5 ways to make job hunting easier on yourself

Looking for a job is one of the most frustrating and anxiety-producing experiences that we have in our adult lives, especially if the search stretches on longer than anticipated. If you’re one of the many people who is finding that your search is taking months longer than what was typical in previous job markets, here are five ways to make this maddening process easier on yourself.

1. Don’t take it personally. It’s tempting to take it personally when you’re rejected for a job that you thought you were perfect for or when you don’t hear back from an employer after they promised they’d call you. Rather than becoming offended, hurt, or bitter or starting to feel like a failure, you’ll be far better served by removing your emotions from the equation as much as you can. Job hunting is filled with rejections, even for great candidates, and if you take the way employers treat you as a measure of your worth, you’ll never want to get out of bed again.

2. Remember that candidate time is different than employer time. When you’re job searching, time feels like it moves incredibly slowly – you send it in your application and then wait what feels like ages to get called for a phone screen, and then wait ages to be invited to an in-person interview, and then time stretches even longer when you’re waiting to hear if you got the job. But on the employer’s side, things are different: Hiring managers are juggling lots of other priorities, and hiring often isn’t their top priority. While you’re waiting anxiously for your phone each hour for 10 days, they might not even have begun glancing through their stack of applications. It can help to remember this difference and not get too worked up about why you haven’t heard back yet.

3. After you apply for a job, mentally move on right away. Too often, this is what goes through a job seeker’s head after applying for a job: “I wonder when I’ll hear back. Maybe by the end of this week? … I would be really good at this job. I hope I get it … It’s Wednesday and I haven’t heard anything yet. I wonder what that means. Maybe I’ll hear tomorrow.” And on and on. It’s far better for your peace of mind to put that job out of your head as soon as you’ve submitted your application because there’s nothing to be gained by agonizing and waiting and wondering. Let yourself be pleasantly surprised if you get a call. And if they don’t, you’ll already have moved on anyway.

4. Don’t speculate on what might be happening behind the scenes or try to read clues in what interviewers say to you. Because job searching can be frustrating and full of disappointments, and because employers can be so difficult to read, job seekers often try to find clues about their candidacy in things that employers say and do. But plenty of what job seekers take as “signals” from employers really don’t actually reveal anything at all. For instance, showing you where your new office would be, telling you that your qualifications are perfect, and calling your references doesn’t mean that a job offer is coming your way. You might never even hear from that employer again! And on the flip side of that, don’t assume you’re out of the running just because the employer re-advertises the job or doesn’t get back to you by when they said they would.

5. Cut off annoying friends and relatives who pressure you about your job search. When you’re searching for a job, you might hear from lots of people who want to help – but who pick the wrong way to do it. If your mother is hounding you with constant requests for updates or your friend is pushing bad resume advice on you, it’s okay to request a moratorium on job search conversations. Say something like, “I’m grateful for your concern, but I would love to take a break from thinking about it. I’ll let you know when I have any news to share.”

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 19 comments… read them below }

  1. Steve*

    I like the advice to apply and then “move on.” But as far as personal organizational skills go, how do you move on and yet still appear to be interested and up to date if/when they call you 3 months later? What’s the best way to not sound like you’re struggling to remember who/what/where the job was after all that time?

    1. Elsajeni*

      I have a friend who swears by his Job Search Spreadsheet — he just enters in some basic details about the job, makes a note about where in his files he can find the job description (in case the listing disappears), then has columns for “Applied,” “Scheduled Interview,” “Interviewed,” and I think maybe “Received Offer”. Assuming you’re near your computer when you answer the call, it might take a moment to pull up the file, but at least you’d be able to pretty quickly say, “Ah, yes, the Teapot Decorator position!”

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yep, I did this in my post grad school job search. I also added columns for the application requirements (resume, cover letter, application, # of references needed, writing sample, etc). And all of this was hyperlinked to the files stored locally on my computer. This process helped me apply to and keep track of 80-some job openings.

      2. KarenG*

        I do the same thing. Great way to keep track of what you have applied for and the status of everything. And because I am super organized (or a bit “AR”?) I also keep copies of all related emails/Word; PDF files and make a copy of the job description in case the job goes off grid by the time I hear back — should I hear back — and I need to reference the description during an interview.

    2. Adam*

      Whenever I was job hunting I always kept a copy of the job posting, the resume I submitted, and any other application materials like cover letters saved to my job search folder on my computer. Usually I would just save everything in a big word doc so I could refer to it after getting the call. I pretty much don’t answer my phone with caller ID, so if they leave a message I can usually figure out what the job was and get my stuff together before I call them back.

    3. Stephanie*

      I like doing PDF printouts and organizing them in folders by month.

      Also, I don’t think it’s that big of a job-search sin to politely ask for the posting again, especially if a lot of time has lapsed.

