Maybe I’m not the best person to be writing this list, as I’ve been looking for a full-time job since November 2011 and have yet to land one. But I do think I have a lot to offer in terms of staying sane while you look for a job. After all, I have successfully managed to not completely shut down from what is almost constant employment-search induced disappoint. I’ve also successfully resisted total inward collapse from self-loathing and impending student loan repayment pressure. Good for me!
So here’s my list of tips for staying sane while you look for a job during a recession:
1) Know what you want. Know your priorities and your non-negotiables. Make a list. Cull it. And then search smartly. Is geography your main priority? Narrow your search. Through the job search process, I realized that I want to live in Los Angeles. I want to live in LA more than I want to perhaps take a better job somewhere else. But because living in LA is my non-negotiable, one of my priorities has to be a certain salary range, as Southern California is not an inexpensive place to live. This was a hard one to learn. I had to be offered a terrible salary to realize what (and how necessary) a realistic salary range in Southern California is. I also had to work through my recession-based guilt at my unwillingness to take a better paying job in the more-affordable Michigan. You have to learn to be confident in your desires. It’s your life. And you have to be happy. Only you can determine what will make you happy.
2) Go with the rhythm. There’s a rhythm to the employment search. What I mean is this: it seems (probably just by coincidence) that you may learn about and apply for five positions in the span of a few days, and then hear nothing for what feels like forever. And, then, like magic, they all respond simultaneously. It’s exciting and overwhelming. It’s often hard to keep the opportunities straight in your mind. Keep written records, detailed notes and an organized filing structure on your computer. Make notes about when you last followed up, with whom you spoke and what version of your resume and cover letter you sent them. Also be sure to download a copy of the job description when you first apply, as many employers will remove the description once the posting expires. You don’t want to land an interview with a company only to learn you can no longer access the job description to review before the interview. That sucks. Trust me.
3) Be confident. Don’t let the current economy get you down. Sure, the job market is flooded with qualified and over-qualified applicants. But no one is like you, despite how it might feel. You have a lot to offer because you’re the only one who can offer what you have to offer. We are past the days of distributing a uniform resume. Cater your resume for each job application. Is the organization a niche area that you have only a vague connection to? Expound on that connection in your cover letter and use relevant buzzwords in your resume. Not only will it allow the hiring manager to make sense of your interest in their organization, but many organizations these days use keyword search programs to weed through what could be hundreds of submitted resumes. You don’t want your resume to be kicked out by some computer program, never to be seen by a human being just because you called “clerical duties” “general office work”.
4) Don’t be too confident. I recently had a few interviews with one organization that left me feeling optimistic. I had scheduled an interview with another organization in the meantime. But I got sidetracked by the excitement surrounding the interviews that went so well, that I forgot about the other, scheduled interview. The employer called me to initiate our Skype interview and I was still in my pajamas. Don’t let this happen to you. You don’t have a job until you have a job. Any number of things could happen in between a successful interview and a potential job offer. The company could not like what they hear from your references. They could interview another great candidate that out-shines you. Or they could love you, offer you the position, along with a low-ball salary and benefits package that you cannot accept (because of, of course, your priorities and non-negotiables). Don’t get too confident. Don’t get distracted with optimism and disregard other options. You never know what will happen.
5) It goes both ways. Don’t get suckered into feeling like, because you need a job and they have one to offer, the organization, company or business has the upper hand. The trite saying “You’re interviewing them too” is definitely true. If an interviewer makes you overwhelmingly uncomfortable during your time together, they’ll probably be uncomfortable to work for. Take advantage of the question-asking portion of the interviewer. If you are unclear how much of a position will be spent on certain tasks, ask for clarification. Ask the interviewers what kinds of qualities they are looking for in the ideal individual for the position. Try to gain a sense of what they want. And then genuinely assess whether you possess the skills or personality they are looking for. If you don’t, move on. It’s perfectly fine for something to not be a good fit. That is, unless the job provides one of your priorities, outweighing the potentiality of a terrible boss.
6) Work out a system of self-reward. The job search process is utterly exhausting and often completely discouraging. It’s a constant cycle of feeling pumped about a potential opportunity, envisioning your life with that job, then being completely let down when you learn they a) hired from within b) “found a candidate whose qualifications better meets their needs” c) never. return. your. calls or emails or faxes or tweets. Seriously, this happens more than anything else; you hear absolutely nothing in response to your applications. It’s terrible and I swear this is one of the worst things about an employment search in an electronic age. So work out a system of self-reward. If you are having a feel-good day, buy yourself a fancy coffee. If you did awesome on a job interview, whether you are offered the job or not, treat yourself to a new puppy, or whatever. Bottom line: celebrate the highs, because it’s mostly lows.