Even in a near zero unemployment economy, it can still be challenging to find the job leads best suited to you. If you think your opportunities have dried up, it may be time to take a breather, review your strategy and push the reset button.
If your search has stalled, now is the time to reassess what you’ve been doing and decide how to retool your search for the future. Ask yourself some of the following questions to identify what may be the cause of the slowdown:
- How are you spending the majority of your time in your search?
- What methods have worked for you in the past to land a job?
- From what sources have you been getting interviews as you search?
- Are recruiters reaching out to you? Where are they finding you?
- Where is the process getting derailed? Are you getting calls and interviews, but no offers, or are you not receiving any response from prospective employers?
Once you have adequately assessed your current search strategy, digital visibility and marketing strategy, target company list and networking activities, the next step is to give yourself a motivational boost. This is a process that can include small, yet specific activities to make a job search more positive and effective.
take time off
Searching for work is a full-time job in itself and the stress that comes with the territory is sometimes even higher than the most demanding job you’ve ever had. Before you attempt to reinvigorate your job search, you should first step away from the screen, stop checking your phone for emails and get out of the house to clear your head and recharge your body and mind.
Consider a long weekend respite, going for a hike, visiting an old friend, a staycation or a getaway vacation. It doesn't have to be a very long time, but allow yourself two or three days where you just do something you like. This can put you in a better frame of mind to:
- Identify your accomplishments and picture future results
- Recognize your talents
- Enjoy what you have already achieved without the negativity of focusing on the bad
Most people frown at the idea of taking time off from job search, but when you’re on empty or feeling close to it, giving yourself some space might provide valuable perspective that can revitalize and shorten your search in the long run. By allowing yourself a few days or even a week off, you might return refreshed and discover ways to compress your search time, decide how to give yourself mental breaks along the way or develop a targeted networking strategy.
how to de-stress
Here are a few ideas for relaxation and career visualization:
1. exercise the body
While the physical benefits of exercise are obvious, the immediate mental boost is worthy of note. Creating an environment of self-care can be as simple as getting outside to see the beauty in a local park or reading while sitting on a bench, which increases creativity and alleviates stress. One of the most popular forms of exercise – taking a walk – builds strength and stamina. Just simply being in nature is recognized as being highly effective in reducing stress and depression. Such breaks enable you to create strategies for self-optimization and support, resulting in a more open mind and alleviating burnout.
2. exercise the mind
Practicing and learning about mindfulness, listening to podcasts and journal writing are all effective for stress reduction, attention and memory enhancement. Surround yourself with positive inspiration and stimulation, whether from books, videos, podcasts, music, speakers or conversations with a friend, colleague or mentor.
3. job search–focused meditation
Implementing meditation during a stalled job search can help you picture future results and learn how to best respond rather than react, in turn increasing emotional intelligence and promoting self-awareness.
4. TED Talks and motivational speeches
These sources are a great starting point to gain inspiration, fresh ideas and newfound motivation. Topics include job search, careers, networking, personal growth and failure/rejection.
job goal exercises
At the beginning of each week, write down three tasks and goals you want to accomplish. Start with small steps – something limited and reasonable rather than an unrealistic goal that you cannot meet. These may include emailing one new contact, writing one new cover letter, researching one target company on LinkedIn or Glassdoor, or tailoring your resume for one target.
Randstad RiseSmart suggests creating SMART goals to support you as you work toward achieving your career and personal aspirations.
A goal is the object of a person's ambition or effort, an aim or a desired result. Very often in career transition, the goal is to land a new job. Review the following information to begin creating and tracking your own SMART goals.
A SMART goal is written out in a complete format and includes these characteristics:
A detailed statement that identifies the goal or what you will do.
A defined way to know you’ve achieved the goal. This is usually a tangible metric or data point that identifies or measures progress.
The goal has to be realistic and attainable. Saying you are going to land a position as a project manager with a salary is $150,000 is great – very specific and measurable – but completely unattainable if you lack the right experience or are not targeting the right companies that offer salaries at that level. Also, if you are setting multiple goals, are you getting too ambitious? Given your time constraints, be sure the goal is realistic.
Will this goal meet your needs? Is it relevant to the impact you are trying to make on your life? If you are setting multiple goals, how do they fit together?
Each goal needs to have a deadline, and each milestone within the goal – or each sub-goal – should have a time attached to it. For example, ‘by February 15’ or ‘each week.’
