Spoiler alert: your job search will be anxiety-inducing, frustrating, and at times, painful. It doesn’t matter how far you’ve come in your career; conducting a job search is emotionally taxing and it can shake your confidence and wear down your patience.
But like most trials in life, knowing what to expect can help you avoid making things worse and lessen the blow as you go through it.
So if you are considering launching an active or even passive job search, here are the things you can expect and need to prepare yourself for.
1. Knowing what you want is harder than it sounds
The fastest path between two points is a straight line, but few people clearly know precisely where they want to go when they start a job search. You don’t want to narrow your options too soon, so you likely cast a wider net, sometimes remaining flexible on everything from title, company mission, business size and culture to the type of work and compensation.
There is a trial and error process to seeing what is available to you and then deciding what you want to pursue most. In the meantime, you may feel confused and a bit indecisive, but this is natural; most job searches, especially those where you are seeking greater purpose or impact from your work, require additional time and effort to get through an exploratory phase.
2. Proving your value breeds insecurity
Even the most experienced CEOs question themselves during a job search—nobody is exempt from vulnerability. Having to convince people that don’t know you that you are competent, valuable and they should want to work with you every day, brings back all the old fears from being chosen for a team on the playground. You want to know that your peers deem you as a strong player and an asset to their group.
Interviewing forces you to open yourself up to the possibility of rejection. It’s a real fear because you may indeed be rejected; there are a lot of reasons why someone else may get the job you want. Be prepared to keep your insecurities at bay when you can and to give yourself a break when you can’t. It’s okay to have a bad day and let yourself feel the sting of losing out on an opportunity you wanted. Job searches are hard on the ego.
3. Your best instincts will play against you
One of the things that makes you great at what you do is that you take the time to think strategically, reduce risks and plan out details. Unfortunately, these normally productive skills may backfire during your job search. Trying to control or predict the process will at best cause you an incredible amount of frustration, but at worst it will lead you to become overly aggressive and signal desperation or a lack of cultural fit.
Know that launching a job search will require that you strengthen your ability to be at peace with uncertainty. You will not know when the next opportunity will come your way, if you’ll get it or if you’ll have multiple options in the end. You have to trust the process and take each step one day at a time.
4. The highs and lows will drain you
By now, you may have the impression that every day of a job search is a struggle. Thankfully, that isn’t true either. You will have many good days, days when you are filled with optimism and excitement. What’s taxing about this cycle is the constant spike of ups and downs.
One day you’re excited because you got a call out of the blue on something you may be interested in, while another day, you are left sulking at home after making a mistake in an interview. Some weeks see good activity while others require you to endure the silence of emails that aren’t coming in and a phone that isn’t ringing. All of this is normal—just be prepared for it.
5. People will disappoint you
The largest frustration of your job search will be waiting for people to do the things they promise to do, be that favors, such as making connections or introductions, or getting back to you with feedback as promised. It’s hard to wait, but following up leaves you feeling like you’re nagging people or being a burden.
It’s irritating when a recruiter or professional acquaintance fails to keep up with the timing they promised, but it’s downright hurtful when it’s a friend, family member or someone you’ve done a lot for professionally in the past. Try not to take it to heart. Most of the time, they truly don’t mean to offend you or let you down—life gets busy and they lose track of the promise. Instead, let it be a reminder to you about how you want to treat people in the future when the shoe is on the other foot.