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. Rather than becoming offended, hurt, 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 sent in your application and then wait what feels like ages to get called for a phone screen, 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 by 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, 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 into 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 résumé 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."
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues.
She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.
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