Did you launch your job search activities with a burst of energy, set goals, seek support and launch your action plans with lots of positive energy and hope? Did you get a lot of initial positive response from helpful friends, colleagues and business contacts, feel great about the process and then suddenly everything ground to a halt?
Even the most pro-active job seeker may experience a dip in activity at some stage. Even though this is quite normal, if the lull continues for more than a couple of weeks you will become discouraged. It's now time to reassess each job search method and get creative.
At the start of a job search campaign, people update their resume, register with a number of recruitment agencies, and make a list of companies to target and make contact with their network to gain referrals. Things may go along well, perhaps even a few interviews may be secured and then... nothing. People who seemed so enthusiastic at first don't return calls or emails; suddenly there is a deadly silence. If this happens time and time again, doubt slithers into your mind and you start to question your ability to secure a new role.
The momentum is lost. It's easy to slip into catastrophic thinking at this stage if the months start to slip by and finances get tighter and you have mouths to feed, a mortgage to pay off and multiple expenses.
This experience is not unusual. Many job hunters find that getting moving initially is not that difficult, however, as opportunities fall through and that initial list of contacts is exhausted, the search for work can move into a more difficult phase. Perhaps you have 'hit the wall.' Does this sound familiar to you?
Sometimes the people you speak with initially create the mistaken impression that finding a new position will only take a few weeks, or that the process is easy. Perhaps you are interpreting the feedback you are receiving (calls that are not returned, lack of response from recruiters, positions that suddenly are placed 'on hold' or filled by internal applicants) as a measure of your marketability, or lack of it, and you start to make negative emotional judgments on yourself that are not correct. With that sort of thinking, even the most successful professional may question the very elements that made them a success in the previous career.
You may feel like giving up. If you give up, you will not succeed. I remember a saying I once heard,
Only when it really gets dark can you see the stars
Step 1: BE REALISTIC
First of all, know that statistically, a typical job search for a professional in middle management can take up to 3-4 months. More senior positions may take considerably longer. When finding work is not as easy as it seemed after your initial enthusiastic start, don't assume the worst – get the facts. Base your actions on facts and evaluate what worked and what didn't. Ask yourself if you are being too narrow in your search or if there is a piece of the puzzle you are omitting in the search process. Give yourself mini-breaks in your weekly routine to exercise, relax and enjoy the fresh air. Clear your head – learn how to meditate – I've found it does help!
Step 2: MAINTAIN YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM –Don't be afraid to ask for help
Stress can make you withdraw from friends, associates, and family. Most people really do want to help however you need to let them know HOW they can help you. Talk to a friend or mentor, join a support group, or engage the support of a career coach for professional guidance. I've found that meetup.com is a very helpful site to find like-minded people who meet regularly to discuss their areas of interest or expertise (this is professional as well as social.)
Step 3: SET A CLEAR PLAN AND STICK TO IT
Make sure that you keep your resume updated with your relevant accomplishments, identify your transferable skills and identify your personal and career values. Develop a marketing plan with realistic time frames and realistic goals and objectives. If it doesn't work, make adjustments; discuss them with a trusted associate who understands your job market and someone who understands the industry you are targeting.
Step 4: TAKE CONTROLOF YOUR WORK HABITS
Maintain regular work habits and full workweeks. Your job search is a FULL-TIME JOB!
Implement task planning, keep up-to-date records and record results and follow-up activities. Networking statistically has proven to be the most effective way to find a job. Ensure you budget about 70-80 percent of your time meeting people in your relevant network and getting feedback on your strategy. Always try to gain referrals in order to obtain more advice and guidance. How many people will you meet each week? Those who spend the most amount of time setting up networking meetings every week are the ones who generate the most opportunities, new ideas and support ... and leads for jobs!
Step 5: CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES
Consider what else you could do if your original goals don't materialize. Should you consider short term or interim assignments where you can expand your experience without making a permanent commitment? This is an excellent way to demonstrate what you have to offer and expand your professional network. With a little luck and determination, a temporary assignment may turn into something more long-term. Think about alternative income streams – do you have an area of expertise that would lend itself to a consulting role? Think about expanding your skills – are you missing a key certification or qualification that could open more doors for you?
Step 6: TARGET WHOM YOU WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH
Not everyone you meet will be a positive, helpful influence. Give negativity a wide berth. Give yourself the chance to surround yourself with those who believe in you and are willing to share their experience and expertise. Positive attitudes are contagious. Winners focus on possibilities and positive outcomes.
Step 7: MAINTAIN A REALISTIC and OPTIMISTIC OUTLOOK
Talk to others who have experienced an extended job search. You will learn a lot about resilience from them. They have hit low points, assessed the situation, asked for support and made conscious decisions to adapt and move on. It may be difficult to believe it but things really do get better if you can take charge and keep at it. Remember that a winner never quits. Balance your time so that you are spending the right amount of time on the critical activities of each phase of your campaign.
Be brave enough to acknowledge that your job search campaign has stalled and then be creative to get it moving again. Remember that you do not have to do this alone. Enlist the support of your friends and family, close ex-colleagues and all of those you respect. Sign up a 'job search buddy' who will keep you on track and accountable.
In order to experience positive results, you have to take positive action. Maintain records of your activity – set your own KPIs and stick to them. Reward yourself each time you tick off a day's worth of positive activity.