Posted by: careerworks | October 18, 2010

What to do When Your Search Goes on Forever

Many job seekers have been on the hunt for that next opportunity for a long, long time. Some as long as a year and some even longer. So when can we talk to people we’ve already talked to for a second time?

We’re told that the the nation has been in recovery since June of last year, jobs have not been added nearly as fast as they were lost during the recession. According to an analysis published in The New York Times, and at its present pace, it will take almost a decade for the economy to restore all the jobs lost in the recession. That’s why so many Americans are finding that their job search extends for months, and in the worst cases a year or more.

People who have been looking for a long time ask, “What’s the best way to find a job when you’ve been out of work for a long time?”  Staying focused and determined in the midst of an ever-worsening employment picture is one of the toughest career challenges out there, says Eileen Wolkstein, a New York career coach. “But there are ways you can keep your spirits up and increase your chances while sharpening your long-term hunt for work.”

The most important tool in any job seeker’s toolkit is his or her personal network. Studies show that between half and three-fourths of all employees found their jobs by networking, says Orville Pierson, senior vice president at the outplacement firm Lee Hecht Harrison and author of Highly Effective Networking: Meet the Right People and Get a Great Job. He points out that “in tough times, employers cut back on recruiting spending. Online listings, job fairs, campus recruiting and print ads all decrease. So networking becomes even more important.”

Just because you’ve pursued everyone in your network once, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t connect again.  After several months have passed, circle back to your contacts and connections. You may have been asking unfocused questions when you were at an earlier stage in your search or things at their company may have changed.  You’ve probably gathered new information and leads and new thoughts about what you want to do and how you might help an organization. Don’t be afraid to share those new ideas.

Be specific about what they can do for you. Most job seekers hessitate to ask for help. In the perfect world you’ll want names of people you can reach out to and preferably you want to ask the contact to get in touch with those people on your behalf. This makes networking especially powerful.

Whatever you do, don’t abuse your network or get lazy about how and when you ask for help. If you can’t answer to the question, ‘How can I help you,’ then you don’t have the right to ask for help. Always do your homework. Even with your closest contacts, the more polished your presentation, the more creative they are likely to be with their thinking on your behalf. Don’t forget, people put their own reputations at stake when they recommend you.

What are some ways to expand your network? How about connecting with your alma mater? What about professional associations? Some job seekers work in small groups to exchange tips, leads and tales of frustration. Do some volunteer work; you’ll feel good about yourself and make new contacts.

An extended job search is often depressing. How do you keep yourself going after your 99th rejection? If this is the case, maybe you need to reevaluate your goals and strategy? The year mark is an obvious moment for reassessment.

Staying mentally and physically fit is also very important. It helps to smooth the highs and lows that job seekers can experience all to frequently. If you have a dog, walk him or her daily. If you don’t have a dog, borrow the neighbors.

If you’ve been looking for a full-time job, consider broadening your search to contract or part-time work. It could fill a gap in your résumé,  bolster your self-esteem, and your bank account.


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