How to stay sane while searching for work
November 14, 2007 5:59 PM   Subscribe

What do you do to stay positive and sane while job searching?

I've moved around a lot over the last few years, and despite often being in a new place and enjoying the chance to explore it, I do end up with long periods of being unemployed. While the frequent moving won't be happening for much longer, I'm afraid that the fallout from frequent job searching will linger anyway, professionally and emotionally. I volunteer in ways that are important to me, which helps, but I don't want to commit to so much that I'd have to back out when I find work. What do you do, or not do, in order to stay optimistic, sane, and attractive to employers while you are trying to get hired?
posted by onoclea to Work & Money (13 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Try temping. Normally temp agents use tests and a short interview, and will try to place you in whatever jobs they think you can do. It's in their interest to praise you to the potential employer. If you find a temp job you like, and the employer likes you, you have a serious leg up to getting a full-time job.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:08 PM on November 14, 2007

Temping helps. Having projects help.

Personally, I've found that being as proactive and on top of my job search as I absolutely can possibly be, helps me to feel like I am doing everything I can.

This includes doing things like making cold calls, constantly checking in with friends who might know someone that knows someone, and generally being a pain in the ass, without being too much of a pain in the ass.

I used to also go down to where I may have emailed a resume and drop one off in person. It doesn't always yield results, but I think it does make a good impression, it makes you stand out.

The flip side of this is that you can make all of these efforts and not get bites, and it can make you feel discouraged and like nobody wants to hire you. That's a state of mind that you just have to constantly keep at bay, even though it is normal, it is not realistic!

I would also take "vacations" from my super focused job hunts, when I started to get discouraged or overly stressed out. I would just say to myself "you've done a good job, you've been very focused and diligent. Take 3 days off and enjoy your unemployment, because you won't have this time forever!"

Good luck to you. It's really hard!
posted by pazazygeek at 6:11 PM on November 14, 2007

During a dry spell, I went the temp route. It helped to keep me out of the house, occupied, and making some money. It also keeps some of your time, resume-wise, accounted for (in other words, no long gaps between jobs that you might have trouble explaining). You could ask the agency to send you on short assignments, in order to keep you free to interview when you get called.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 6:22 PM on November 14, 2007

i absolutely went outside every day, even if just to go for a walk.
posted by brandz at 7:05 PM on November 14, 2007

It's possible to stay sane while searching for work?

Just kidding. I found that the best thing was to stay busy. Not just volunteer work, though that's great and definitely keep doing it, but everything. First, a concentrated hour or two searching for jobs and working on my latest version of the resume. Then consciously get up, away from the computer, and either get outside or clean up around the apartment or do the dishes or anything that makes you feel productive. For me the pit of despair lies in sitting aimlessly in front the computer looking for listings and modifying my resume for the umpteenth time, every day feeling more and more aimless. Setting concrete goals, even if they're as simple as doing laundry or sending out x applications per day, helps immensely. Checklists help you set those goals, and checking items off makes you realize your accomplishments.
posted by bassjump at 7:30 PM on November 14, 2007

The best advice I've seen is to treat job hunting like it's your job: create a to-do list with every mundane thing you do in a day towards your goal (check x website for new postings, prep resume and cover letter for x posting, call university alumni contact, etc) and then cross them off as you accomplish them! It helps keep you from feeling like you are not accomplishing anything day in, day out.

Also in the keeping-it-like-a-job realm: set regular hours, including lunch breaks, and try to relax and enjoy yourself during your breaks. I know it's hard, but your mind and body need the same unwinding time they would if you were working a job you got paid for.

Good luck! We've all been there, and you know you'll get through it eventually.
posted by paddingtonb at 7:45 PM on November 14, 2007

Getting into running kept me together while I was un- and underemployed for a while several years ago. (I've since fallen off that wagon, but that's not what this post is about...). Exercise of any kind you like is good here, because it's a project in addition to the health benefits. You can see yourself making progress and it gives you some goals you've got control over.

You've also got time to do some reading, which can also be either pure entertainment, or something more goal-oriented (classics you've always felt you should read, study another culture, etc.).

