Applying for jobs is soul sucking stuff; I think we can all agree on this.
Whether you’re entering the job market for the first time, looking to change career paths, or returning to work after following higher education, the whole process can be incredibly daunting. You have to put yourself out there, repeatedly, with enduring zest and enthusiasm, and it’s tough! Especially if you’ve been doing so for a longer period of time.
So if you’re currently going through the motions of job application after job application, here is some advice that will hopefully aid you in staving off the mental breakdown for a little while (let’s face it, it’s inevitable. But we can fend it off until it happens, and we can figure out mechanisms to help us back up again).
DO – ask your friends and family for help. Whether it’s to look at your CV, assist you in preparing for a job interview, or help you identify your particular strengths: it can be really difficult to look at yourself critically, and objectively. I didn’t realise how much my CV needed editing until a friend of mine – who used to assess applications at his last job – offered to look at it. It can be a bit embarrassing, or maybe you think you have it all figured out, but getting another perspective is always a good shout.
DON’T – limit all your time to job searching alone. Try to give yourself a timetable that breaks up the hours of scrolling and labouring with a coffee date, a trip to the museum, a walk, a workout, or a baking session. Of course you want to find a job as quickly as possible, but you need to maintain some semblance of sanity. Taking some time away from work – and applying for jobs is work in itself – gives your brain the freedom and space to come back with renewed energy and creativity. Basically, take care of yourself. Also, if you’re still stressed or struggling after baking, well then you have cake, it’s a win win.
DO – apply for jobs even if you don’t fulfil every single bit of criteria. Obviously, keep it within limits, and don’t lie on your CV, but every job is also aiming to take you further, teach you things, and help you develop. You might be pleasantly surprised. That said,
DON’T – apply for everything and anything. If you start half arsing applications for jobs you don’t really want, you'll still experience the fallout of being unsuccessful. Apply with purpose. Use your cover letter as a chance to build your confidence, remind yourself of all the interesting things you’ve done! Carve out your niche and explore it.
DO – try and accept that applications, rejections, interviews, searches, etc, are all part of the process. Very few of us magically fall into the right job immediately (apart my brother, he got the first one he applied for, jammy dodger) but it’s a chance to learn what it is you really want to do, what speaks to you. And every application is just exercise until you find the right one. Be excited – this is your chance to shape your life, build your future, discover your skills, your likes and dislikes. You can either consider this as a slog and a really painful ordeal, or you can think of it as an opportunity. If this is something you need to get through either way, might as well approach it in a way that doesn’t make you dread the day ahead.
DON’T – take unsuccessful applications too personally. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use experiences as chances to reflect, grow and develop, but the truth is, there will be a lot of applicants for every job, and a number of reasons as to why didn’t make the cut. This isn’t about your value as a human being; another person may have fulfilled more criteria, had more experience, maybe the position was filled internally. Comparison is the thief of joy. Productively assess your own progress, see what you might be able to do better, and move on.
DO – consider volunteering if you have the time and can afford it. Not only can it provide opportunities, but it keeps you socially engaged, allows you to meet new people and build CV experience.
DON’T – forget the details! Match both the CV and cover letter to the job. Make sure you’re using the right job hunt platforms. Dress for success, smile like you mean it, tattoo all the aphorisms on to your forehead.
DO – read more articles like this every now and again. This isn’t a plug, just that I personally find it reassuring to remember we’ve all been through this, and everyone needs help, advice and some support. We’ve all been there. Some of us are still there. That’s alright.
DON’T – stop learning! Go to seminars, lectures, do online courses (especially if they’re free) and utilise the free time you have because once you do find a job, and you will, the amount of time you have to do things for you will decrease by about 8 hours a day. Plus, attending events in your area of interest, might again, provide good networking possibilities, although that shouldn’t be the be all and end all of everything.
DO – remember that a lot of the time employers are trying to see whether you would fit in with the company culture. I wouldn’t try to be someone you’re not – you want to work in a place that will help bring out the best in you, which is difficult when you don’t feel like you can be yourself – but it also just means it’s not always about qualifications. Again, think about what you want in your work environment: you’ll be spending a lot of time there, always good not to hate it.
DON’T – let the job hunt define you! There will always be more opportunities, somewhere, somehow. If you get into the “this is all I’ve got, all I can do” mindset, well, employers can smell the fear. Think of this as a good time to practice Buddhism. Accept what happens will happen, all you can do is react, learn, move on, and eventually something will turn up. Take it one day at a time, but try to remember the big picture: it will be okay.