systems Analyze Resumes.]

  3. Ramp up your LinkedIn presence.  

LinkedIn.com is the current "happy hunting ground" of the majority of recruiters. So, join it, if you haven't already, and connect with your friends, former colleagues, recruiters, and people who work for target employers.

If you feel you must spend a few hours every day online for your job search, spend most of that time on LinkedIn:

  • Polishing and updating your Profile.
  • Connecting with people you know (or want to know).
  • Writing "long-form posts" to demonstrate both what you know and your communications skills.
  • Participating (carefully!) in Groups.

[MORE: Guide to LinkedIn for Job Search, LinkedIn SEO, Social Proof: Linked(In) to Your Resume, and Social Proof -- Required for Successful Job Search.]

  4. Don't focus on the job boards. Employee referrals are MUCH more productive.  

Limit the amount of time you spend working the job sites. Working the job boards may give you the feeling that you're accomplishing something, but, for those of us who are a bit shy or just discouraged, it's also a way to hide from making the real (human) connections that will be more helpful.

Being comfortable with the technology of an online job search is critical, but an effective job search is more than just using the technology, and the sad truth is that very few people (fewer than 10%) actually find jobs through job boards.

While fewer than 10% of job candidates are hired via job boards, nearly 40% are hired via referral by an employee, but only 7% of candidates are referred. (Source.)

Employers greatly prefer job candidates who are referred by a successful current employee, and, if you are referred, chances are very good that you will be one of very few people who were referred. So, track down your friends, neighbors, former colleagues, and others who work for your target employers to connect with a referral.

Current data (2020) shows that employers typically pay a reward of $1,000 to $5,000 (depending on the job and the employer) to the employee who refers a successful candidate. So, everyone wins!

[MORE: Fast Track to a New Job: An Employee Referral.]

  5. Join a job club -- even virtually.  

Check your local public library, town hall, and places of worship. Look for "job clubs" -- groups of job seekers, usually lead by a career or job search coach. Local job clubs usually provide the best networking with local employers.

Search Google to find virtual job clubs if you cannot find any local ones.

Often they meet weekly or twice a month, most often meet virtually since the pandemic via an app like Zoom. Attend at least 2 meetings so you get a chance to understand how the group works.

Job clubs will expand your local network. Most importantly, you will also see that you are not the only smart, competent person struggling with the strange new rules of today's job search.

Depending on how the group is run, ou may have another set of eyes to look at your resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn Profile, etc. You may also be able to exchange leads -- you know about a job at Company A that's not right for you, but it is right for someone else in the group, and vice versa. Members help each other find connections and jobs at local employers.

Avoid the "pity party" groups. A very few job clubs focus on members complaining about how unfairly they've been treated. I'm not disputing that they may have been treated unfairly, but that kind of discussion doesn't really help you move forward, confidently. It usually leads everyone to feeling frustrated and defeated. Not helpful!

Check out the Job Club Finder by CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, to find job clubs near you.

  6. Don't obsess about any bad job market news you hear or read.  

People seem to feel obligated to let you know "how bad it is out there." Don't listen! Many of the horror stories are NOT true, and even if they are true, the person or people involved are probably quite different from you. 

Good news
doesn't seem to qualify as "news" so you don't see it in print or on TV, but it happens every day.  According the the U.S. Department of Labor's JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey), millions of jobs are filled every month in the USA - a FACT (but not "news").

Focus on positive things right now, not negative. This is not "avoiding reality." This is staying upbeat and positive so you can recognize (and pounce on) the opportunities coming to you.

  7. Give yourself a break.  

Finding a job IS a full-time job, but don't work yourself to a frazzle or exclude time to relax. You'll be more effective if you take time to "recharge your batteries" with a little relaxation every day. Borrow a good mystery novel or a video from your local library, have lunch with friends, whatever works for you. Have a REAL life in addition to your job search.

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Susan P. Joyce About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.