You may or may not have heard, but right now, unemployment in the U.S. is at an all-time low, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is great news. It means that as a job seeker, it’s a buyer’s market. You can comfortably search for a job because organizations are actively looking to recruit and retain employees like you. But job searching can be daunting, and that phrase “looking for a job is a full-time job” becomes a broken record in your mind, making you feel overwhelmed, underqualified, and exhausted before you even start looking. (If that’s you, read this post!)
Or maybe you’ve been looking for jobs and selectively applying, but nothing is happening. It’s maddening, but it’s also (sadly) typical. You chat with HR reps, have awesome coffee interviews, and meet the team after falling in love with the open-concept office culture, only to be ghosted or — equally difficult — receive an un-personalized email rejection.
If you haven’t personally had the challenges with a failed or less-than-productive job search, I am going to make a bet that you have at least one friend who’s always looking for a new job but never actually gets one. You’re probably struggling with ways to be supportive because it just doesn’t make sense and you have nothing left to say. Anyone come to mind?
Job searching is challenging, no doubt. It requires the use of complex strategies, substantial self-control, and self-regulation as Price & Vinokur note in Employees, Careers, and Job Creation. More simply, job searching is not as easy as updating your resume and sending it out. It’s a process where job seekers need to juggle things like impression formation and management, uncertainty, information seeking, and interpersonal communication, usually all simultaneously. Not to mention, we rely on asynchronous channels such as application portals, emails, and phone calls, where it’s nearly impossible to know if your message was sent and received.
So, if you or a close friend has been struggling with trying to find a new job, despite the buyer’s market, here are three reasons why it may not be working and some tips to turn things around.
1. You have unrealistic expectations
Many people begin a job search after losing a job, which means they are already in a hurry to find something new, which can lead to one of the biggest unrealistic expectations: duration of the job search. For most job seekers, it takes them longer than they originally anticipated to find a new job.
A good trick is to expect that it will take one month of searching for every $10,000 you want to earn. So, it could take anywhere from four to six months, or as long as one year, to really secure your dream job.
Another big expectation people have is with communication. Job seekers tend to expect and desire feedback and updates throughout their job search. While many organizations have application trackers to alert you if/when your application is viewed and whether or not you’re still in the running, there are far more that fail to update applicants. Just as it does in dating, the uncertainty can seriously weigh on people.
Many organizations do not even review applications until after the opportunity closes, so do not expect an immediate response or view of your application. Also, remember that these are real people on the other side. They get sick, they go on vacation, they have to rely on others to do things in a timely manner, and sometimes, hiring gets pushed to the bottom of their to-do list. Try to be patient and follow-up after a reasonable amount of time, when appropriate.
Lastly, forget the phrase that “no news is good news” because, in job searching, no news can likely mean you’re not the right fit. Set a reasonable expectation that you will not hear back from everyone and that many organizations will not send a polite email letting you know that you’re not right. Try to assume that hearing nothing means you’re out so that if/when you hear otherwise, you’re pleasantly surprised rather than sad and feeling rejected.
2. You’re not selling yourself enough
As a college professor and a career coach, I review a lot of resumes and cover letters. One of the biggest pieces of feedback that I consistently give to others is that they need to be more specific about the impact of their work.
For example, rather than having a bullet point on a resume that says: “Design graphics to support social intranet and for internal emails” try revising it to be more precise, like this: “Design weekly graphics using Photoshop for the company-wide intranet and to supplement 25 internal emails per month.”
The second bullet point says so much more. It demonstrates someone’s expertise with a specific program and communicates how much of their job is dedicated to this type of work. Take a critical eye to your resume and quantify, elaborate upon, and share the results of everything you possibly can to showcase that you know how to work hard and make an impact.
Don’t forget about your online presence either. While the resume and cover letter are great opportunities for you to sell yourself, they aren’t the only opportunities. Many recruiters use LinkedIn to learn information about candidates that goes beyond what’s available on a resume such as connections, personal interests, recommendations, and other achievements. Keep this in mind when updating your profile, and make sure your profile is public so that interested parties can easily find you.
Employers also check out the other social media profiles of applicants to learn more about their personality to help determine whether or not someone would fit into the organizational culture. So, be sure that you’re updating your sites regularly and not being afraid to brag and share all the cool work and experiences you have. This post has some great tips about promoting yourself to help get a job.
3. You need better/different social support
A successful job search is directly related to both the behaviors of the job seeker and the amount of effort put forth. This is often referred to as the “intensity-effort” dimension, as a paper published in Personnel Psychology noted, but there is also the temporal-persistence dimension, which refers to how much effort and intensity is put forth over time, and is greatly influenced by our relationships with others.
When job seekers receive helpful and supportive messages from others, their job search intensity increases, as per a paper published in Communication Monographs. So, in addition to all the time you need to spend looking for a job, you need to carve out some time to evaluate who you’re turning to for support too. It’s essential to only surround yourself with those who are being supportive of your efforts.
Try to avoid the friends and family that provide unsolicited advice (like dropping by to say “hi” to an organization even though the application clearly states “no visiting”), are overly critical making remarks about you not searching hard enough, and all the “one-uppers” you might know. Instead, stick with the people that build you up and want to tell everyone they know that you’re looking for a job, hoping to connect you with the best opportunity.
If you’re trying to provide support to someone who’s job searching, politely ask if there’s anything you can do for them. Put the job seeker in charge of getting the support they need from you, which is sometimes, no support at all.
Still have questions and issues with job searching? Check out this article answering 10 questions about the job search for even more help.