It comes as a shock to no one that job hunting can be rough. To keep your spirits high when looking for work, you need to find ways to stay optimistic during your job hunt. But it’s definitely easier said than done.
Even in the best of times, job hunting is stressful. And during the worst? You’ll need to keep an eye out for silver linings. But even when they’re hard to see, they are there. Here are 8 ways to shift your mindset and stay encouraged throughout your job search.
1. Remember that this is only temporary – you will find work.
The job search, especially if you’re inexperienced, always takes longer than you want it to. The average American job search (pre-pandemic) took at least a month. And with unemployment jumping every week and hiring freezes nationwide, it’s hard to say how much longer it takes to find work at the moment.
But there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. You will find work, even if it takes a while. Quiet the voice in your head that is telling you that this will last forever. If it feels like you’re just spinning your wheels, try to channel that energy into a form of productivity that works for you. Perhaps it’s reorganizing your resume for a new template. Or maybe setting up a mock-interview with a friend over Zoom. Both of these can help improve your chances of making a good impression with a hiring manager.
2. The right job at the right company is out there.
Culture fit makes the difference between work being “just a job” and a job that fulfills you. Finding a work environment where you can thrive is just as important as the work you’re doing. Ideally, you should look for companies whose values align with yours.
Finding a job that suits your skills at a company whose ethos resonates with yours is a tall order. Sites like Comparably and Glassdoor can give you insight into what goes on behind the scenes and how much others enjoy working there.
3. Take inventory of your value.
Looking at job requirements day in and day out can leave you feeling inadequate. You bring a lot more to the table than a bulleted list of qualifications that you may (or may not) meet. Valuable skills can be learned in any context. These are known as transferable skills: strengths like attention to detail, problem solving, and communication skills.
4. Connect with others.
Make use of your support system – parents, roommates, significant others. Commiserate online with other job seekers – whatever makes you feel better. Just know that you’re not alone in this. It’s okay to grumble about your frustrations. Reach out to family and friends who care about you. They’re the perfect ones to give you a much-needed pep talk or to gas you up before an interview. Reaching out to people is an easy want to stay optimistic during your job hunt.
Using your personal network is also a great way to get hired faster. Ask your most grammar-savvy friend to spellcheck your resume and cover letter. Hit up a past colleague on Zoom and have them help you with a mock interview. Ask your entrepreneurial aunt if she knows anyone if your line of work who’s hiring. Your loved ones want to see you succeed, and they’re there to support you in whatever way you need. Whether it’s for a vent sesh, pep talk, or career advice.
5. Figure out what drives you.
Getting stuck in a rut when looking for work sucks all the motivation from your soul. Applying to any opening that looks even moderate and receiving rejection email after rejection email certain isn’t fulfilling. Break this cycle by taking a break from your typical job search.
People often make 5- and 10-year plans for the career. We want you think even more broadly. What excites you, in general? Yes, obviously you need a job so that you can sustain yourself (rent and food don’t buy themselves, unfortunately). But building a career that’s meaningful to you will help you push through the un-fun parts of existence. Sometimes a job merely funds a passion – but there are ways to turn almost any hobby into an occupation.
Work backwards from the stuff that you geek out over. Then determine way to work that into a career. The cliché about doing something you love means you’ll never work a day in your life is simply false. No matter what line of work you go into, there will be hard, frustrating days. But knowing that you’re working towards a bigger, personal goal will help you power through.
6. Set achievable goals – and celebrate when you meet them.
If you’re a perfectionist who sets themselves to ridiculous standards, your job hunt is a great time to work on cutting that out. Saying that you’ll apply to a dozen jobs a day until you find one is going to burn you out – and fast. Instead, keep in mind your ultimate goal: getting a job. Sit down and evaluate what you’re going to need to reach this goal – a solid professional presence, a great resume, sharpening your interview skills… And sending out your application, of course! Then, you can work out a timeline that makes sense for you. After you’ve laid the groundwork, start applying. Applying to just one or two jobs that are actually a good fit everyday will serve you better than blasting out your resume to every opening.
Score a phone interview? Celebrate. Meet your weekly application quota? Celebrate. It can take a while to find a job, so if you make that your only goal, you’ll wind up discouraging yourself. Don’t ignore the small achievements that you are making. Celebrating tiny victories will help you stay optimistic during your job hunt and on-track for your main goal.
7. Avoid comparison – it really is the thief of joy.
Beware of social media and comparing your career to someone else’s. You never know what’s going on behind the scenes and the screen. People tend to tout only their victories. You’re comparing their highlights reel to the ups and downs of your real life, so you’re not even making a one-to-one comparison! Your accomplishments stand on their own, they don’t need to compete with those of others. Focus on meeting your own goals and use your community to rally you, not to measure yourself against. You’ll be happier in the long run – not just while looking for work.
8. Stay engaged in your community.
Job searching can leave you feeling like you’re just spinning your wheels. It’s a constant game of hurry-up-and-wait that doesn’t feel satisfying. In American culture especially, worth is often tied to how productive you are. If you’re unemployed, it can quickly feel like you’re losing your sense of purpose. If your job search makes you feel this way, now’s the perfect time to get more involved with your community.
Volunteering, political engagement, and giving back will give you a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Focus on achieving those non-career victories! Plus, being engaged with others can help broaden your network. Plus, 80% of people find jobs through connections, you never know where your next opportunity might come from.
It’s important to stay optimistic during your job hunt. Maintaining a positive outlook will keep you from feeling burnout – and find a job faster as a result. A health mindset is key to sticking through a spell of unemployment. This too, shall pass. And before you know it, you’ll be onto your next opportunity.