Also nthing getting the heck out of the house daily. Weather permitting, maybe do some of your errands on a bike. That gets you: Out, exercise, and the good feeling of getting stuff accomplished without burning any gas, or at least w/o spending any gas money.
posted by altcountryman at 8:13 PM on November 14, 2007

Been there, was only a couple weeks ago the last time. The most important thing is don't freak out. You will get a job. It is not the end of the world. When I finally calmed down and let myself have some time "off" to just relax, things ended up sorting out ok.

Obviously, I don't mean sit around and wait for something to fall in your lap, I just mean don't panic. Temping is a great way to try different jobs out and make some cash. I have a temp job right now, along with some side projects (both unpaid and freelance) to keep me occupied. Temping is ideal when you can't quite land your dream job yet and you don't want to settle and move in a direction away from your chosen career path. If you have a lot of one type of experience, a well-chosen temp gig could help round out your skill sets. For example, if you want to be able to highlight your tech savvy, a two month gig in an office's IT helpdesk will certainly help.

Volunteering is good. Try and make it as close to your chosen career track as possible. More importantly, network like crazy. My most valuable contacts, including several people who have served as mentors as I adjusted to Toronto two years ago, came from volunteer work I did. My first job here resulted from having those contacts. And on and on. Orgs that rely heavily on volunteers understand that you're looking for a job - their three main sources for free labor are students, retired people and the unemployed. If they ask you for more of a commitment than you are willing/able to make, ask for the ability to scale your role back should you obtain permanent employment. They will be grateful that you don't just run out on them, never to return again. And any volunteer coordinator who is worth anything will value the potential of their's volunteer is tomorrow's successful donor.

Side projects are also good. Once you've got your contacts list, try and think of a way to work with these people. See if they need help with a project, even if it's something simple. I agreed to help someone update their website for free. She also happens to be a recruiter, and now drops me a line on job opportunities that aren't publicly posted yet. Win-win.

As for the malaise, oh yes, I know...oh god do I know. Work at finding a job in a "billable hours" sense. Set a goal, track all job seeking/networking activities as "working" hours. Or go to the library to research your field, or read a book about business, take an online certification course that will help your resume etc.

Give yourself some flex time to improve yourself, too. So for ten of your "work" hours for the week you can go to the gym, or cook youself a decent meal for once, or go swimming, see your shrink/pastor/massage therapist. Being depressed will only make you useless and miserable. Don't sleep till noon and don't wear your pajamas all day. Don't spend all day on MetaFilter, if you can avoid it (no, you can't, that was a silly thing for me to say).
posted by SassHat at 8:16 PM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

optimistic and sane: found someone looking for a related-but-not-the-same job to bounce connections and opportunities around with, and of course to bitch and moan with a little bit. through Metafilter, even! and now we are both gainfully employed. Yay!
posted by whatzit at 2:25 AM on November 15, 2007

Have you won awards, gotten good test scores, gotten a nice letter of recommendation, etc? You should keep a file of that stuff and review it when you're feeling bad. Not only does it help you feel better, it helps you project competence to employers.
posted by theora55 at 7:04 AM on November 15, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone for the tips. It's amazing and helpful to read them all at once in one place. I find myself getting sucked into the computer and feeling guilty for all the unstructured time so easily during job searching, struggling with anything that takes time away from what I should be doing to find work, even though in the end the pressure makes zoning out at the computer all the more likely... I try to work towards a balanced existence when there's routine but it tends to all go out the window during these times! So thanks for the pep talk too.
posted by onoclea at 8:56 AM on November 16, 2007

I would not recommend temping to anyone. A temp is like the dirt on your shoe. No muss, no fuss, don't bother to tell her anything important about your procedures or expectations. Make sure, if anything goes wrong that you didn't notice was going wrong before, to blame it on the temp, and if she can't read your mind or if you don't like her after the first hour, just call the agency and they'll do the dirty work for you. Unfortunately, I am not exaggerating, and the nicest-seeming people will do this to you, which will leave you *very* bitter and it ain't worth it, folks.
posted by serena15221 at 10:13 PM on November 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

What is your vocational dream? I find that doing "Informational Interviews" are a great way to find a job and learn a lot about the job market, employers, competition, skill sets needed, etc. along the way. You sound like the type of person whom an employer (the one you are interviewing about the above issues) would have their interest "peaked" with you sitting across from them.
posted by csalter at 5:16 AM on November 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

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