Looking for a job when you are unemployed or want to change positions can be an exhausting, stressful, and challenging process. It’s especially hard to keep up your spirits when your peers are getting job offers and you’re still waiting to hear back from employers. Or maybe you haven’t been pleased with what you’ve heard from recruiters — that while you’re talented, you just don’t fit their needs at this point in time.
So how do talented job seekers deal with the hardships associated with a competitive marketplace? Try taking a much-needed short break — a job search vacation — to recharge. The pause will help you regain your emotional resilience to survive and thrive in the job search process. Taking a brief “time out” from the game is a good way to enjoy other aspects of life while giving you the opportunity to revitalize yourself.
For me, this means taking time to escape to the beach to enjoy the sound of the waves and the intellectual stimulation of a good book. For some of my colleagues, exercising, taking a yoga class, watching sports with a friend or changing a diet is helpful. According to research, alcohol, sugar and overeating can make you feel depressed.
A late-summer break can give you time to reflect on your search up to this point and reevaluate the steps you’ve taken thus far. When you’re ready to get back into the game, try to focus on your job search process rather than your outcomes to date. Doing so can make you more aware of the changes that you might need to make. For example, maybe you’re trying too hard to sell yourself during interviews, or perhaps you neglected to build key relationships with contacts who work in the organizations that you’re pursuing.
When reflecting on what you can do differently, it’s helpful to discuss setbacks with your trusted colleagues or learning partners. Successful job seekers don’t fear mistakes and setbacks — they view them as learning opportunities. They also don’t dwell on the past. Rather, they dust themselves off and focus on what they can learn from such setbacks. Research by the Center for Creative Leadership has shown that “key events” — hardships such as career setbacks, mistakes and failures, or personal trauma — positively influenced leaders’ growth and development. In fact, some leaders described their hardships as blessings in disguise.
Perhaps your job search vacation offers a good time to talk with a peer who had difficulty finding a job and eventually secured one. What did she or he have to do differently to achieve success? The advice might spark a new approach you haven’t yet pursued. The savvy job seeker remains open to the unexpected. For instance, you never know when or where you might learn about a job opportunity. It might happen during a networking event, or standing in line at the movie theatre. One of our MBA students recently learned about a job opportunity while taking the time to help somebody change a flat tire.
Consider building new strengths by participating in development opportunities that allow you to experiment and stretch yourself. Some people find it helpful to enlist a “job search buddy” or “job search team.” By meeting with fellow job seekers on a regular basis you can discuss common challenges and solutions, including strategies for identifying employment opportunities and making new connections.
Being resilient and maintaining a positive attitude will be key during times of career disappointments or personal hardships. Even if you feel anxious, angry, sad or stressed by the job search process, you need to push your boundaries, control your emotions and stay constructive. And sometimes you just need a short respite from your search to relax, reenergize, then start fresh.
Jeffrey Kudisch is managing director of the Office of Career Services at the Robert H. Smith School of Business and a faculty expert in leadership, negotiations and human capital management. He has a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology and he co-founded Personnel Assessment Systems Inc., a human resource consulting firm specializing in executive assessment and leadership development.