Step Away from Your Terrible, Frustrating Job Search

If you are in a frustrating job search fear not: you are not alone (even though it feels very lonely).

I recently wrote a tweet about “stepping away.” This is based on a project I was working on, and getting stuck. I could stare at the screen for minutes… er, hours, and make no progress. Or, I could walk away.

I chose to walk away and address it the following day, which inspired this tweet (I’m also including Jacqui’s response/forward):

I am reminded of my Big Fat Failed Frustrating Job Search, from early 2006 (which is when I started JibberJobber). The economy was great, talent was getting picked up quickly, and I was there all alone not even getting replies to emails or applications. I spent hour after hour getting nowhere. It was a frustrating job search. It was depressing.

I later found myself on a podcast talking to some recruiters. One of them said the average job seeker spent something like ten hours a week on their job search. I said that didn’t sound right to me… the people I met at job clubs were definitely spending more than ten hours a week. I said I spent about ten hours a day, Monday through Saturday (that is 60 hours a week) on my job search. The guy yelled at me, insinuating that I wasn’t being honest, and saying that I was an anomaly.

I left that podcast in disbelief that people in my situation, hungry, desperate, and in need of a new job (and income) would only work on it ten hours a week.

A Frustrating Job Search Isn’t Solved by Working More Hours

I’m certainly not promoting 60 hours a week. It was exhausting, especially since I wasn’t making any progress. Of course, 60 hours a week of good tactics that were producing results would have been different. I’ve always known I should have done a job search differently… not spent nearly as much time on job boards and done some REAL networking and follow up (which is why I created the Job Search Program system). But one thing I wish I would have done back then was to STEP AWAY.

60 hours of unproductive, depressing work was not helpful.

If I could counsel my younger job seeker self I would say to step away, every day.

Figure out the most important things I needed to do each day, and do them early in the day. Then, instead of restlessly tinkering on job boards, hoping to find something, I’d say go out and do something productive.

Ideally it would be some networking thing… whether that is with a neighbor or on a call with someone I met at a networking event. Call someone, talk to someone, practice your branding pitches, ask how you could help them, develop and nurture a relationship, ask for introductions, learn about titles, roles, companies, opportunities, networking events, etc.

I spent about 100% of my time on my computer and about 0% of my time doing stuff from that last paragraph. Which is why 2006 was the year of my Big Fat Failed Frustrating Job Search.

Step away and get your other stuff done. I’m sure you have laundry, dishes, maintenance, exercise, reading, etc. that you should do. Somewhere in the back of your brain you have something nagging at you. It sounds like “I really should do this… but…”

My “but” was that I felt I needed to do my frustrating job search until I got a job, and then I could get to those other things. Guess what? Neglect will catch up with you. Neglecting a drip could turn into thousands of dollars of water or mold damage. Neglecting pest control could turn into a multi-thousand dollar infestation problem. Neglecting relationships, neglecting your physical health, neglecting your mental health… all of these things come at a cost. Some costs are bearable. Other costs can be overwhelming.

I was in that situation because I had neglected my network and my personal brand. And I paid dearly for it.

I know how emotionally draining a frustrating job search is. I know how much anxiety there is. I know.

I also know how important it is to get your work done, and then STEP AWAY.

Step away from a frustrating job search

It’s hard to relax, and to enjoy… but you have to do that. You need to maintain some healthy balance in your life. You will be a better communicator and networker if you have this balance. Read, clean, fix, work, rest, relax, fish, hike… whatever you need to do to get that healthy balance.

Whenever I thought of any of this during my Big Fat Failed and Frustrating Job Search I had one thought:

If I spend time on anything other than landing my next job I am cheating on my family. I’m cheating on my future. 

That was unhealthy, untrue self-talk. If I had a coach, they would have told me to get off the computer. Ten hours a day of fiddling was not good. I’d much rather do one hour a day of very strategic techniques than 10 hours a day of fiddling. That’s the gist of the Job Search Program. And this is my formal invitation to you: