What do the words “smooth”, “linear”, “rational” and “straightforward” have in common? NONE describes a job search.
Whether voluntary or not, the process of seeking a new position is often a sandwich of frustration and ambiguity bookended by excitement and anticipation. Similar to moving to a new home, you know the process will be worth it in the end, and can only hope the inherent broken dishes, crushed boxes and lost mail along the way will be minimal.
While this description may seem to lean toward the negative, research shows that happiness and satisfaction are more dependent on outcome in relation to expectations, rather than outcome alone*. What this means is that a little pessimism about the smoothness of the job search may actually keep your spirits up as things go wrong since you expect the hiccups.
In addition to setting realistic expectations, here’s what else you can do when your job search feels overwhelming:
- Control what you can AND accept what you can’t control. Typo-s, arriving late, an unkempt LinkedIn profile or being unprepared are all things that can be eradicated from the hiring process for organized job seekers. Nailing these basics shows you’re a serious candidate. On the other hand, hiring bias, competition from internal candidates, and being ghosted are beyond your control in many cases, so don’t allow these to shake your confidence or dampen your attitude for your next interview.
- Change strategies. If you’ve been in a search for several months and aren’t getting bites or making it past the first interview, evaluate your strategy. Is there a red flag that continues to get in your way (e.g., career switcher, long-time unemployed, lack of degree)? Do you need to change your interview style, or perhaps your frustration or desperation are coming through and you don’t realize it? This may be a good time to invest in a career coach who can help you identify and get past an obstacle that you may not be aware of.
- Take (unrelated) action. When Steven Spielberg couldn’t get his mechanical shark to work in the movie “Jaws,” he almost gave up. Fortunately, he took action, which led to a creative alternative (see here), leading to the movie winning three Oscars! While the last thing you might feel like doing when in a job search funk is going to the zoo or finally trying Vinyasa yoga, now is the perfect time to do it. Novel experiences inspire new neural connections in the brain, which lead to original ideas. Bonus: research shows that creativity is unleashed when physical activity is added to the new action**.
Bumpy, circular, irrational, and complex tend to be words that are tied to the job search. However, expecting a roller-coaster will help you maintain your sanity and make the entire process less frustrating.
*Dr. Robb Rutledge, University College London (UCL), **Frontiers in Psychology