How to get through a period of fruitless job hunting?
November 8, 2014 6:24 PM   Subscribe

I have a degree and nine years of work experience, but I can't find any kind of job. How I can deal with my overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, and keep from losing my mind while I'm job hunting? Snowflakes inside, of course.

I quit my full-time reception job 18 months ago to go back to university to do Honours (fourth year of a Bachelor degree), because I wanted to open up the option of doing a PhD or Masters by coursework in the future. I worked through some of my studies but have mostly been unemployed or underemployed for the past year. I could accept the lack of income when I was busy working on my thesis because at least I had one thing I was working towards, but now that I've finished that (as of three weeks ago), I'm finding it super hard to cope with the lack of control I feel over my future.

My degree is in German Studies and I would like to either work as a translator (and eventually go freelance), or work in Community Management/Customer Support in the tech industry. I've been applying for jobs all year and I can't get an interview for anything - not for the usual hospitality work that I've done in the past, nor for any kinds of professional positions. My attempts at job hunting have been a series of shitty events: I packed orders in a warehouse for a small business that turned out to be slowly going under; I signed up with a temp agency, and the one job that they have tried to offer me fell through; I got a casual job in a cafe only for the manager to realise he didn't actually have any room on the roster.

My ultimate goal would be to spend at least the next two years in Germany, to get my German back to the at least the level it was after I had lived there for a year. The issue is, of course, money. I've applied for a scholarship to do Masters there, but I won't know until at least March whether I've been awarded the scholarship and accepted into the Masters program. I could only afford to live in Germany for about six months without a scholarship, and that would mean spending every cent of my savings, which doesn't leave me any kind of safety net at all. Considering all the difficulties I've had with finding work here in Australia, I'd be too wary about risking looking for work overseas. Because I won't know about the scholarship until March, I'm really limited in what back-up plans I can look into. I have a contact who organises paid internships in Germany, but I wouldn't be able to organise one for April if that's when I'm supposed to start studying. The only other time to start is next October. I know that I could wait for that if necessary, but I'm 26 and I have nowhere near the start of a career in anything. I feel completely stuck and hopeless and like waiting around for an extra six months would really do my head in, especially since it feels like I will never even find a part-time job to save any money at all.

I've made a list of things that I can do to improve my employment prospects and keep myself busy while I'm job hunting: I'm designing my own website (because a lot of the positions that I've been looking at seem to expect that you have one), I plan on doing the Coursera specialization in Digital Marketing, I'm teaching myself some basic HTML/Javascript/Ruby etc.

The list of things to do isn't really helping with my overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, which are also affecting my relationship with my boyfriend and, well, pretty much everyone. I'm like a giant ball of resentful feelings. How can I snap out of it?
posted by kinddieserzeit to Work & Money (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Tutor individual clients of Craig's List.

It won't pay the bills, but you are earning money for rendering an honorable service. Worked wonders for my morale when I was there.
posted by ocschwar at 7:22 PM on November 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've had similar job frustrations, and it feels endless at the time. The goal is everything, and not achieving it is all you can think about. I have heard that it takes about 1 year to find a job you like, and based on my experience and that of those around me, it is about right. Six months is very short in the grand scheme of things.

Step back and picture your life like a story. This is the part of the story about 3/4 of the way in, when the protagonist feels like it was all in vain. And the audience is watching and going "don't give up now! keep at it!" You know at some point you will get a better job, or make a change in your trajectory that will open doors for you. So try to keep it in a larger perspective. Accept that it is a tough time ahead, you have picked a challenging goal that will take time to achieve. In the movies they cut to a montage at this point to show "work happened here" because it is boring, it is repetitive effort and it is difficult; real life is 90% montage and 10% movie time.

The other thing I wanted to touch on was the lack of control you feel over your future. Control is an illusion. In many cases you can put your mind to things and get them done, but that was because those doors were open and things happened easily. What if applying for the degree had been hard? What if some other obstacle had popped up to prevent you from finishing your thesis? A family crisis or a health issue. Then you would be bemoaning that difficulty. I guess what I want to say is that all you can do is your best effort, and some times life has other plans for the moment. There are things that will come easily in life, and there are things that will require more effort. We don't notice the former and curse the latter. Some things in life don't even come to the hardest working people. We think that if we worry more, and fret more, and work hard, then we WILL get that goal. We place the focus on our own effort, forgetting that life is a mix of effort and timing and luck. You control only 1 of those 3 things. All you can do is stick to your plan, keep up the effort and re-adjust if necessary.

Finally... you are only 3 wks out of a thesis, which was certainly a stressful but "pedal to the metal" time for you. You may need some time to come down from that intensity. You did just a slam dunk and are expecting the next opportunity to happen immediately. Maybe take some time to relax a little. Develop a sense of inner peace and a reservoir of patience. It will help. Good luck.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:25 PM on November 8, 2014 [22 favorites]

Why not go freelance now? Craigslist as ocschwar said, get some free business cards from vistaprint, put up a simple wix or wordpress website, no need for html skills for that. Call all your professors and ask them if they can refer you to clients. Tutor some students.

Or you can just embrace the shitty jobs time in your life as a chance to work on other stuff. I learned a lot more working third shift temp jobs than I ever learned in college. But really, there's no need you can't start working for yourself - it's not as hard as it probably seems.
posted by natteringnabob at 8:41 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Be focused. And take a break once in a while. Trying too hard can make you lose focus and really forget what you were looking for in the first place. Take a deep breath once in awhile, step back, write up a plan (writing things down helps a lot and clears the mind of a lot of junk that we carry when we are stressed).
posted by jellyjam at 8:49 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just wanted to add that although the idea of going freelance already is very appealing, I'm 98% certain that to work as a translator in Australia one has to have NAATI accreditation. Which is quite difficult and experience to get. I will double check that though just in case.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 12:56 AM on November 9, 2014

Response by poster: Expensive*
posted by kinddieserzeit at 1:16 AM on November 9, 2014

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