Try a “clean slate” approach to moving forward during a frustrating time.
Q: I’m discouraged. I was laid off about six months ago along with a lot of others in my company. To make it worse, other companies in my field also let people go. I’m having trouble getting interviews and have not gotten any offers. What should I do? —Geoff, 38, unemployed
A: Try a “clean slate” approach to moving forward, looking at all aspects of your search — and how you’re managing the rest of your life.
Odds are that you’re quite preoccupied with your job search. The first step that I strongly recommend is giving yourself a break. Even one day off will give you a boost. Take a day with an upbeat friend or a spouse/partner doing some cheap, fun, local activities. Just be sure to put your job search off limits as a conversation topic, and if you find yourself thinking about it, gently push it out of your mind for the day.
Then get back to it, examining each of your career and search assumptions. For example, consider the positions you’re seeking. Have you assumed that you must find a job just like the one you recently lost? What might your opportunities look like if you broadened your search?
Evaluate your application materials. It appears that your resume and cover letters may not be telling a compelling story. Is there more you could be doing to tailor each application to the opportunity? There is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” resume, and time spent on carefully designing your application will be worthwhile. Also be sure they are squeaky clean in terms of typos, layout and grammar.
How are your interview skills? If you’ve felt awkward or have had trouble answering questions, get some practice before your next interview. List questions that have tripped you up, find typical questions online, and think of questions you’d dread being asked. Then develop responses and practice them out loud, ideally with a person who can listen and help you improve your answers.
Give yourself a job search schedule. Keep a calendar of networking opportunities (group and one-on-one), and then set time each day for seeking and responding to new positions. Also look for resources such as job centers or alumni centers for advice.
Beyond that, live your life! In order to feel productive, seek out substantive volunteer opportunities, including ones that use your professional skills. Have a social life and learn a new skill. Do all of the normal healthy things like eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly. Do not, repeat, do not turn this into a 24/7/365 endeavor. The discouragement you’re feeling will only get worse if you’re obsessing over it.
Finally, what if you think of this time as a gift, albeit one you didn’t choose? So many people have said to me, “If I’d known it would all work out, I would have tried to enjoy my time off.” Even as you diligently seek your next job, try reframing this time as one with flexibility and freedom that you won’t have once you’re back to work.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.