5 Tips To Keep The Job Search From Crushing Your Soul
When I was younger, I remember thinking Dementors from “Harry Potter” were absolutely terrifying. I mean, hooded monsters that aggressively suck out your soul is pretty intense. But now in my 20s, having had to job-search in the midst of an unexpectedly long pandemic, there’s times where facing Dementors feels more doable than facing Monster.com.
The job-search, as many have noted on social media, can suck the life out of you. Something about the “10+ years of experience” requirements, the radio silence after applying, and having to manually fill out your resume on top of submitting a pdf has the potential to crush even the most motivated soul.
And since we can’t simply aim a wand at Indeed.com to magically solve our problems, I’ve provided 5 tips that can help you survive the soul-crushing job-search with productivity and your mental health intact. And this is not #HustleTwitter where the key advice is just to unrealistically work yourself to the bone. These tips are ones made for you to apply to your own life, at your own pace, in a way that works best for you.
Our souls are too vibrant to be crushed by Monster.com and the like, so let’s take steps towards saving our job search soul.
#1: Allot Set Time To The Job Search
It’s been said that when you’re unemployed you should make job searching your 9–5. That’s a great tip if you’re looking for “5 Ways To Turn Your Hair Gray Early”. The reality is the job search can be thankless and exhausting and if you don’t set a time limit ahead of time on how long you’re going to spend searching, then the job search ends up consuming your mind all day, which isn’t healthy. If you’re a fellow worrier, we often mistake worrying about something as working on something. Chances are you spend hours applying to jobs, and even more hours worrying about it and then proceed to think that was a productive way to spend your time.
You can only do so much. So each day, block out a set few hours for job searching and set an alarm. Try and use the exact same time slot each day to build consistency. If you told yourself you are going to start at 10am and end at 1pm then make sure you honor both those commitments. Start at 10am and end at 1pm. When the time is up, here is the tough part…let it go. You put yourself out there. You went for it. Now you have to walk away and do other things, like work on your hobby, exercise, read, or spend the day productively elsewhere. Even 9–5’s get lunch breaks and get to go home, so it’s important that you too allow yourself to fully walk away from the job search so that you can enjoy life and be energized enough to return to the job search the next day.
#2: Give Yourself A Realistic Daily Quota
So now that you know when you are going to start searching and when you are going to stop each day. It’s important to set a realistic quota of how many jobs you should be applying to each day based on your situation. Many elements factor into what your quota will be including, rent, how soon you need to start making money, and how many jobs you would need to apply to in order to personally feel productive. The answers to these questions are free to fluctuate as your situation fluctuates, but try and start with a set number. And be realistic with yourself. It’s easy to want to set an ambitious number of 30–50 jobs a day and then quickly become overwhelmed and too frustrated to apply to any, which just leads to more crushing of the soul.
Setting a more realistic quota of daily applications will motivate your mind to meet the quota because it feels more reachable. You’d rather actually apply to 5 jobs a day than say you’re going to apply to 20 and get exhausted and apply to none. So start small, because all small things grow into bigger things when watered. Start with a small quota and water that goal for the next week, giving you room to grow. This way your mind will feel like it’s being productive for meeting it’s set goal and it’ll make your mind eager to then set a new goal and apply to more jobs down the line. Increase your quota by 2–5 jobs every two weeks. Before you know it you’ll have built a muscle of applying to the amount of jobs you set out to.
Specificity also is just helpful in centering your mind. For example, if all you say is, “I’m going to apply for jobs” then your mind pictures a mountain of jobs you need to be applying to in order to be productive. But when you say, “I’m going to apply to five jobs today,” instead your mind thinks “Just 5. I can do that.” And your mind would be right. You can do it.
#3: Have A Template Cover Letter With One Customizable Sentence
If you’re like me, the second you see a job asks for a cover letter, you feel a bit anxious. Every company is different and so it’s daunting to write a letter that speaks to that company, and stands out from the crowd, and doesn’t just rehash your resume. A common tip is to have a cover letter template ready where you can just “insert company here” at the top and then send it out. Again, the basis of that idea can work, but it creates stress over feeling that your cover letter is too impersonal and bland. So let’s take it a bit further. A one-size fits all cover letter is bound to have less impact, so instead include one sentence in your Cover Letter template that you write specifically regarding the company or job you’re applying to.
