Job Search Resilience

Other than balancing a job search with everything else going on in your life, one of the hardest parts of looking for a new position is keeping your spirits up throughout the duration of the often-tedious process.

Whether it’s deafening silence from employers or making it to the final round of interviews only to not be selected, the experience can certainly take a toll on your confidence.

Those examples are (unfortunately!) a normal part of looking for a job whether you’re highly qualified for what you’re applying to or not. From political hiring decisions, technical interference causing your application to never be seen by a human, or simply an extremely competitive market, there are a handful of challenging layers that have nothing to do with your competency levels (let that sink in!)… yet, the longer you spend applying, the more likely you are to start to doubt yourself.

So, how do you keep your spirits up?

I heard this definition from Jennifer Racioppi while listening to a webinar on emotional resilience

I heard this definition from Jennifer Racioppi while listening to a webinar on emotional resilience

As with many challenges in life, it comes back to resilience. There are countless definitions and studies about this concept, but two of my favorites include: “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness” and meeting life exactly as it is and being able to thrive anyway. Some believe that “more than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom.”

Below are a few of the strategies I’ve found help job seekers recover from the challenges and setbacks that come with the territory.

Talk to people.

This will sound like the last thing you want to do when your confidence is tanking or you’re doubting yourself, but trust me on this. Networking not only increases your likelihood of landing a position, it also can do a myriad of things to get you out of the job search rut. For example, people in your field can:

  • Validate that your background is impressive/you do have valuable and relevant skills. You can get this information through asking questions such as “What skills do you think make someone stand out in this field/role?” or “What qualities make someone most successful in this position?”  
  • Help you see your blind spots and where you may be lacking competitiveness. That may sound like bad news, but this insight can show you where to seek out development and growth to proactively increase your ability to compete.
  • Give you ideas about other companies, job titles, or openings to look at that you may not know about.

Any of these outcomes can serve to reinvigorate you and the energy you need to keep plugging away.

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Look in your happy-face-folder 

This may sound weird if you don’t have one, so let me explain. Every time I get a thoughtful thank you email or positive feedback after an event, I file them into a folder aptly titled “😊.” If I have a really challenging day or am doubting myself (in the life of an entrepreneur it happens often!), I skim through and am reminded of my skills, value-add, and the positive impact I’ve had on other people’s lives. If you don’t save these types of emails, I recommend that you start!

If you don’t have these emails, you can still seek out this kind of info from other sources. Old performance reviews are a good place to look. Chatting with any colleagues you’ve let in on your search, checking in with your references, and reviewing former letters of recommendation can all raise your spirits too.

Take Care of Yourself

When in doubt, taking extra care of yourself is always a good idea. It may sound counterintuitive to step away from applications, but restoring your energy and mindset will ultimately make you much more productive. That renewed confidence will translate in your application materials. You have permission to take this space. Often a short stint away, or coming back to an application after a restorative activity is all you need to reframe your perspective.

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This comes back to stress and the impact it can have on our personal and professional well-being. Clinical psychologist George Bonanno has been studying resilience for over 25 years and he says the following: “All of us possess the same fundamental stress-response system, which has evolved over millions of years and which we share with other animals. The vast majority of people are pretty good at using that system to deal with stress. When it comes to resilience, the question is: Why do some people use the system so much more frequently or effectively than others? One of the central elements of resilience, Bonanno has found, is perception: Do you conceptualize an event as traumatic, or as an opportunity to learn and grow?”

Taking time to take care of yourself and counter job search stressors can make it easier to view whatever challenges have come up in your process as opportunities to grow, and you can use this resilience to handle other life hurtles with more grace and ease.  

  • What are some examples of challenges you’ve faced in your life that you see as teaching moments or times of great personal growth?
  • How can you reframe your perspective of your job search to meet it where it is and yet thrive anyway?
  • Where can you apply these mindset shifts to other areas of your life to restore your energy and get back to feeling like your best self?