Three ways to stay optimistic while searching for a job

Last week, we blogged about how self-knowledge is a key component of a successful job search. The post sparked an interesting discussion and was a good reminder of the complexities of job seeking that go beyond resumes and networking etiquette.

Looking for a job can be many things: exciting, tiring, inspiring, and deflating. No matter the ratio of ingredients, it’s often like being on your own personal roller coaster. Just last night, I overheard an elated new job-lander talking on her phone. She was shrieking into the receiver in a way that turned out to be joyful, but easily could have been taken as terrified. “I got the job, I got the job!” she cried, and as I passed she was launching into the sea of details. Talk about a melodrama! Of course, this is the happy emotional state we all hope our job searches are headed for, but what about the meantime?

Remember: sometimes it’s the little things that keep us happy. (Photo Credit: Peyri, Creative Commons/Flickr)

Feeling discouraged is a top complaint of job seekers, and how could it not be? If you’re doing your homework, you’re setting yourself up for regular dissection and rejection from a range of audiences. But you don’t have to stay mired in the blues. Consider these stay-on-top tips:

Create a routine. The same advice that helps anyone facing a tough transition can work wonders for job seekers. If you’re unemployed, don’t sleep until noon one day and get up at 7:00 the next; try not to cram all your LinkedIn tasks into a four-hour period and then lose touch for two weeks. Setting up even a basic routine while you search for a job (perhaps a daily cocktail of one part surfing the want ads, one part networking, and one part researching your field—with a sprinkling of fresh fruit breaks and walks around the block) can really help keep you grounded and feeling like you’re doing “something,” even if that thing isn’t always getting a job offer.

Explore alternatives. This one is taken directly from the brain of Dick Bolles, author of the deservedly ubiquitous What Color Is Your Parachute?. No matter how grim your employment options may seem in the dark of night, you always have options; sometimes it’s only a matter of illuminating them. For example, if you’ve been pursuing work in a certain field, try identifying two other fields you’d enjoy working in. If you spend most of your time visiting job seeker websites, look through a newspaper for a change. Just as leveraging the power of biodiversity serves evolution in nature, so leveraging the power of options serves the discouraged job seeker. Bolles writes extensively about this conviction in Parachute, but a mini version can be found in this edition of the Job Hunters Bible newsletter.

Don’t forget to live. All work and no play will not only make you dull, it will also make you less productive. All manner of studies and experiments show that our brains generally thrive on variety—not frenzy, but not repetition, either. So be strategic: pick enjoyable break activities that have natural starting and ending points, so you don’t wind up lost in Facebook or on an interminable phone call with your grandmother when all you wanted was a brief respite from salary surveys. Try balancing two hours of hardcore job listings searches with 20 minutes of cereal eating, funny episodic blog browsing, podcast listening, or even a nap (just set the alarm!). Then go back to work feeling refreshed.

When all else fails, I like recalling the great proverb “this too shall pass.” Because even if you’re feeling down-and-out now, one day you’ll be shrieking joyfully to a friend on the phone. That’s life.

Your turn, job seekers: tell us how you keep from feeling discouraged!

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April Greene was an editor at
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    • 2gnoME
    • July 16, 2012

    Great post! We agree with “All work and no play will not only make you dull.” Doing this is usually a lack of self-knowledge! We’d love your feedback on our site where we help people gain self-knowledg and awareness!

    • Eugene Dugan
    • July 17, 2012

    Now I can say, this post made me realize that there’s nothing wrong being optimistic. My favorite line is “All work and no play will not only make you dull, it will also make you less productive.”

    • Ann
    • July 17, 2012

    Great post, thanks April. It definitely is a roller-coaster! Especially when a prospective employer sends an email stating “we believe that you are a strong candidate and you are in the final pool of those being considered for the position” (an actual email I got), only to leave you hanging for 2 months and then send another email saying you were not selected. Ahhhh!! And on top of all that, it’s a job you KNOW you’re over-qualified for. I try to remain humble and optimistic, and even put myself in the shoes of the employer, understanding that they are busy, maybe lacking resources, and overwhelmed with applicants. But the whole job search seems so often impersonal – I have no idea where these online applications I’m filling out are being wired to. Possibly going into empty space or getting lost… who knows. To make the process somewhat more enjoyable, I put on soft music in the background :). When I’m really down and discouraged though, I tell myself the same thing – “this too shall pass.”

