No Job For The Weary?
September 7, 2010 4:22 AM   Subscribe

How do I look for a new job when I'm too tired to look?

One of my biggest dissatisfactions with my current job -- office temp -- is that I don't get paid vacations. And 5+ years without a paid vacation has left me exhausted and burned out. So I need to find something that will let me actually HAVE some god-damned time off.

But -- "exhausted and burned out" is a really lousy headspace to be in when you're job hunting. I procrastinate in sending out applications and resumes and I put off looking at want ads because it just feels like yet more of the same old big pointless slog I'm already going through. And I'm also not at my most scintillating on the job and in interviews.

It doesn't even have to be any dream job, just something that will want me full-time so I get the benefits. Something stable, because I'm sick to death of the instability.

posted by EmpressCallipygos to Work & Money (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I'm also a perma-temp (is that a word?) and you just have to make your own vacation, i.e., don't accept any new assignments for a while, and get your energy back. True, this vacation won't be paid, and you might have to work to save up for it. But the flip side of working for very little money and being taken advantage of all the time is that you can choose to stop working for as long as you can, almost whenever you want. Temping (or, the kind of work that's often given to temps) can be exhausting and soul-destroying. If you mean you've done it for five years without a break, good god! No wonder you're too tired to do anything else. You really need and deserve some time off!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 5:15 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Human beings need maintenance and downtime. You've already been running over capacity for years and you're asking how to increase it. You can't, and your body and mind are telling you as much.

Can you afford to take some non-paid time off? Maybe a week off? You'll probably answer, "I can't afford it," but it sounds like you can't not afford it. You don't have to go anywhere special, but definitely leave your area for at least a night. I spent a night on Fire Island this summer that was more refreshing than other week long vacations. I wouldn't even recommend looking for work on the other time off. You need a short period of time where you don't force yourself to do anything. Maybe just get some papers in order. Then when you to go back to work you add job hunting as a second part time job.
posted by milarepa at 5:16 AM on September 7, 2010

Can you afford to / will they let you take an UNpaid vacation? Take a week off to go job hunting. It'll suck to work through your vacation, but you can sleep in, sit in your jammies with a cup of coffee and the classifieds, get some light chores done around the house and make it at least feel different from your normal work week. Just keep thinking about that better job, and your eventual paid vacations, to keep you motivated.
posted by Koko at 5:21 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I procrastinate in sending out applications and resumes and I put off looking at want ads because it just feels like yet more of the same old big pointless slog I'm already going through.

Yes, jobhunting is a slog, but it's not 'yet more of the same', because it has a point, which is getting you a permanent role with some time off.

Point 1 - if you've been working for temp agencies for five years, surely you could ask them to help place you in a permanent role? Or even ask the clients you work for what steps you need to take to make your role permanent?

Point 2 - In the immediate term, you can start by doing something very concrete, which is to save an arbitrary and tiny amount of your pay each month. Call it $20, for argument's sake. That's a few drinks, or breakfast with friends, or a couple of books. Put that money aside in a savings account, every month. Keep doing that until you have saved about two months of expenses.

Now, you have a choice. You can take some time off and use that money to pay your expenses while you sleep for a week/read some books/recharge. You might only need a week or two. You can then use the remainder of your month or so off to turn jobhunting into a full time job in itself, doing it all day, every day until you find something that doesn't crush your soul.

Or - you can take that money and leave the city you live in, go somewhere cheaper and start over. Rebalance your life so that you are able to do the things you want to do in your spare time, have some vacation each year and not succumb to the depression, burnout and grind that attempting to get by on temp work in one of the most expensive cities in the world is near-certain to lead to.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:23 AM on September 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Your story reminds me of my own a few years ago. Are you scheduling time for 1) relaxation (even if it's only 15-30 minutes/day) and 2) job hunting? I found that I was more motivated to slog through ads if I knew there would be an end to it, and if I was taking care of myself as best I could the rest of the time. It helps quieten that "#*@& I don't want to read Super Best Excellent Company's bafillionth market-speak-filled job ad and write another *%#-ing polished, targeted cover letter when I could be eating cheese and drinking a glass of wine!!!! And my feet hurt!!!" if, y'know, you've already savored the cheese and wine, and washed your feet. (I don't know what it is about washing my feet, but I find it really helps me unwind in the evenings.)

