I’m not currently on the job hunt, and that is easily one of my favorite things about my life right now, because I know how soul-sucking it can be. When you’re looking for a new job — especially if you don’t currently have one, and your ability to get a job will affect your ability to continue buying shit and living your life — it can begin to feel desperate and hopeless.
It is a really daunting situation to be in because when you don’t have work (and therefore, aren’t really bringing in money), the most important thing feels like finding a job — any job — as quickly as possible so you can stay afloat and figure out the rest later. However, applying broadly and ending up at some random job you don’t care about might be the reason you end up stagnating for years, working at a job that isn’t bringing you to the place you originally wanted to take your career.
And it is stressful — so stressful. And I know that because I’ve been there, too. Getting a job now feels like the most important thing in the world, and you scramble to do it fast so you can be there instead of here, sitting and waiting to see what happens next. That’s usually where I mess up, and start applying to jobs that simply don’t make sense for me. That’s sometimes how I end up accepting offers for jobs I don’t want to take, and then burning bridges by leaving a few months later. (Pro-tip: don’t do this.)
At some point, I figured out a three-step system that actually worked for me while on the job hunt. By following these three rules (and reminding myself of them when I began to feel frantic, stressed, and hopeless), I was able to secure employment without losing my sanity. Here are three steps to staying sane while applying for jobs.
1. Give yourself an x-applications-per-day rule.
Right before I graduated when I was hoping to find some more work, I applied to so many jobs per day that it got out of hand. By going for quantity over quality, I ended up applying so broadly that I wasn’t even applying to things I really cared about or thought I would be good at, and I was not putting the type of effort into each application that I should have been.
This is a huge problem — the applications you really want to get through with should be given special attention and crafted to present you in the best possible light (i.e. writing a cover letter that isn’t just a template that you change the job name in each time you send it to a different place). It is hard to do that if your goal is to apply to 30 places every day — it isn’t realistic to imagine you’ll have the time in one day to research 30 companies, make sure the job descriptions match what you’re capable of and interested in doing, and to write 30 thoughtful, insightful cover letters highlighting the experiences that make you a good fit for the job. You need to cut that list down.
My best advice would be to limit yourself — only allow yourself to apply to a certain number of jobs per day, capping somewhere between three and five, to make sure that you’re only sending applications for positions you are truly interested in, and putting the time and effort into the applications you do complete so you have a better chance of actually getting an interview.
2. Designate times to check your email and phone (so you’re not doing it constantly).
Another one of my greatest downfalls while applying to jobs was sending an application and then immediately refreshing my email and staring at my phone every 30 seconds hoping someone would reply telling me they want to hire me. Lol — that almost never happens. Aside from the unfortunate fact that you’re going to be pretty much ignored by most places you apply to (even if you send that ever-so-important follow-up email or letter a few days later), it is just unhealthy to let the wait consume your life. Obviously, you should be checking your professional email hoping for possible responses, and obviously, you should keep your ringer on to take possible calls (in situations when it is appropriate to do so!) just in case someone reaches out to you via phone, but you need to keep it to a minimum or you’ll get sad every time you see a big fat zero in your inbox and make yourself insane.
Designate a few times throughout the day to check in and see if you got any bites — once earlier in the AM, once around noon, and once at the end of the workday. Between the hours of 6 PM and 6 AM, you can pretty much expect zero correspondence, so try to relax during those hours and remind yourself that you can check again in the morning.
3. Try to still allow yourself to be a person.
This applies to a lot of things related to being unemployed, or underemployed — like carrying debt, feeling broke, and struggling financially overall. An unfortunate reality is that you’re pretty likely to find yourself unemployed at some point, and definitely pretty likely to find yourself sometimes charging emergencies to credit cards, or feeling like you won’t be able to make ends meet before you get your next paycheck. It isn’t fun, but it is true — and I know this more than ever now. I have a big fat credit card bill for the first time in my life, and I know it won’t be paid in full for a few months. And I’m tempted to bully myself into sitting in my apartment on the floor every weekend to feel ashamed about how debt is bad and I should have done more to prevent it, but that wouldn’t be productive. And truthfully, the money will probably be paid off faster if I’m kind enough to myself to keep a level head as I chip away at it.
Same goes for job-searching — last time I was unemployed (unexpectedly, suddenly, and painfully), I sat inside for a few days freaking out about how I couldn’t afford groceries anymore before remembering that I couldn’t let every part of my life fall apart just because I hit a bump in the road. I had to go out, buy groceries, continue eating, and let myself still be a human being while I applied for jobs and searched for my new path in life.
Throwing a pity party feels good for a minute, and going on a full spending fast in order to gain control over your finances might work for a month, but none of it is sustainable human behavior, and it isn’t really worth living a life where you carry no balance on your credit card but haven’t eaten in a week. You still have to be a person, even while you’re anxiously refreshing your email to find out if you’re going to get a job. (But don’t worry — you’ll get one in due time.)
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