Help snap this deer out of the job search headlights
February 3, 2023 4:03 AM   Subscribe

I was made redundant last year, right before Xmas (thanks, old job). They paid out my statutory severance, which wasn’t loads but enough to tide me over through March with a little belt-tightening. Meaning the next thing is to get a new job... right? RIGHT????!??? Thing is, I seem to be frozen in place, barely making any foreward progress and getting more stressed by the day. How do I wake up from this stupor and just Find A New Job Now?

I would describe my efforts to find a job so far this year as "half-hearted, perhaps even half-assed". I have dragged my feet on updating my CV and LinkedIn profile, I have only read the first two chapters of "The 2-Hour Job Search" (2nd edition), and have not applied to one single job posting. It's bad.

I know that I'm generally a person who thrives on Last Minute Deadline Energy, and that doesn't help this situation. I know, cognitively, that I need to get a move on, get some soft networking going, expand my contacts and work up to finding a posting that will suit me, but nothing seems to get me moving forward: I've tried scheduling my time, getting friends to check in on me, so far nothing has clicked. I would consider paying for a "work coach" or something like that but I don't know where to begin.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that I'm not looking for a direct continuation of my last job: in the past four years at the same organisation I held three different job titles, and none of them were a fit for me. I feel like if I had a 1:1 match (like, a chef looking for a new job as a chef, just at a different restaurant) it would be easier, yet not only am I searching for work but also I don't know exactly what work I'm searching for. This maybe wouldn't be so much of a problem if I was at a junior level, but now that I have a salary floor and seniority enough to warrant it, completely starting over again isn't a good option.

I'm open to any and all suggestions that might help motivate me—which, as now might be obvious, involves confidence too. Certainly any tips on tools that have helped you narrow down a new career path in middle age would be appreciated. If you're a professional HR kinda person, what have you successfully counselled people like me to do? I feel like I'm not so much interested in the "why" as I am in the "how", but maybe I need to focus on the former first? I just don't know!

If you found yourself in this perilous position of procrastination, what helped get you going? Help me ring the alarm!!!
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs to Work & Money (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I'd do a simple pomodoro-type thing to start. Set a 25 minute timer and just try to do job search stuff for that 25 minutes. At 25 minutes, take a break. Rinse, repeat as necessary. I often find the first 25 minutes gets me out of whatever procrastination rut, but if not, take a break, and try again later.
You're overwhelmed by the ambiguity of not knowing where to begin, but some things you just have to start doing something, and they will eventually become clearer. This is one of those things. It sucks but you will feel better if you can just get unfrozen and start taking action.
As for actual tips on narrowing down career path, for me personally I found talking to a lot of people/companies about what jobs that I might be suited for were like helped me start to visualize different possibilities. But it's kind of fun to have some flexibility, and I have found that lack of certainty about exactly what I wanted to do a plus in job searching, because I am willing to hear about more types of things and I don't limit myself too early in job hunts. Good luck!
posted by ch1x0r at 5:48 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]

Honestly, if I was you, what I'd do is get a retail job. Not a lot of money, but something, and some structure to your day. And the motivation to get OUT of this job that means nothing to you will push you harder than the motivation to get up off the couch.

I say this as someone who a) has had a series of weird jobs/careers, each one different, and never knew where I was going next, and b) CANNOT start something hard from zero. I get way more done in between appointments on a busy day than on a day at home when I can do anything.

(Your pattern sounds so familiar, in fact, that I will add what I've learned about myself--I am great at a job where problems come to me and I solve them, rather than a job where I have to plan things out. Think about customer support--doesn't have to be a call center, it could be account management or tech support for complicated B2B systems. I am great at putting out a fire and very bad at grinding away till the job is done.)
posted by gideonfrog at 5:54 AM on February 3 [7 favorites]

I'll tell you how I did it.

I signed up for Beeminder which is an app where you commit to a goal and if you don't complete it, they charge you money. My initial commitment was very low - 10 or 15 minutes per day of any job-search related task. I had my first interview in a month and a job offer in two.

Honestly for me Beeminder is the most powerful procrastination-buster for goals like this one in the 1-3 month range.

I am not in any way affiliated with the company.
posted by muddgirl at 6:20 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]

I know you said you've tried asking your friends to check in on you, but have you tried this yet? Think of someone you know who knows a bit about your industry or is just generally good at writing/editing things, and ask them to meet you as a favor, to look at your LinkedIn and CV. You don't even have to tell this person the whole story of how you are frozen and struggling to get started with your job search, if you don't want to. You can just say something like, "Hey, I'm ramping up my job search. I am updating my LinkedIn and CV, and I could really use a second person to take a look at my edits. Would you mind meeting at [the coffee shop, your house, wherever] to look it over a couple of the changes I'll be making?" This is a totally normal sort of favor to ask-- people help friends and family members in this way really often. The time you set to meet with this person will give you a deadline to make some changes. The person you meet with will also probably suggest some additional changes that will probably be helpful, and help catch any minor mistakes.