Do the best you can and know that you've done your best, even if, for presentation things like interviews, you may feel less scintillating as compared to other times. It will get better! That helps too, and I find my confidence has increased as I become more and more cat-lady-spinster what with the "shower - check, hair decent - check, enough makeup to look presentable - check, what? my cat pulled out another thread on my favorite knit top while I wasn't looking? oh who the hell cares, dressed in clean clothes - check, shoes match... sorta... enough... - check" list. Le parfait est l'ennemi du bien. Good enough? Then rock it! I get positive remarks from people when I'm not feeling all that, but have accepted it as it is and don't let it get me down further.

Caveat: I ended up getting hired by one of my clients. Not anyone I interviewed with or applied to. But! The skills helped anyway since my client is a consulting company, and I have to do interviews with their own client companies (all have been successful over the years, and my management often remarks on how comfortable I am interviewing).

Related tangent... I always remember something one of my piano professors (who got her degree from Juilliard) told me: "if you futz up while playing whoever's whatever, remember, probably no one in the audience will realize it. I've winged it through entire sections of Brahms and Beethoven that I'd forgotten and no one noticed. Well, except once, when some Beethoven expert happened to be in the audience, but he actually liked it. *laughter* Why? Because I pretended I knew what I was doing! No one's there to hear all the notes right, they come to hear someone play the piano who looks and sounds like they know how to play the piano." Piano can be replaced with a lot of things and the sentiment still stands, it seems. Not "fake it 'til you make it", but more, make the best of the hand life's currently dealing you, because you know deep down that you have what it takes.
posted by fraula at 5:35 AM on September 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

How many temp agencies are you signed up with? Tell all of them, even the ones you haven't taken a job from in years, that you are looking for a permanent position. If your feedback has been consistently good, and if you are adaptable and willing to consider different positions, yours will be one of the first resumes they offer clients. It will still take time, and you'll need to take time off to interview, but you'll grab some extra leads without much effort.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:10 AM on September 7, 2010

If you're already exhausted you're not in the best frame of mind for starting a new job, never mind looking for one; and with most permanent jobs, you're going to have to work a certain amount of time to be eligible for vacation. My current company lets you take vacation time after three months... other jobs I've had you have to work an entire year before you can take paid time off.

If you can't afford to go on an unpaid hiatus with your temp job, could you possibly afford to work part-time for awhile? Your agency (or a new agency... you can sign up with more than one) may be able to find you a position where you work 3-4 days a week, and the extra days off over the course of a few weeks may help you to feel recharged enough to get out there and find something more permanent.

You could also tell your agency that you are interested in a temp-to-perm position. I don't know how that is working out in the current economy, but I've gotten several permanent jobs by that method and never even had to interview. They just liked my work as a temp and asked me to hire on.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:32 AM on September 7, 2010

You could try JobSerf
posted by Rubbstone at 6:37 AM on September 7, 2010

Do you have an assignment now?

I find when I'm at this point I need to do MORE, not less. Especially temping gets you in the mindset of ALWAYS waiting for that phone call, ALWAYS being ready to go to work, ALWAYS wondering if you'll get an assignment or not...

It doesn't sound like you need time off from doing EVERYTHING, just time off from looking for a job and thinking about jobs can't control it, so you just think about it, about how much you need it, how much you would do if you had paid bleeds into every aspect of your life until you don't want to do the actual work of finding a new job because it feels like that's what you're thinking about and doing all the time, anyway.

Schedule time to look for a job and then, when you're not doing that, do something else that keeps your mind engaged and busy. Don't just schedule "downtime" because you'll spend that thinking about how much you need a job, should be sending that resume, etc. Schedule something really active, preferably out of the house, with friends, doing something that won't remind you of work.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:54 AM on September 7, 2010

Here are some suggestions to bolster your mood without taking time off:

What do you do in the morning, before you go to work? Do you just get up and run to shower-breakfast-subway? Start getting up earlier, even if it's only 15 minutes earlier, and do something for YOU. Read a book. Do some sun salutes. Play with your cat. The breather, before you dive into the stream, will help you.