The first sentence of your second paragraph in the cover letter should be something you write that speaks directly to the company and what they’re looking for. Then go into the body of your paragraph and it’ll help the reader to view you as having relevant qualifications, thanks to that customized sentence. This tip can improve your cover letter and also provide you some mental peace because instead of tiredly having to redo the whole cover letter each time you apply to a new job or worrying that your template cover letter is too impersonal, you now have the ease of knowing all you have to craft is one sentence. Just one. And with the strategic placement of that one sentence, it makes the whole cover letter look more personable.
So to summarize, just once make a solid Cover Letter template that you feel really expresses what you’d want any company to know about you. And then after your first paragraph introduces you, customize the second paragraph’s first sentence to address something specific about the company and their listed needs. This can assure them that you read their job post thoroughly and truly believe you’d be a specifically good fit. That one sentence can go a long way.
#4: Make A Personal List Of Your “Non-Resume” Experience
This tip is for both those that don’t have a whole boatload of resume experience under their belt, and also for those who may have a lot of experience, just not in a specific job they’re applying for. The truth is, life provides a lot of great and even relevant experience if you stop to think about it. So take a moment to write out a personal list of things you’ve done in your life that you wouldn’t put on a resume but might actually be a helpful skill. Did you promote an item to your friends or on your social media that got people interested to make a purchase? That’s within the realm of advertising. What did you do well in your last job or volunteer work that wasn’t necessarily part of the job description but it stood out and was appreciated by others? Those are skill sets that jobs on your search might not explicitly state they’re looking for but that they too will appreciate. So I’m not saying to put these skills on your resume, I’m saying use this list of non-resume skills to push yourself to still apply to a job even when you don’t always think you meet every single bullet point the job lists.
For example, a job might have an interest in people with some beginner level graphic design experience. Now you might not have had a job explicitly as a graphic designer, but perhaps you’ve designed flyers or invitations using Adobe or Microsoft Office. So if that was on my personal list of “non-resume” status skills, and I met most of the other qualifications of the job, I’d still feel like I can put myself out there and apply. This is more of a way to overcome the mind when it tells you to just log out because you don’t have every single qualification. Chances are you are more equipped than you think. And keeping a private list of your array of skills will remind you of that.
#5: Keep Track Of Where You Have Applied & When You Applied
This final tip is important both in terms of general organization and peace of mind. It’s common to apply to a job and then just forget about it until you hopefully hear back. But if you never hear back, you start feeling stuck in limbo. I know I’ve had moments where I felt that when I press the submit button on a job application, it just immediately shoots my application into space never to be seen again. So this is why you want to keep your own separate track record of where you’ve applied and when. I know a lot of job search sites keep a record for you, but if you’re applying to jobs across multiple sites, you’ll want to have a single document that keeps track of everywhere you’ve applied. This is helpful because one; it’ll give you a sense of your progress by visibly seeing your apps on paper or Google Sheets/Excel and two; it’ll give you an idea of when to follow up and when to move on from waiting to hear from that job. Some jobs don’t allow or want a follow-up and so adjust accordingly, but for jobs where a follow-up is an option, reaching back out can be really important.
So keep a list of when you applied so you can know to follow up around two weeks from the date you applied. And if it’s been over 3-6 months, you can start categorizing the jobs you’re applying to by whether you’re still actively waiting to hear back or if it’s a more inactive case. This also helps you not lose track of time because sometimes we can think we just applied to a job the other day only to realize it’s been months. So a simple list like this will help you to feel more organized, aware, and at peace with the progress you’re making on the job search.
BONUS TIP: Stay affirmative and positive about yourself. Rejection is hard. Feeling “ghosted” by a job is hard. But you don’t want to mentally defeat yourself on top of those already hard things. So when you’re in the midst of job searching, don’t allow, “I can’t” or “This is too much” thoughts to overcome you. The more you believe in you, even when the light at the end of the tunnel seems far away, the more you open yourself up to others believing in you too. The job you need is coming. Stay persevering, stay positive, and stay at peace within yourself because that’s the most important job we have. Expecto Patronum, y’all.