Next: There are some jobs on LinkedIn that you can apply to basically just by clicking a button, and maybe filling out a short field or two. Find one or two of these if you can, and apply. Don't even think too hard about it. Just do it. Then you won't be able to say to yourself that you haven't applied to anything anymore! I don't know about you but part of what tends to keep me frozen in a situation like this is actually my own guilt over being frozen. Like, the thought of how much I need to do and how I haven't even started any of it yet is so overwhelming. But I have started, even in a small way, going forward gets easier. Hopefully after you've taken the easy route to applying to even just one or two things, the more complicated applications will feel easier.
posted by BlueJae at 6:30 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]

I'd take the friend thing to the next level.

When my finances were at a low point, I asked my friend who is good with money to help. I made a date and told him that I was planning to show him my bank statement for the last couple months and go over it with him and ask his advice.

I did not need his advice.

I needed a witness and I needed to get out of my little personal shame and avoidance bubble by putting my thing into the light where it could be seen. It helped re-set me and get me in better habits. And he did have some good tips too.

So if you have a friend who is good at motivating and organizing, consider making a date with them, naming in advance what you are going to do during that date, then doing it, and asking for, then calendaring, a certain number of follow up accountability meetings. Something like, "I'm going to meet with you Friday and talk out a job application plan with you, and commit to a certain number of job applications per week". Then during the meeting, calendar those follow ups.

Other thing I'd add is when you're really unstructured and looking for structure, it can be important to schedule down time. So part of your plan is committed job hunt time, but part of your plan is committed, watch Netflix or do yoga or hang with a buddy time. Schedule that in too.

Final thought - set up some informational interviews! I got my job that way. You don't know exactly what you should do yet, so cold call/email some leaders in your general field and prepare some questions and see if they are willing to meet in person (ideal) or just chat for 15 minutes about what options you should consider exploring. If nothing else, it's good practice for getting back into talking about yourself (interview skills).

You got this! Losing your job is HARD! It's emotional. You're still recovering from your last job and this experience. There's nothing wrong with you right now; you're very normal, very human.

So give yourself a big hug and then get some accountability and a plan.
posted by latkes at 6:44 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]

The LinkedIn job applications were a godsend during my own procrastination times in this area. Those and the ones on Indeed. I just blanket applied to anything I was qualified for, anything I was *almost* qualified for, and some jobs I figured I could easily get. In my most recent job searches most of the recruiters I spoke to told me (this was the last 6 months of 2022) "It's a candidate's market right now! So many jobs and not enough people!" But it still took me several months to land the new gig I'm in. Of course I was being super specific this time (100% work from home).

If money isn't an immediate concern - I went through a year in an area where there just *weren't* any jobs, and to stave off the depression ("argh, I'll never work again, I am so useless," which added to my procrastination) I worked at Costco for a seasonal thing. It was brilliant - I was super busy with stuff that didn't require the same kind of thinking as my usual jobs and I lost 20 lbs because of all the running around, lifting, etc.

Edited to add: Yes, losing your job is emotional! I signed my offer for this current job on the same day my old job decided to eliminate my position. While I should have been happy at the way it occurred, I still sobbed all the way home. Make sure you are kind to yourself. As others have said - make a plan ("Apply to ten jobs every week"). Stick to it. Expect rejections, expect to be ghosted occasionally. The right job will come.
posted by routergirl at 6:45 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]

Even if you don't have a friend who feels qualified to review your resume/CV/etc, you may have friends who are also looking for new work, passively or actively. And I bet they would enjoy the camaraderie of working on resumes/etc together! I know I would. Someone just working on their own shit alongside you, not even giving feedback or anything, can be really motivating. In person would be most motivating for myself, but you could probably do this over Zoom too.
posted by misskaz at 9:25 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]

I think most coaches would walk you to a computer and get you to apply.

So my suggestion is, after you've read this comment, go apply to two jobs. If you need to update your CV, go ahead, but don't make huge changes yet. Just go add your latest job and skills to your old one and then apply to two jobs.

Don't read any more comments in this thread until you've done it.

Then do that every day. Before you do anything else online, apply to two jobs. That's your deadline. Two jobs. Before you read any social media or emails or anything else.

You can refine your job search materials as you go.

Hope to see in a couple of hours a comment from you that you did.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:35 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: [warriorqueen, thanks for the Just Do It! push but sadly I can't make your deadline, with inlaws visiting and an ill kid! But the two-contact method is in line with the 2 Hour Job Search technique, so I'll push to do that come Monday with Beeminder nipping at my heels. I'll incorporate a friend too—thanks all! Keep 'em coming though, I'm still interested in anything you think might apply.]
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 2:51 PM on February 3

Report back on Monday! :)
posted by warriorqueen at 3:29 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]

This worked for me but I'm not saying it's a good idea for you or anyone else - having a glass of wine. It relaxed me enough to get me over that hump of initial inertia and let me get words on a page. Once I'd done something it was a lot easier to edit, add to it, finish it off etc.

It didn't lead me to alcohol dependence or to associate drinking with unpleasant tasks, but YMMV.
posted by pianissimo at 4:35 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]

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