Are you getting enough sleep? When I hated my job I hated to go to sleep because that meant I was closer to getting up and going to work again. But lack of sleep is responsible for so much, including feeling overwhelmed.

What do you do when you get home from work? Do you collapse in front of the television or the computer? Get up and take a walk around the block. Listen to some music that makes you feel good. I KNOW how hard it is. I do. But you have to break the pattern.

What do you do on the weekend? Do you plan your weekends or do you just kind of let things happen? If you tend to just kind of let weekends happen, and then on Sunday night wonder what happened with your two days, you may want to try to put some kind of loose structure around your time. I have done this by writing a list of three things I need to do, and then one thing I *want* to do. Even if it's a small thing, I try to do something that isn't sitting at home. I also find that getting up early and then taking a nap in the afternoon is more refreshing to me than sleeping in and then trying to start my day at noon.

These kinds of changes make it easier for me to face the day and get me out of a slog.

The other thing I would suggest is - find a partner! Find someone else who is in the same boat as you are & wants to get out. And then meet for coffee once a week and plan together. You could probably even find someone on here - long distance would work but I think it's better to get out of yourself a little bit. Meet, talk about your goals for the week, be accountable for what you're going to do. I think it will help.
posted by micawber at 7:58 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Economize, save up enough for a self-paid vacation, and take it. Once you're relaxed and caught up on sleep (make sleep a priority here!) you'll have a much better outlook on what to do next.
posted by davejay at 10:00 AM on September 7, 2010

I'm sorry, everyone, I know you're all trying to help, but --

No, I cannot cut back on "dinner out with friends" or the like because I already started doing that five years ago. And no, I can't afford an UNpaid vacation, especially now that my rent has been raised and I have found myself with three grands' worth of vet bills to add on to the debt I already have. And no, I can't get up earlier to do the pampering myself because I'm already getting up at 5:45 as it is to make it to the bus to the one temp assignment I currently have in the next state over because that's all that was bloody available, and the best way that I could pamper myself is to NOT get up early and stay bloody asleep.

...I'm sorry, all. I'm more at the end of my tether than I thought I was.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:18 PM on September 7, 2010

Well, the first thing would be to make sure you've got your resume in order, that you've got a portfolio (which may be applicable to you since you do a lot of theater work) organized, and that you've got few different stubs for cover letters. Since you say you are applying to jobs, I'd assume you have these things squared away, but in case you don't - take a week and look at these things.

You've got a bus ride - so read prospect jobs on the way out, research the specific business during your lunch break, and tailor the stubs of your cover to leverage what you need on your ride home.

Hold to standards. Don't apply to everything, be selective with things that are interesting and that you might have a bit of specialized knowledge for. Try to cut your list of prospective places to 2-3 places per day - so focus on the good ones.

And lastly, don't sweat it if you don't get a response or if you get a response that you dont like. The ratio of applicants to jobs is not in your favor. The labor market is weak. There are indicators of a possible double dip or at least a really really slow recovery. With rare exception we're all screwed and in bad shape in at lest one aspect of our individual financial lives. Yeah none of this paragraph is cheery, but I'm hoping that you find some comfort in the fact that "we" - the collective we are all pulling for you, that we're all in a similar boat, and that it likely will be this way far longer than any of us would like. It is out of our hands, but we're all pulling for you because we want someone to have success - whether it be our own or a vicarious improvement of another.

Seriously, hang in there...
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:09 PM on September 7, 2010

Actually, Nanuk, this is all more ABOUT precisely that "hanging in there" than it is about "how to find a job." I've been "hanging in there" for five years now and my grip is slipping -- THAT'S what I'm asking about.