      1. Gilby*

        I basically do the same thing. I print out all the info on the job from the org posting. I print copies of the resume and cover.

        No spreadsheet for me though. I find that for the return I get on apps, it is more work then needed. If I get a call I just grab what I printed out already. It has all the info I need already on the stuff I printed; date applied, cover sent, job descript and resume.

    4. Mints*

      I keep all emails in a folder, and if a confirmation email (thanks for applying) doesn’t have the info, forward it to myself with title and company name so I can find it in Gmail search. I save cover letters and postings in folder with the title and company in the title. Also, I use boomerang to send myself reminders when following up for a job. I like boomerang because once I schedule it, I can actually forget about it, versus in my calendar, it stares me down even when I’m just trying to check when my optometrist appointment is or whatever.
      It’s a pretty good system. I haven’t been caught forgetting at least

  2. Adam*

    +6. Live as NORMAL a life for you as possible. This was the hardest for me as I hated job searching so much. Having your every waking thought revolve around resumes and how long your bank account will last is probably what caused my hair to start falling out.

    Live as best you can within your means. When you’re job hunting give it your undivided attention. When you’re done for the day stop thinking about (much like you would work). Easier said than done, but at least try.

  3. Stephanie*

    6. Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
    7. Keep a strict schedule of when you job search (i.e., from 10-noon search on Indeed). Compartmentalizing it like that made me way more focused.

    1. Ethyl*

      Yes, plus keeping to a schedule each day kept me organized and helped me keep up with exercising and cooking instead of laying on the couch feeling doomed.

      Another tip is to stick to your schedule and remember that if you’ve done your job hunting work for the day, there isn’t anything to be gained by going back to it a couple hours later. Jobs don’t get posted THAT often, and you’ll just drive yourself crazy. I know you feel anxious and want to DO SOMETHING to make that anxiety go away, but the best thing to do isn’t to send out more resumes but to do some self-care (take a bath, a walk, play with your pets, etc.). If you’re sending out resumes at 3 am because you can’t sleep, you’re probably not sending in your best work, or even applying to jobs you are right for!

      1. CC*

        Oh yes, compartmentalizing and scheduling. Having defined times or tasks to do in the job hunt lets me relax and do something I enjoy without having the guilt of “I should be doing more!” hanging over me for the rest of the day.

        Who started the whole thing about searching for a job being a full-time job anyway? Even if you check the job boards daily, it’s going to be hard filling up a full day every day with productive job hunting activities. Well, unless you’re trying for one of those jobs where frequently showing up in person to follow up is a good thing (if I remember correctly that’s restaurants and retail?) in which case you could fill a lot of hours. And probably get a lot of good exercise with all the walking. I know I carried my resumes a few miles in the summer in high school before I got that gas station cashier job.

      2. Manda*

        If you’re sending out resumes at 3 am because you can’t sleep, you’re probably not sending in your best work, or even applying to jobs you are right for!

        I don’t agree with that at all but I’m probably the anomaly. I’d rather write cover letters around 2 or 3 am because I’m a night owl and that’s when I think most clearly. I find it much easier to focus late at night than any other time of the day. I wouldn’t start at 2 and send it at 3 though. I’m best off getting the bulk of it done around that time and then doing some editing and sending it out the next day or whatever. But that’s just me.

  4. LouG*

    Try not to check your email every minute of every day. I was doing the “check, refresh, check again” cycle so often, it started to drive me crazy. Cutting down on that really helped me to keep my sanity.

  5. Limon*

    Going for a walk every day is a good thing, it helps with thinking and keeping fresh in your mind and also helps with your health as well.

    At first it feels weird but if you walk a mile every day then it makes a big difference. I usually feel about 10 x better when I get back home, more refreshed and energized.

  6. KarenG*

    Great advice! I live by #5. I have already told my Dad — whom I dearly love — that talking about my job search is not a topic of conversation and that if I have something to share with him, I will bring up the topic. Also, I never let anyone know if I have an interview. I hate having people ask, “how did it go?” and all the follow ups and then having to report back when I don’t get the job. I would much rather tell everyone good news then report bad news to a whole lot of people.

  7. Chris*

    There is one big thing missing here:

    contradictory information

    A hiring manager tells you one thing.
    Another hiring manager tells you another.
    A career fair counselor teaches how to take wing.
    An Internet smart person tells you don’t bother.

    A former classmate explains how he made his claim.
    A networking contact explains a different motion.
    A recruiter teaches you how to play the game.
    A professor tells you to entertain another notion.

    A guy in a bar tells you another strategy to apply.
    A family friend states how to make ends meet.
    An unemployment professional tells you to aim high.
    A software engineer tells you that’s totally not leet.

    In this giant world of contradictory information
    one has to desperately hunt for gold nuggets of glory.
    How can a man survive in this station?
    The answer: By writing some stupid poetry.

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