Job searching is stressful, even under the best of circumstances. But when the hunt for a position begins to drag on (and on), it’s normal to get frustrated.
Sadly, that frustration also leads to many people feeling like the problem is with themselves, rather than the broken recruiting system. They see friends landing jobs, launching careers, celebrating work anniversaries—and they feel alone.
It’s common to only see victories and not the true struggle behind the job search, especially among recent graduates.
One candidate, a December 2018 grad named Ryan, told me that his group of friends rarely talk about their struggle to find jobs—even though it’s obvious since many of them still aren’t working full-time six months after graduation. There’s too much pressure to measure up to each other, so talking about the struggle isn’t cool.
That kind of pressure—without any outlet—causes many job seekers to internalize their frustration. It can lead to pessimism and bitterness, which in turn hurts the chances of nailing interviews and landing a great job. A vicious cycle is born.
While maintaining a positive outlook in the face of rejection isn’t easy, it is possible to develop and maintain a constructive, realistic mindset to prevent a toxic cycle.
Here’s how to stay optimistic while working through the job search:
When you feel burned out, take a break.
The job search has become a full-time job for most candidates, so it’s no surprise that candidates are getting burned out.
You shouldn’t feel ashamed if you’re ready to call it quits.
The important thing is how you react to and manage burnout. I’ve seen people let bad experiences during the interview process color the entire job search. They become pessimistic and allow previous experiences to bias new ones. The problem is that by carrying past resentments into interviews, they’re actually sabotaging themselves. Their attitude and actions don’t reflect their true personality, and it significantly hurts their chances of getting hired.
So when you feel negative thoughts and burnout coming on, give yourself time to breathe. Go for a run. Meet up with friends. Do whatever you have to do to blow off steam.
Just make sure that you’re feeling like your true self before you head out to an interview or hop on the phone with a hiring manager.
Take control of your schedule.
I’ve talked to so many candidates who feel like they have to be available at recruiters’ beck and call, or else they risk losing the job opportunity.
Although that can happen, it’s not something you should constantly worry about. Because if you force yourself to go into an interview exhausted or anxious, it’s unlikely that you’ll be your best self and land the job.
Instead, be intentional with managing your time well and feeling in control of your schedule.
Tend to be sharpest in the mornings? Try to schedule your interviews before noon.
Still feeling down after a particularly harsh rejection? Try not to schedule any interviews that day.
Job hunting is a marathon—if you sprint the first few miles, you’ll have to walk the rest of the way. Scheduling six interviews in one week may feel like progress, but if you walk away feeling mentally exhausted, then you won’t have anything left in the tank for the coming week.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with pacing yourself when it comes to your energy level. It’s better to walk into one interview ready to rock and roll than it is to do five interviews when you’re at your wit’s end.
Remember, what matters here is a positive outcome. Optimize for that outcome.
Be very honest with yourself by reflecting on your interviews.
Maintaining a realistic mindset is impossible without self-awareness. You have to recognize when you need to improve your interviewing skills or, for example, better articulate your experience.
That type of awareness requires reflection, so you have to take time to think about your performance after every interview. Spend 15 minutes immediately after an interview asking yourself questions like:
- Was this interview better than my last one?
- How was my energy?
- Was I thoughtful and curious throughout, or was I tired and operating more on autopilot?
- If I were to do this interview again tomorrow, would I do better?
Regularly conducting a post-interview reflection helps you understand where you’re at in terms of your ability and positivity. And it highlights what you need to work on for your next interview.
That last piece is critical; over-optimism (or unwarranted self-confidence) can often be just as toxic as pessimism and self-doubt.
Talk out any bitterness that bubbles up.
Unfortunately, candidates are sometimes disrespected or ghosted in their job search—often by a recruiter or hiring manager.
When that happens, it’s easy to sink into a negative mindset. Instead, try to channel that energy into something productive.
For older professionals, they commonly share their job search frustrations with each other and seek help. But, unfortunately, many recent graduates often go through the job search solo. Regardless of where you’re at in your career, I guarantee that people all around you are struggling with some aspect of their professional development.
Talking to a friend, colleague, alumni, or family member about your challenges can give you new insights and support. It also lets you get rid of negative emotions, and may even help you see that you’re not the only one having a hard time finding a job
By sharing your job search struggles, you force negative emotions out of your mind—which opens up space to connect with others and develop a more positive mindset.
No matter what you go through, don’t let the system bring you down.
Everyone in the recruiting industry knows the job search process is broken. It’s one of the reasons why I started Edvo—to make the process easier for both candidates and hiring managers. But, in the meantime, don’t make the struggle worse by giving in to negativity. It’s important to take control of your mindset and reactions.
The best way to do that is to prioritize your mental health and work consciously (day in, day out) to reflect on your progress. As you become more self-aware, you’ll be able to stay productive no matter what the job search throws your way.