Cultivating Resilience During Your Job Search

As students’ undergraduate careers come to an end, many are realizing that they will not meet their goal of having a job lined up before graduation. For some, this may represent the very first time they did not reach an important milestone they had set out to achieve. For those who will be graduating this spring or summer, the media is brimming with stories about the current climate for job seekers and many offer advice about driving an effective job search campaign.  At Early Stage Careers, we have contributed to this valuable career guidance – Yahoo Finance shared the importance of finding a meaningful job, not just any position, and tips on crafting a powerful resume (including videos). The Wall Street Journal covered the role parents play in helping their children during this challenging time.

Early careerists seeking a first job have a busy, stressful journey ahead. Cultivating resilience is essential, as students and grads must prepare for both the positive actions and negative outcomes that they will likely experience. Developing a framework for resilience is as integral a part of the job-search process as establishing strategies for seeking out appropriate roles and opportunities, and expanding their network.

Why is this so important?  A career search process will inevitably consist of both positives and negatives. Job-seekers will experience the triumph of identifying opportunities, creating applications, and generating interest in their background. But they will also have to deal with never hearing back about an application, being turned down, and not receiving constructive feedback. And unfortunately, job-seekers should anticipate that this mix is 90/10, meaning 90% of the search will consist of non-productive, disappointing energy zappers.

Create a Personal Job Search Strategy

One must understand this reality while creating an individualized plan to counteract the low points and build resilience. Here are some tips:

Mix it up

It is absolutely valuable to have a routine or daily discipline built into your job-search process, as you need structure. But you should also mix it up, as if you are cross-training for a sport.  If yesterday was spent 100% on networking, make today’s focus industry and company research. Or, if today you completed five job applications, use time tomorrow to reach out to people on applications submitted a few weeks ago.

Micro-Actions Make Things Manageable

If any step of the job search seems overwhelming, be sure to break things into digestible steps or micro-actions. Micro-actions build momentum and energy. Perhaps reviewing an entire network of 500 contacts to pick people to reach out to seems like a daunting task – so cherry pick five people that you find interesting and get underway.  If filling in one more application feels scream-worthy, start by only setting up a username and password. Take a walk, and then come back to complete the rest. Just as a student creates a plan of small steps to prepare for finals, creating outlines and developing study tools before writing an essay or preparing for a test, job-seekers benefit from using micro-actions to create a more manageable process.

Think Broadly

Don’t limit your search to exclusively full-time permanent roles. Many firms are considering graduates for internships as noted in this recent CNBC article, to which Early Stage Careers contributed. Consider these an opportunity for you, and the employer, to take your work relationship for a test drive. Internships in your field will carry more value longer term than a job in an unrelated field that does not leverage your academic background. Often times, these internships lead or convert to full time opportunities as our clients have experienced.

Build your new community

If you’ve returned home after graduation, approach it as if you just moved to a new city.  Create an infrastructure, as you are used to this from your college years, offering support, discipline and motivation. Find issues that you care about and work to address them. Seek out opportunities to volunteer, and work to be an active leader in these organizations. Your involvement builds new skills and broadens your network with local leadership.

Enlist your troops

Actively enlist the support from family and friends as part of this strategy. Ask for help. Share specific goals and request that family members check in with you regarding positive tasks: “How many job applications did you complete today?” “Did you see any new companies that you might be interested in applying to?”

While family can be sympathetic about the negative outcomes that impact a job seeker, keep their energy focused on the controllable steps to maintain momentum.

The Gift of Support

If you are the family member of a disappointed job-seeker, recognize the reality of search process dynamics and acknowledge that the 90% negative zone is hard work.  The job search is like training for a marathon – so rather than focusing on the award medal, ask “How many miles did you log today?” Family members can certainly contribute to positive tasks as well, such as building networks and assisting with searches for companies and roles.

Parents or grandparents should also consider the gift of professional guidance and support. Arranging for career counseling or career assessment tools can be hugely beneficial if a loved one is puzzled about mapping out meaningful career options; or needs help building a comprehensive strategy, being accountable as well as executing the necessary tasks with finesse and prowess. If these services sound interesting, please reach out to us.