By having a clear set of goals, you can create an authentic brand for yourself that helps generate positive emotions. It’s good to remember that achieving happiness is a skill and a technique that you can build upon to enhance your overall well-being.
make optimal use of online platforms
Reduce your use of job boards. This might seem counterproductive, but most job seekers are spending too much time searching online. As a career coach, I understand the power of getting offline for your job search and how it can reduce your feelings of frustration and isolation. Randstad RiseSmart recommends time management charting, what we call the ‘70-20-10 rule,’ as part of your daily job search. Spend 70 percent of your time networking; 20 percent on preparation, research and professional development; and only 10 percent searching for and pursuing posted job leads.
Knowing these percentages, try to restrict your searches to only one hour daily so that you can use your time more efficiently for other activities. You might be surprised how much easier it is to generate opportunities through networking (with people you know, people you don't know and recruiters) when you’re not hindered by exploring posted job leads all the time.
Conduct a Google search of yourself and work on your digital image instead of being engrossed in a job search. This will help you take your mind off of finding jobs and put your energy into working on your reputation instead. Put your name in the search bar to see what content pops up. Then, focus on unique activities to create more positive results. For example:
- Join a few of the many online communities where you can develop a professional digital presence through involvement and online conversations, such as LinkedIn Groups and Meetup.com.
- Create your professional portfolio or website with your name as the domain name.
- Join professional clubs that list their members online.
- Write insightful posts on social platforms with a branded signature.
- Submit blogs and articles to association sites and industry journals.
- Donate to a passionate cause or nonprofits so you show up on their list of donors.
Continue to monitor your brand while you’re in a job search. It is a good exercise in getting away from the daily grind of a job search when you’re feeling fatigued and frustrated.
focus on branding documents and interview skills
Seek help from a mentor, friends, family and associates to scan your resume and check for errors or confusing information. Have them share what caught their eye and what turned them off.
If you can afford it, hire a professional resume writer to optimize your documents. Check to see if you have outplacement services through your employer. It might include resume and cover letter services, as well as coaching and job search assistance.
Use your connections to conduct mock interviews and gather feedback and constructive criticism. Some people assume that they don't need help preparing for interviews, but this is often not the case. Interviewing is a skill that you get better at with time and practice. Do high-level research on your target companies, decision-making contacts and key connections to develop great questions and to have powerful, concise answers to almost any subject thrown at you.
Preparation and practice are essential, and they are a helpful distraction from the daily job board searches and email checks.
invest in yourself
Sharpening your skills is not only a great idea, but it’s also something that will take your mind off a stalled job search while at the same time build your confidence.
Develop new skills tailored to your goals and benefit your job search:
- Fill the employment gaps on your resume to show that you're actively growing professionally.
- Add more keywords to your resume and online profiles.
- Have more confidence and knowledge to share during interviews.
- Hone in on skills that you see are in demand but don't yet have.
There are MOOCs (massive open online courses), library classes, seminars, free online tutorials and more. Try to make the process fun by thinking outside the box to come up with productive goals that can help excite the process and catapult your search forward.
- Set up regular rewards for passing exams for completing a course.
- Find an accountability partner or group to keep the momentum going.
- Permit yourself to take a guilt-free 20-minute nap after class is over.
- Reward yourself with an activity you enjoy, such as a round of golf or a spa day, after receiving the certification letter.
deepen your network
If you are not meeting new and useful contacts each week, it’s time to re-strategize. Be creative. Don’t limit yourself to only calling on former colleagues, bosses or clients. Find people outside of your comfort zone and ask them to coffee, lunch or for at least a quick 20-minute networking call.
Spend quality time really listening to the people you meet at industry events and follow up appropriately afterwards. Network online and off. It is the single most important part of your job search because most openings are never advertised. Be aware of referral groups and industry networking mixers, and use online networking sites like LinkedIn for professionals. You are just as likely to make a connection that leads to your next job at a college alumni event or a dinner party.
Finally, consider philanthropic events and volunteering. It's not only a great way to network, but it's also a fulfilling use of your time while you're between jobs where you can meet people with similar interests and passions.
Choose to focus on small, yet effective actions that have a high payoff when you find activity is slowing down. Every few weeks, it is critical to take a step back to objectively reassess your job search techniques and identify whether you need to rework your strategy. Reinvigorating a job search is something most every job seeker will need to do at some point. It gives you a chance to adapt and grow, resulting in a more effective strategy that includes new ways of networking, learning, building better skills, and integrating physical and mental activity for success after stagnation.