We’re all different. We think differently, we feel differently and we respond to the world differently. Yet there are some things almost all of us agree on. Almost all of us agree that the job market is a stressful place, and most of us think “stressful” is a bit of an understatement. Success at carrying out the best job search depends in part on how you respond.
It’s not the same for everyone, of course. We bring our own inner natures to the search, and some of us are more naturally resilient or optimistic than others. We find ourselves in different situations, too, and that matters.
Some of us have jobs and want something better. Some of us are older, with problems that are not the same as those faced by the new grad. Some of us are changing careers. Some are overqualified. Your place in the job market certainly affects your experience.
If we find the market difficult, though, let’s make one thing clear immediately: The difficulty here is not the product of personal failings or some unique inability to handle adversity. The fault here is in the process, not in our selves.
If you’re discouraged, that’s not a sign of weakness on your part, despite the fact that some rare people don’t seem to suffer through the process. Those people are part of a minority so small as to be barely countable. In reality, the job search is tough, and if it drags on, it only gets tougher.
If you’ve been living with the job market for any length of time, you’d be excused for thinking that the point of the whole diabolical system was to make you as miserable as possible.
There are ways to cope. Once again, focus on what’s practical, what’s doable and what actually helps. You do have to soldier on. I won’t pretend that telling you to soldier on is anything like a useful piece of advice.
Here, then, are a few possibilities.
Get Up and Get Out. For many of us, there’s a real temptation to pull the covers over our heads and hide. Get out into the world on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to involve some job-specific activity. Go out for coffee. Grab a bite to eat. If nothing else, take your laptop to the coffee shop or the library, and work on your resume there. The whole enterprise will make you feel more part of the wider world.
Keep in Touch. Don’t be a hermit. It’s too easy to become isolated. Make time for friends and family. Talk to people on the phone. This is another activity that doesn’t have to have a direct payoff in the job market. It’s enough that it maintains connections with other people, no matter who they are.
Stay Up-to-Date. Keep in touch with what’s happening in your field. This will actually serve you very well in the job search, but that’s not what makes it valuable as a coping mechanism. It’s also another way to remind yourself that you’re still part of something, that you still have a place in a community of people with similar interests.
Add Structure. If the lack of structure is a problem, add some yourself. Set aside specific hours for specific tasks. Set limits. A schedule, with its built-in limits, can actually make you more productive.
Get Help. There may come a time when you need help to make it through. Don’t hesitate to seek it out. Help can come in the form of a group of fellow searchers, a place to get support, some tips and the opportunity to share your experiences with people in the same boat. Professional help is also an option. It can come from a therapist or, for practical advice, from a career counselor who, brave soul, deals with the job market every day and knows what works.
In the end, it’s no surprise that people suffer in the face of a terribly flawed hiring process, but many of us leave it at that. If you don’t take an affirmative step or two, you can end up stewing over the whole mess by yourself while the job market does its best to beat you to a pulp.
Take care of yourself in all the other ways that have nothing to do with the job market. Do the things that aren’t all about career and work. Your psyche will thank you, and, if you need more incentive, your job search will actually benefit from some of those “irrelevant” things as well.