How many times this week have you been asked ‘how’s the job hunt going?’. Have you turned down plans with friends because you can’t spare the money or the time to go out? Do you feel guilty when a day goes by and you haven’t applied for any jobs?
Staying upbeat when faced with rejection after rejection or, worse, absolutely no feedback at all, is tough. Here’s how to stay on top of it all when the job hunt starts to sting.
1. Structure your day
That sense of freedom when unemployed can quickly transition into confusion and apathy. But there is one very good reason to put a routine in place – your mental health.
Treat your job hunt like a job. Set your alarm, get showered and dressed and take a walk before sitting in front of your computer to tackle the next round of applications. Use the afternoon to work on a new hobby, or set up coffee meetings with people who might be able to help or advise you. Try setting one achievable goal for the day, so you feel like each day has had value.
2. Collect feedback
In today’s job market, the most common thing to hear from a prospective employer is nothing at all, and getting feedback is incredibly rare. This is usually because of time constraints, but also because giving feedback could land employers in hot water, legally, if it is worded in a way that could be perceived as discriminatory. But it hurts when you don’t hear about that perfect job at that exciting company you spent hours researching and applying for.
However, I have spoken to employers who are surprised by how few people ask for feedback after interviews. If you really want the job, and you think the interview went well, a polite follow-up phone call or email to see where you stand will make a good impression.
3. Anticipate THAT question
“How is the job hunt going?”. Eye roll. First, know this question comes from a good place: your family and friends do not want you to fail. Second, why not let them help? One of the best responses you can give to THAT question is this: “I’m actually looking for an entry-level role in [marketing/ software development/ journalism/ project management] right now. Do you know anyone who works in the industry who might be able to help or advise me?”. This question will either end the conversation or land you a great new contact.
4. Think quality, not quantity
Some people hurl dozens of CVs a day into the ether and hope one sticks, while others are waiting it out for their dream job to come up. Some want to work for Google or Facebook or MI5, and no other employer will do. Of course, narrowing the goalposts, just like CV spamming, will only prolong unemployment.
The balance is to be selective but not too picky, and be open to opportunities, as you never know what doors it might open. When it comes to applications, think ‘quality over quantity’. No cover email is a red flag to companies who will know you’ve not spent any time or effort tailoring your application for the role. That’s why many will delete all CV-only applications because – and this is especially true for entry-level roles – they tell them very little about the applicant and it just looks lazy. A cover email says a lot more about your personality than a list of work experience, so you need both.
Video applications are increasingly popular, not as a replacement for the traditional CV, but as an extra feature to enhance an application, particularly where good presentation skills are key for creative or customer-facing roles such as in advertising, PR, sales, marketing or media.
These should ideally last one to three minutes, allowing you to introduce yourself and explain why you’re the right candidate for the job, and let your personality shine. Bear in mind that a poorly-executed video could do more harm than good; but if you are strong at communicating, and it’s well produced, then it could give you the edge.
5. Bring in some cash
Some graduates lean on friends and family after university, while job hunting. But many don’t have the luxury of a spare room or family to help them financially.
Use a simple spreadsheet to budget. Track your income and outgoings and set spending limits. There are, of course, apps for this. Look for part-time or flexible work so you have time to job hunt – be it office temping, fast food delivery, bar work, promotional work or freelance projects. You can create a portfolio on freelancer platforms, or sign up with agencies. This will bring in some money while also enhancing your CV, but remember you will have to submit a self-assessment tax return for any self-employed work you do.
6. Get networking
Networking is not all small talk with complete strangers at intimidating events. Start with people you know – family, friends, friends of friends. Invite them out for coffee and ask questions.
Chloe Garland, a career coach to twenty-somethings, and founder of Quarter-Life, told us: “Stop labelling it as networking. All you are doing is having a conversation with another human being. How would you react if someone came to you to ask you questions and find out about different opportunities? Chances are, you would feel flattered, not exploited.”
LinkedIn can be a really useful tool for finding connections in your industry. If you manage to make a connection, don’t email them your CV or ask about vacancies, just ask if you can meet them to find out more. Talk to them about their career, how they got into it and use the opportunity to learn while gently showing off your skills and personality. This is about learning rather than getting. Networking is a long play, not a hard sell.
7. Let go of what you can’t control
Don’t fret over things you can’t change, like youth unemployment, or whether you were selected for an interview. Focus instead on what you can control, like improving your CV, doing proper research, getting your application in on time, and learning from the experience – be it positive or negative.
Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius said:
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
Chloe Garland suggests using any free time to try out new things. She says: “This time is a great opportunity to test out different career paths through volunteering, shadowing and speaking to people. It is hard to just sit in a room and work out what you want to do with your next career move, so go out and try new things.”