So you’ve been searching for a job for months – perhaps even longer – and feel like you’ve made no progress. You’re out of ideas and desperate to make some headway, even if it means thinking outside of the box. What should you consider doing?
Objectively Analyze Your Situation
Stop applying for jobs for a few days and simply do some analysis on your situation. Try to treat it as a research exercise that you might approach as an outsider. Evaluate the facts, seek out advice where possible, and try to understand where you are failing in the search process and why. Is it:
- The general macro-economic climate, which has resulted in your typical target/profile companies not doing well and therefore not growing/hiring?
- The wrong time of year, perhaps no one is hiring between November and January due to the holidays?
- Your specific candidacy – e.g. you are underqualified (or overqualified) compared to those who are getting offers, or perhaps you don’t have the right skill set?
- Other atypical factors – e.g. a glut of experienced candidates flooding the market and taking away all the entry level positions?
- Another supply and demand condition resulting in more candidates than available vacancies. If this is the case, is it a national phenomenon or specific to the area in which you are located?
- Your approach to the search – have you been following the same approach as others in your situation, or do unique factors (another job, personal obligations, etc.) demand that you have to do things differently?
- Your approach during interviews – are you getting interviews but consistently failing to get called back?
Whatever the unique factors may be, these will provide some insight into the path forward. For example, you may decide to take a course or get a certification before re-applying to some positions, you may want to apply for a different role, or you may even consider relocating.
Cast a Wider Net
If you have been focused on a very specific role because it’s what you love or on your career path, there is something to be said for widening the net you cast and taking a job that is directly or peripherally related. This is never an easy decision, but sometimes making the decision to simply get employed is right. After all, it’s easier to find a job when you already have a job, and a detour need not be a permanent change in career paths.
Find a Support Network
Online forums and employment discussion boards can provide an avenue to not just vent and get advice, but to find others who are in the same position and can empathize. One of the most common refrains from someone who has been involved in a long search is – “Why me? Will I ever find a job? Why does everyone else seem to find something?” Realizing that there are countless other folks in the same position can alleviate some of the worry that YOU are the problem. That can, in turn, help you recover some of the confidence that can undoubtedly get lost in the process and, ironically, can be the key factor in getting hired.
Seek Out Third Party Feedback
Consider connecting with a career coach. Utilize your university’s Office of Career Services. Seek out a recruiter that is willing to provide you with some feedback. However you approach it, getting some tough, honest feedback from an objective third party can be incredibly enlightening. If you receive a rejection notice, don’t hesitate to write back asking for feedback on what was lacking in your application, and which skills or types of experience would serve you well if you ever applied again in the future. Remember not to confuse constructive feedback with a personal criticism, the more open you are to feedback the more useful this exercise will be.
Get a Resume Makeover
If you aren’t even making it to the interview stage and aren’t getting responses to jobs that you feel qualified for, then start from scratch and rewrite your resume, or consider having it professionally rewritten. Keywords matter, layout and structure matters, and anything that can make your resume “stand out” in a crowd will give you a competitive advantage. A small investment in having your resume done professionally could pay big dividends in your search.
Gain New Skills
Consider taking courses to gain new skills – specifically, those which will enhance your candidacy for the jobs you’re applying to. Online courses, open courseware from universities, certifications, or even in-person courses at your local university or technical college may enhance your profile and provide you with something to balance out days of just sending wave after wave of resumes out.
Volunteer, Consult, Temp
Even if full time employment is your ultimate goal, consider engaging as a consultant, on a Temp basis, or even volunteering in related areas. You will meet people, sharpen your skills, and – just as important – be able to fill those resume gaps with valuable experience that is so hard to come by when you can’t find a job.
Consider Returning to a Prior Job
Your prior employers know you personally and professionally. They are aware of what you’re capable of, they probably don’t need to train you as much as another new hire, so in many regards you are an ideal “safe bet” candidate for them. Consider taking advantage of this “win-win” situation and going back if getting a paycheck is your primary goal.