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How to Conduct a Job Search that Doesn't Completely Suck

Anytime I’ve had to look for a job, it seems fraught with gut wrenching anxiety from the first time I edit my resume to the time I finally hear the good news.

Now that I’ve conducted a number of job searches myself and seen many clients go through the process, I’ve got a much different vantage point. They don’t have to suck. But first, let me share a story about one of my own job searches.

In a typical job search we may hear things like:

Looking for a job is a full-time job. You should treat your job search like a full-time job.

It’s a numbers game. You’ve should be applying to jobs every day. The more applications you fill out, the more likely it is that you will get a job.

These are the types of things I said to myself in 2001 when I was laid off from an advertising firm after many of our dot com clients dot.bombed. The economy was struggling, 9/11 pushed the country into panic, and since I was relatively new to Portland, my network was pretty small. Money was tight. I felt guilty about spending money on anything, even a $4 cheap-seat movie. Looking at job boards, sending resumes and filling out applications was a slog through job purgatory, draining and demoralizing. But anytime I wasn’t working on something search-related I felt guilty.

As a result, I got more and more discouraged and depressed. I didn’t know that many people, I was bored to death and applying for jobs was a tedious, exhausting process.

Finally, I was hired through a connection with people I’d previously worked with. I’d been in contact with them right after getting laid off, but it took a few months for things to sort themselves out.

And here’s my point: Losing a job is painful, but I created a whole lot of unnecessary suffering by feeling guilty and draining precious energy by applying for jobs I didn’t want, but thought I “should” apply for to make it look like I was trying.

I got a job in the midst of a terrible economy not because I felt guilty and filled out a bunch of applications but because I kept in contact with one person.

One person. One job.

That’s all I needed.

So, I’m here to tell you a job search does not have to suck you dry. It certainly can be excruciating, but it doesn’t have to be. I’d like to bust a few job search myths and share with you what I tell my clients.

Reach out to people you like and who like you. If you are one of the many, many people who avoid networking, this advice is for you. Start by making a list of people you have worked with in the past who you really enjoyed working with. Then add on people you like, but haven’t connected with. Who haven’t you talked to in a long time that it’d be nice to catch up with, regardless of whether they have any connection to your industry? Sound weird? Hear me out.

First, one of the toughest parts of a job search is the isolation. Nearly every job seeker I talk to struggles with this. By making a point of reaching out to people you like and simply haven’t spoken to, you generate some energy. Don’t know what to say to them? Embarrassed about losing your job? That’s why I want you to talk to people you like, not the people you “should.” By talking to people you genuinely want to, you will boost your own energy, likely gain some confidence and camaraderie about being laid off (most of us have a war story or two to share), and I suspect you will feel better after talking to them.

Secondly, you never know where your next job will come from. Most of my jobs I have found through some backdoor, random, out-of-the-blue connection.

It’s not a numbers game; it’s about genuine connection and appreciation for people and the work we do. Being engaged in your industry and profession serve you far, far better than spending eight hours a day applying for jobs online or obsessing about your resume and cover letter.


A recent client of mine HATES networking. As an extreme introvert, he could easily go days without talking to another human. When he was laid off, he reached out to one person (by email) he used to work with and that friend passed his resume along to the hiring manager who was desperately looking to fill a position, during the holidays, when no one is hiring. He met with the hiring manager, and then had a six-hour day of interviews on the Friday before Christmas. The interviews went well. He is waiting for the manager to come back from vacation. Fingers crossed, he’ll have a job offer next week.

One person. One job.

Instead of obsessing about his resume, he worked in the garden and played video games, which he knows will occupy his restless mind and alleviate the anxiety he is sure to manufacture if he spends all day looking for jobs.

Start your day with something you truly, truly enjoy. I mean, really enjoy. Not the thing you think you should do because now you finally have the time — unless that’s the thing you actually enjoy. Start your day with it — and set a time limit so it doesn’t become your focus for the whole day. Whether it’s simply drinking coffee and reading a book, walking your dog or playing a video game, it just needs to be something you actually enjoy. What matters is that it’s something that gets you out of bed and starts your day with a nice dopamine hit and energy.

Create a daily or weekly routine that works for you. People are used to their day being scheduled with meetings and projects and deliverables. Take that away and most of us feel a little lost at sea. When is your best time of day to do job search-y stuff? When do you like to tackle manual chores vs. creative or complex tasks? Having a routine can help you balance job search stuff with fun. Just because you are not working doesn’t mean you have to be productive ALL THE TIME. Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Come hell or high water, that’s the thing you do. What project would you feel AWESOME about completing while you’re off from work? We like to accomplish things and be productive. When that need isn’t being fulfilled by work, we can feel sluggish. So, take on a project and do one small thing to get started on it. Today.

Often the hardest part of a job search is managing the anxiety that naturally comes with it. It’s not about how much time you spend obsessing about your resume or how many job offers you can cultivate. It’s about finding the one that works for you.

If you would like some help with managing the anxiety and stress related to your job search, email me and request a free consultation. I can help in only 30 minutes on the phone or over coffee. Did I mention it’s free?

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