This post was written by an external contributor. If you’re going through a job hunt that seems like there’s no end in sight, it gets better, says Charlie Duffield
There’s a saying about taking one step forward and two steps back which rings true when it comes to establishing a twenty-first century career. Sometimes life can throw you a curve ball and you find yourself unemployed, consumed by self-doubt and with repetitive strain disorder from alternately scrolling through uninspiring jobs boards and your sombre internet banking page. And lingering in the background, that cloud of uncertainty. How long will this last? When will it all end?
Because that’s the worst part of job-hunting; it’s a phenomenal amount of emotional work for next to no recognition, and there is no fixed time frame. I could never have imagined that it would take me a year to find a new job after suddenly being ditched from a company I loved, with less than a week’s notice, just before the annual Christmas party (…can you hear the tiny violins playing?)
Yet when you’re faced with an unexpected relapse into the world of recruitment, there’s no other option but to take a big gulp and submerge yourself into the unknown. Through the many long months of despair, frustration and half-baked career dreams, here’s what I learnt about trying to stay sane.
Find a hobby
As a word, ‘hobby’ conjures up twee images of collecting stamps or trundling off to Brownies every week…which hardly feels applicable to graduate life, but really, now more than ever is the time to recognise the value in trivial pursuits.
When your brain is rejection-addled, panic-stricken and bludgeoned by application deadlines, having structured time to blow off steam will provide some much needed temporary relief. Bonus points if your leisure activity is something social – job hunting can be incredibly isolating, but you’ll suddenly have a common interest and conversations won’t have to revolve around your lacklustre employment status.
So join a sports club, enrol in a dance class, sign up to a book group or revitalise your neglected language skills. And just think, for one or two glorious hours a week, your brain will be too consumed by hobbying to worry about anything else.
Don’t take it personally
Rejection sucks. And when you’ve heard ‘no’ enough times, it can really start to affect your feelings of self-worth. But the truth is that there is nothing wrong with you – if you keep getting interviews but not getting the job, remember that employers are still interested in what you have to offer.
There are a plethora of reasons as to why someone might be selected over you; they might tick 10 out of 10 boxes whereas you only ticked 9, or it might be as immeasurable as the interviewer’s gut feeling. Ironically, the more you are rejected, the more you learn to let it not affect you as much, to brush it off and move on to the next potential opportunity. But again, there is nothing wrong with you – it’s the situation you are in, which is tough, but ultimately temporary.
Remember that you are not alone
Searching for a job can be long, lonely and like being stuck in a perverse state of limbo. It’s so difficult because society intertwines jobs and our identity; the first or second question you’re likely to be asked when you meet someone new is ‘So, what do you do?’ – cue immense feelings of internal angst and self-loathing.
Yet some of the best unsolicited advice I received was from a complete stranger. He reminded me that whilst you may feel like an outsider, there are so many people who dislike, and even hate their current jobs, and few who have their dream career. When you think about it in this way, you’re on more of an even playing field than you think. You don’t have to tackle the job hunt alone – reach out to friends or people who work in the same industry. Try and find yourself a mentor who can provide both moral and practical support.
Take a break
Job hunting is a job in itself. Your work-life balance and cash flow can take a hit as you desperately try and secure a new role. But be kind to yourself because ultimately so much is beyond your control; you can put all your efforts into a job application, but you never know who else might be applying.
Your interviewer could be having an off day, or quite frankly just be a terrible interviewer (it happens). You may get tired, and disillusioned, and sad. Remember to go back to basics; nourish yourself with good food and get plenty of rest. Remember to laugh – it will lighten your mental load. Read books which break the monotony of application forms, and interest your mind. Take time out to reconnect with yourself, focus your intentions, and you’ll feel all the more empowered on your return.