Job search burnout? How to get unstuck and inspired.

As The Job Search Guru, I talk to my share of frustrated job seekers who are stuck and losing confidence in finding what they want.

I understand. Modern job searches can take a real toll on job seekers.

Resumes disappear into black holes and you’re lucky to get a response of any kind. Recruiters miss calls and you can’t talk to a hiring manager. And when you do get interviews, they make you jump through hoops with their process. It’s hard to get honest feedback and sometimes they don’t even tell you that you didn’t get the job.

This can make you feel powerless, resentful, even angry and your self-confidence takes a hit. And that never makes for a good interview and job offer. So if you’re feeling stuck or discouraged, now is the right time to manage that.

The good news is that you can shift your attitude and energy around your job search and go from frustrated and resigned to optimistic and encouraged, and that sets the stage for a successful job search.

Here are some thoughts that can shift you back to the positive:

Accept that external happenings in your job search are beyond your control.

Yes, there are definitely things you can do to improve your chances and tell a stronger story with better branding, but you can’t make people choose you. There is rejection and frustration in a job search.

So try to let it go. You can’t make companies, recruiters or hiring managers do what you want. Job searches are almost always filled with miscommunications and disappointments. Instead of letting it get to you, accept that this is what is, and then work on what you can change… you.

This is pretty much where every kind of change in the worlds starts… with you.

Rethink what you’re looking for.

When you’re stuck, take time to think about what you really want in your job and your life. If you’ve lost your excitement about what’s next, you may just need some guidance in how to recalibrate and refocus and get a fresh start.

Don’t worry about trying to predict the economy or where you get the most money or any of those external things you can’t control. Instead, look at what’s important to you and what isn’t, and what you love to do and the life you want to have and give yourself a do-over.

Tell a new story about your situation.

When you find yourself complaining or blaming others or being negative about the state of your job search, it’s time for a new story. Psychologists call it reframing as you learn to see something problematic from a different perspective.

So if you feel stuck, look at the story you’re telling about it to people. If you’re saying “I’m having a terrible time and feel like I’ll never get a job” then stop yourself. That’s just a story you are believing as if it’s the “truth” but it’s actually just an interpretation you made up. Really.

Pick a better story, like “I’m learning so much about not giving up here, I know it will be worth it.” Write your own story and reframe how you interpret the things that happen.

Be gracious with everyone you encounter. 

Most people are doing the best they can. That recruiter who seems not to know the details of the job might be handling the work of two people right now. The hiring manager who canceled your interview might be dealing with a family emergency. The executive may be playing hard to get because she knows the company is about to make an announcement that would affect that job.

Cut people some slack in this process because you don’t know what’s going on for them and (perhaps more important) because it keeps you feeling better about your job search.

Don’t vent your frustration on social sites.

Do not – I repeat DO NOT – whine or complain on Facebook about your job woes, and whatever you do, don’t spread your complaints on business sites like LinkedIn. Companies don’t want to hire complainers or whiners, and what you say there will last forever and might come back to haunt you later.

In fact, complaining in general is a bad habit. It may be easier said than done, but there’s no better time to give up public complaining than when you’re looking for a job.

Don’t take it personally.

Hiring decisions are business decisions, and you are being evaluated on the information you present, what the company can find out about you, and how you stack up against the other candidates.

The company’s goal is to hire the best person for their needs, and if that’s not you, it’s because they think someone else is a better choice for their team. It’s okay to be disappointed at not getting a job you really want but don’t let it ruin you.

Don’t waste any energy toward how you think it “should” be.

Hiring people is hard and complicated and few companies do it well. Many hiring managers inexperienced and have a gazillion other things they’re accountable for. The sheer volume of responses to openings nowadays (imagine getting 2,000 applications for one job?!) clogs the pipes of the system.

So again, cut people and the process some slack. If you let go of your frustrations, you will feel better and actually become a stronger candidate.

Identify where you’re getting stuck and work on that.

No response to your resume? It may be because your resume is old-fashioned or confusing or not hitting the mark or telling a strong story. Or you might be applying to the wrong jobs (I use the 80% rule: if you don’t have 80% of the requirements, don’t bother).

Getting first interviews but not moved forward? You may not be coming across well or haven’t prepared with your answers and stories in advance. Winging it in interviews is very risky.

Making it to the final two or three but not getting the offer? Kudos for doing a good job and being a contender! The decision between top candidates often comes down to personality or minor preferences so unless you did something wrong, be encouraged that you made the final round.

And if you’re still stuck, get some input from a job search coach or career group of people in your field or a mentor with hiring experience who will be honest with you about what you might improve. Don’t just keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Most important, stay focused on staying positive and optimistic.

Keep your spirits up however you can, because that will make your search go faster and make you more likely to win the offer.

Even better,  when you learn to shift your attitude from frustrated back to hopeful and excited for your job search — just by changing your story about it with reframing — you can use this new ability in all the areas of your life.

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