I’ve never been on an emotional roller coaster quite like unemployment. Searching for a job can be a lonely, frustrating and often lengthy process filled with uncertainty and possibility. I was met head on with questions about my ability and worth during a recent phase of unemployment, and it led to more self-doubt than I’d experienced since those awful middle school years.
Through the season of tackling my job search, I picked up a few helpful strategies to secure a position that I wanted, while clinging on to my sense of self in the process.
What everyone says about networking is true. Though I certainly know people who have come into their occupations by applying online, it’s the minority. Forbes estimates that about 40 percent of jobs are found through networking, while other news outlets estimate that percentage to be closer to 80. Networking allows you to get a better idea of whether you would be a good fit for various companies, and it enables you to discuss opportunities with an actual employee. Though we live in a tech-centric world, the personal approach is still the key.
Find advocates. Once you’ve built up a decent network of professionals in your desired work field, it’s time to find some advocates. Look for people in your social sphere who are open to discussing opportunities in their company. Ask if they would be willing to recommend you for any openings or notify you of new positions that you might be qualified for. Though it can sometimes feel uncomfortable asking others for favors like this, many people are happy to help out job-seekers and present worthy candidates for open positions.
Focus in. Beginning the job hunt by looking into a wide array of opportunities is wise, but there comes a time to focus your efforts on a few of the most promising leads. Choose companies that are both interesting to you and have your strongest connections to potential advocates. If you can, set up informational interviews with some of your advocates’ colleagues to build a bigger network and learn about different facets of the company. Learn as much as you can and set yourself apart from other applicants through your enthusiastic interest and personal connections.
Learn as much as you can and set yourself apart from other applicants through your enthusiastic interest and personal connections.
Pursue outside goals and interests. When you’re jobless, it’s easy to think about your search 24/7. Set aside time in your day or week to invest in side projects such as volunteering, learning a new language, or developing a skill you’d like to master. Set goals for yourself, not only to complete projects and feel the satisfaction of accomplishment, but also to have more content for discussion in interviews. Interviewers love to hear that you are capable of being a self-starter and that you are motivated enough to take initiative and pursue goals on your own. It makes you both a well-rounded candidate and a memorable one!
Take proper care of yourself. Unemployment can be discouraging and leave us hopeless at times. We live in a society that loves to define people by what they do, not necessarily who they are, and being in a jobless state makes it all too easy to suffer an identity crisis. Spend time in community with those who can support and encourage you through this phase, and always remember that it is just a phase. Celebrate accomplishments and progress along the way, and continually check in with yourself on how you’re handling the search emotionally. Remember that the process of finding a job takes time, and the length of that time has nothing to do with your self-worth or potential to succeed. Unemployment is a season experienced and fought through by millions, but it’s also one that can lead to many of our brightest opportunities.