With a dream job in mind, an updated résumé in hand and responses to challenging interview questions at the ready, you’re well equipped for the job search ahead. Yet, even in the most candidate-friendly employment market, it’s unlikely that you won’t encounter at least one, painful setback along the way. “I’ve always said that looking for the job and landing the job is sometimes harder than performing the job,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. “It requires a lot of fortitude to keep your spirits up.”
You may not be able to control the obstacles you face, but you can choose how you react to them. So if you feel discouraged about the hiring process, here’s one last task: Keep your head up. The job hunt can be taxing, but there are steps you can take to maintain your resilience until an offer comes your way.
Take time to recharge your mind.
When you’ve spent weeks mining your network, sending out résumés and going on interviews to little avail, your instinct may be to work harder, to push yourself further until success is within reach. But no matter how futile the job hunt may seem, such persistence can eventually become unproductive. “You can’t eat, breathe and sleep your job search,” says organizational psychologist and New York Times bestselling author Tasha Eurich. “Give yourself permission to get away. . . . If we start to beat ourselves up or stop taking care of ourselves, we go into a negative spiral.”
If you find it difficult to disconnect, establish a job-search routine and allot time for self-care. “Having a regular practice—whether it’s mindfulness or meditation—to reflect and restore energy is core to resilience,” says Maynard Brusman, a psychologist and founder of executive coaching and leadership consulting firm Working Resources. “If you just do it once or twice, it might not do the trick. But making it a regular habit can help you feel better about who you are.” Exercise, as well, can strengthen your mental health. “A lot of people don’t take care of themselves physically when they become disenfranchised with the job search,” says McDonald. “You have to find a way to keep your emotional health up, and physical activity is a great way to do that.”
Get a reality check from those you trust.
Once you’ve had a chance to take a step back and clear your mind, look to those around you for feedback. Everyone has blind spots, and by opening yourself up to a bit of constructive criticism, you may uncover the root cause of the challenges you’ve been experiencing. “We all need help, no matter how competent we are,” says Brusman. “It’s important not to be a lone ranger and to have a support system.”
Turn to family and friends for their thoughts on your résumé, cover letters and LinkedIn profile. Are your qualifications clear and your documents free of errors? Is your digital footprint professional and attractive to prospective employers? Then, get a second opinion on your storytelling skills through mock interviews with a mentor. “In the interview, people want to see you at your best. Unfortunately, the tendency for individuals who have been long-term unemployed or long-term seeking a job is to get negative, and understandably so,” says McDonald. Rehearsing with a trusted adviser can help you become more cognizant of how you come across to hiring managers, and with that self-awareness can come increased preparedness and confidence. “A good mentor will test you, push you and be there as a guide,” says McDonald. “If you don’t have one, get one. If you do have one, use them.”
Make a conscious effort to change your perspective.
A refreshed mind and candid feedback can help you adjust course, but to truly move forward with your job search in a productive way, you must approach it with an optimistic outlook. “At the end of even a good day, the job search process is a very humbling one. At the end of a bad day, it’ll zap your confidence,” says Eurich. “We can feel paralyzed, we can run away . . . or we can choose to use the experience to help us be better.”
To shift your mindset, you must become more aware of your thinking. “Notice what your thoughts are without being hard on yourself. Are they optimistic? Are they helping? Do they make you feel better about the situation and yourself?” says Brusman. “Highly self-aware and resilient people are more likely to ask questions with ‘what’ in them,” adds Eurich. “Instead of ‘Why is this happening to me?’ ask ‘What can I do in the next week to get on a better path?’” Once you’ve gained control over your inner monologue, you’ll be in a better position to change your perspective, which, in turn, can increase your clarity and decrease your fight-or-flight response to stressful situations.
Above all, remind yourself that not even the most trying of job hunts lasts forever. “There will be obstacles,” says Brusman. “But with a lot of hard work, diligence and grit, you should be able to reach your goals.”