    • Guest
    • July 18, 2012

    Thanks for the article! I have been unemployed for a little over a year and I’ve had a lot of bad luck in trying to land that job. It’s hard to stay positive some days, but taking these little breaks definitely helps.

  1. Thanks for writing, everyone! And way to work at staying upbeat even in tough times. Three cheers to your continued perseverance and success.

    And I was glad to have a walk through the 2gnoME site — I love the concept, and think you have a lot of good ideas. Thanks for sharing!

    • Gill Lamb
    • July 18, 2012

    I needed to read this today especially waking up this morning and feeling really down

    • Janet Brantley
    • July 19, 2012

    This made my day! I’ve been feeling down lately since I haven’t got a job right now. Being optimistic at a time like this will help me. Thanks for this!

    • Soph
    • July 20, 2012

    Thank you for your advice! I’m a fresh graduate and still unemployed. I’m getting pressured now but I know I’ll find the right one. I’m not just sure when. Lol. “This too shall pass” is also my mantra in life. Haha

    • Galen
    • July 20, 2012

    Another great break activity is exercise. Just 5 or 10 minutes on the exercise bike or the abslide breaks up the time, boosts your energy and self-esteem, plus helps you be your best when that interview finally comes. (I needed a new interview suit when I dropped a full size – not a bad side effect!).

    • Richard Anderson
    • July 20, 2012

    Being optimistic while waiting for the right kind of job for you really matters. You just have to keep the faith and learn to wait. Worth the read! Helped us a lot!

  2. Great point, Galen. Exercise provides an awesome mind-body switch-up when you’re spending blocks of time sitting and focusing. And the side effects can indeed be very pleasant!

    • Raymond Lafreniere
    • July 23, 2012

    The above information or should I say the useful tips helped me a lot especially right now cause I’m still i n search for a good job. Better stay optimistic!

    • Courtney
    • July 24, 2012

    I needed to read this. Positive reinforcement is so nice when I’ve been spending my weekdays at my current job of looking for a job up and down and up and down and you get the picture. 🙂 Thanks. I’ll definitely keep these things in mind. Good luck to everyone out there, like me, who’s a seeker.

    • Lynn
    • July 25, 2012

    OMG!!! I really needed this today. I’ve been unemployed for a little while now and it has been really hard for me to stay optimistic. Thank you so much for this… “This too shall pass” I say this daily…

    • The hammer toe lady
    • July 25, 2012

    keep ’em comin’ DaMiss! LOVE YOU!

  3. Thanks, Mom!

    • Sophie Rosenberg
    • July 27, 2012

    April Greene you have no idea how much this post made me realize so many things! Really inspiring! More power!

  4. Awesome, Sophie! I’m so glad you got something out of it.

    There’s so much emphasis on the strategic/tactical side of job searching, it’s great to see people paying attention to the personal/lifestyle side as well. It’s just as important!

    • Scott Mathews
    • July 31, 2012

    Call me crazy, but seriously this made me burst into tears. I still don’t have a work right now which made me think that there’s something wrong about me until I’ve read this! Inspired and helped me a lot!

    • Keri
    • October 23, 2012

    thanks so much for this article, i am inbetween jobs at the moment and it gets hard at times, i just need to be positive and more grateful that i am currently living at home with my parents who are supporting me financially, the main thing is that i need to stop comparing myself to my friends, seeing them in high powered positions makes me depressed, but no more that is their life journey and this is mine, God has a reason for me being here and i am going to take it one day at a time. so from sunny south africa-bye 🙂

  5. Pingback: Is it time for a job seeker Bill of Rights? | Idealist Careers

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