And everyone, again, sorry I snapped earlier at the other suggestions -- it's just that what you're suggesting would have only been possible a few years ago, when I did have a bit more money. It's definitely not possible right now.

Aside from my temp agencies, is there a service that can do this kind of work FOR me for a while? So I don't feel like I'm the only damn person trying to do this?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:54 PM on September 7, 2010

Have you thought about enlisting a friend or relative in this? If you're anything like me, that's the last thing you want to do, because you're already burnt out and feeling like the world's against you, and talking to people about the many other ways in which you feel like you're failing is not awesome good times. But try just one person. Hell, try someone you barely know--memail me, if it comes to that, and I'll hold your hand for a while. (That's a serious offer, btw. I'm pretty good at hand-holding.)

Tell them that you're at the end of your rope and you have to find a new job. Tell them that you're looking, but you're overwhelmed and burned out, and then ask them if they have an hour or two a week to help you. This person doesn't have to be nearby--it's not that big a deal to go plow through internet classifieds for a while. Ask them to go through and pull out jobs that might be relevant to you. Have them go over your resume and your stock cover letter so that you're ready to go and all you have to do is plug in fill in the blanks.

Regarding services that can do this kind of work for you, there's not a lot, but have you considered looking somewhere like (Full disclosure: my partner has a listing there and edits resumes and other short documents.) I searched, and there's one person who lists that they'll search up to three job search sites and send you up to ten leads a day. For $5, they'll do that for five days, which, IMO, isn't a bad deal. There are a ton of people willing to write cover letters and edit resumes. (I know you're a writer, but it's always harder to write stuff for yourself, isn't it?) Also, you can post suggestions for jobs you'd be willing to pay someone for--obviously people don't have to take you up on it, but it can't hurt, right?

Also, make sure that you've posted your resume on job search sites (Monster, etc) and in the New York Job Bank. Probably something you've already done, but worth mentioning again, just in case. Make sure you mention on Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever else you use that you're looking for a new job--again, maybe kind of obvious, but I know several people (in different industries) who've gotten jobs like this in the last couple of months.

As for hanging in there, I'd go back to my first sentence--surely you're not the only person you know who's in a miserable employment situation and feels like you're drowning. It's probably worth seeking out other people in a similar situation, if only so that you have someone to commiserate with. If you have a LiveJournal or a blog or a Twitter account or whatever, maybe toss out that you're kind of bummed lately and would love to get some personal mail--people are almost always willing to do things like that, and for me, at least, getting something that says someone somewhere is thinking about me helps.

I'm sorry that this sucks so hard.
posted by MeghanC at 10:32 PM on September 7, 2010

I would take a look at your living situation. Would it be possible for you to get a roommate, or move to a cheaper place? I'm also nthing the suggestion to get the word out that you're looking for a permanent position -- to your temp agencies, to friends and family, to former colleagues, to acquaintances.

You can also consider getting help with just part of the job hunting process -- whatever part is most offputting to you. For me it would be writing cover letters.
posted by spinto at 11:46 AM on September 8, 2010

I'm afraid I have to make a shameful confession. I have found ONE thing that has helped me cope with the stress -- having a little temper tantrum on AskMe. ....Yeah, I am feeling a lot better today, and I'm rather embarrassed to admit that a good bit of that could probably be attributed to the snarky comments I've made in here.

....So, uh, sorry about that.

But -- to touch on a couple points: I do already live with a roommate, and our rent is already pretty damn good for the area. Moving to somewhere cheaper would REALLY be tricky to coordinate because I've already just renewed my lease. ...Also, for the past four of the five years I've been temping, even though I didn't get much in the lines of paid vacation, I was getting pretty decent pay, so the stress was somewhat ameliorated. It's just this past year that things really came to a head.

I spent the morning contacting people from an old temp gig (one that lasted four years) to let them know I needed permanent work, as well as a friend of mine who is a genius at marketing and networking. I've also reached out to a couple people for resume help.

I just needed to get THROUGH that agita to get to the point I could do this, and presumably there's a better way of doing that than having little temper tantrums on AskMe?...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:45 PM on September 8, 2010

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