Posted December 12, 2016 by

Make your stressful job search more tolerable

stressful job searchContributing writer Ted Bauer

The old cliche rings out like this: there are two certainties in life. Death and taxes, of course. I would add a third: stressful job searches. Don’t fear, however. There are ways to make your job search more tolerable.

Here’s the interesting paradox around the stressful job search: if you’ve been on one in the last few years (more on that in a second), you know it’s stressful. Time-to-hire has doubled in the past four years; across a variety of positions, it’s now a little over a month. As a candidate, this means a rotating door of stakeholders, their requests and interviews. If you’re in that process with six or seven potential employers, it can get overwhelming. Michael Iacona, the founder/CEO of Rake, said this:

Applying to jobs takes a lot of time and effort. In fact, according to our research, 54% of job seekers find it challenging to keep track of their job search process.

The paradox? 15% of American workers, per Dale Carnegie research, are already actively looking for a new job — with another 26% set to begin in the next 6-12 months. That’s 4 in every 10 American workers with one foot out the door of their current job. Add in new graduates every few months and there’s a lot of job searchers out there. They keep doing it largely because of poor management in their existing jobs (most people leave bosses, not companies) and wanting to find the right fit.

So at this intersection of “I still want to do it” and “Oh Lord, it will be stressful,” what are ways to cope? Here are five tips.

Carve out designated periods of time to work on job search: I myself have been in a few prolonged job searches in the past couple of years; once after I finished graduate school and once about a year ago when I got laid off. Both were stressful and I was concerned about income. For a while, I was on LinkedIn and Indeed all the time, and constantly sending and checking emails. You know what happened? That made it way more stressful and prone to over-analysis. So I decided to dedicate 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the late afternoon to job searching, and that was it. It gave me a lot more perspective and calmed me down about it, which led to positive outcomes in both cases. 

Be proactive: This will be really important once you land the job you want, so practice it now! Iacona at Rake says, “Save all of the job posts you’d like to apply to in one place and set reminders for each so you don’t miss crucial deadlines. Proactively head off as many stumbling blocks as possible. Make sure you keep track of your efforts and recognize where you’re missing the mark if you’re not hearing back from employers. Being able to self-assess and improve your approach will make the job search more productive.” (That’s part of what his company, Rake, helps you do.)

No need to over-apply: Try to be as targeted as possible. At some point, as a job search stretches on, you might feel compelled to submit 100 Indeed “easy apply” every day, even  as you wait in line at the supermarket. Even if you get interviews for those jobs (unlikely), you’re probably not the right fit. If you have an idea what you want — company size, culture, location, role, seniority — focus on those things and no more. Create an ideal-type job profile for yourself. Then target jobs that seem to fall within that. You’ll end up in a much better place than applying to everything under the sun.

Don’t get frustrated: Easier said than done, but there are a lot of frustration touch points in a hiring process. It’ll take a while to hear back from people; they get busy and they go on business trips. I had recruiters call me “Tim” or “Tom” (my name is Ted). One of those recruiters said it 6-10 times. I tried to correct him after the first 1-2, but it didn’t matter. Frustrating? Of course. It all happens. In the moment, it’s hard to take it in stride, but force yourself to go find another activity. Go play basketball. Go to Starbucks. Heck, go to a bar if you need to. But know this happens to many people. You’re not alone in feeling down as a hiring process evolves. It typically ends up in the right place.

The de-stressing power of referral: Why do all the searching alone? Referrals are so powerful in job searches. Mine your networks. Mine your parents’ and friends’ networks. Download your LinkedIn contacts and send them personal emails explaining where you’re at currently. Networks and referrals will drive the process forward faster than applying to a bunch of applicant tracking systems that might screen you out because of the keywords on your resume.

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