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Five steps to take when your job search has hit a brick wall

Stressed businesswoman with laptop in the office.

The job search can be a grind – even if you’re currently employed, but especially if you’re out of work. There are a range of annoyances, hoops to jump through and setbacks throughout the process, from simply not hearing back about a job opportunity to performing well during every stage of a time-intensive interview process only to fall just short after making it to the final round.

Sometimes these frustrations can build up to the point that we feel like smashing a phone or computer – or just giving up. Here are some tips to jump start your job search after it’s seemingly stalled out.

1. Come to terms with leaving

If you’re still employed and not satisfied with your current role but just putting out feelers, then your lack of urgency or commitment to the job search is likely sabotaging your efforts.

“If you’re in a place of ‘It’s time to move on,’ but you’re not fully committed to moving on, it impacts the effectiveness of the feelers you put out,” said Kim Ann Curtin, the founder of The Wall Street Coach. “People respond to an energy of definitiveness, and everyone is so busy, so if someone sort of expresses interest – ‘Well, I’m kind of looking for something’ – I’m not paying attention to them, whereas if someone says ‘I’m leaving my job next month no matter what,’ I’m paying attention, because I know they’re serious and not wishy-washy."

2. If you were fired, work through the seven stages of grief

If you’re not having any success in your job search after getting fired or laid off, you probably haven’t taken the time to properly grieve yet.

“A shock or trauma requires time for emotional processing,” Curtin said. “A client of mine was laid off unexpectedly, and for six weeks he didn’t even tell his family – he couldn’t bear to deal with it.

“Men especially are integrated socially and culturally as being the bread-winners of the family, so getting fired or laid off is a huge blow to men’s ego and masculinity, and it’s also a huge blow to women who are the heads of their households,” she said. “For those who haven’t  allowed themselves to grieve or emotionally process what has happened, they’re likely still in a panic, so they’re not properly presenting themselves or looking at the full landscape.”

For candidates who are not nailing opportunities, it’s likely because they’re bringing in all of that unprocessed emotion in with them, and the interviewer will sense that something is off with this person who is still processing feelings of anger, grief and disappointment.

3. Refocus

Make everything you do pass this critical path hurdle: “Is what I'm doing right now going to get me in front of a recruiter?”

“The job search circa 2016 is filled with thousands of bright, shiny objects that take you away from the critical path of your job search,” said Donna Svei, executive resumes coach, retained search recruiter and the founder of “If an activity isn't on your critical path, then stop doing it and start doing something that is.”

4. Exercise and think happy thoughts

It may sound cheesy, but most recruiters have an innate sense of a candidate’s state of mind, so focusing on the positive so that you project confidence is paramount in order to impress them.

Exercise helps you to relieve stress and anxiety and feel happier and energized, which is especially important during a career transition, according to Hallie Crawford, the founder of Career Coaching.

After getting fired or laid off, it’s natural to focus on the negative, and it typically takes a big effort to eliminate the negative thoughts and find something to be positive about, Crawford acknowledges. She suggests not listening to or reading other people's career horror stories and instead trying to think of positive things that have happened during your period of transition.

5. Think tactically and go back to basics

If the job-search grind is getting you down, then you’re probably not being as tactical as you could be. If you’re applying to a bunch of positions that you’re qualified for but nothing back, you’re your resume probably isn’t good enough. Revising it carefully and thoroughly may be a key to jump start your job search.

“There are lot of professional resume writers out there, probably too many, but the fact is that the resume is what gets your foot in the door, so if you’re not hearing back after applying to a lot of jobs, then something in your presentation is probably not nailing it,” Curtin said.

Whether you hire a resume writer or have a family member, friend or former colleague look at your resume, you need a fresh set of eyes to gauge whether something is off and can be improved.

In addition, makes sure that your social-media profiles are clean, professional and completely in harmony with your resume, Curtin said.

“If you’re not having the right people notice you, it could be you’re just getting lost in the shuffle, but you need to do the self-awareness work, what I call the strength finder: Assess who you are and what your gifts are, then find organizations that are in need for the strengths you bring to the table,” she said. “Match potential employers’ needs to areas that you can bring solutions to, and whenever possible go to the top, the CEO or the hiring manager, and communicate clearly what you can add to the company."

Photo credit: baona/GettyImages

AUTHORDan Butcher US Editor
  • Th
    The Hiring Manager
    19 October 2016

    Yup. They keys to jumpstarting a job search that has hit a brick wall:

    Refocus, exercise, and think happy thoughts.

    Thanks - that should get things moving again.

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