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Keep Your Chin Up

How to Stay Positive During a Long Job Search

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Businessman packing up box in office

This man doesn't know it yet but he will be out of work for a while.

Image Source RF/Cadalpe / Image Source / Getty Images

Losing your job is devastating both financially and emotionally. You feel rejected and worried about the future. You embark on a job search as quickly as you can with the hope that you'll find a job quickly. When the weeks without an offer turn into months, you begin to despair. Your severance package, if you were lucky enough to have one, and unemployment insurance has kept you from dipping into your savings but those resources won't last forever.

In a tough job market, even those who are extremely talented can be out of work for months at a time. While it is hard to be optimistic that things will turn around soon, it is imperative that you keep a positive attitude. Your own emotional well-being as well as the impression you make on potential employers depend on it. Here are some things you can do to keep your chin up when it feels like your job search is in dire straits.

  • Treat your job search like a job. That means you should spend about eight hours on it each day. Get up on the morning at the time you did when you were employed and stop working no later than when you left your job for the day. Being proactive may contribute to your positive outlook.
  • Don't forget to take breaks. While you should spend a respectable number of hours on your job search, you should take time away from it too. You must take a lunch break everyday, for example, and spend a few hours in the evening doing something you enjoy. Read, work out or spend time on a hobby. During this down time, don't pore over job announcements, rework your resume or practice job interviewing techniques. There is one exception. You can network during your downtime. Make plans to meet friends or acquaintances for lunch, dinner or coffee.
  • Take the time to do things you don't have time to do while you're working. The one good thing about unemployment is having a somewhat flexible schedule. This gives you the ability to occasionally take time off during the day to do things you couldn't do when you had (and won't be able to do when you once again have) a job with regular hours. So if you want to go on your child's school field trip during the week, go for it. Have lunch with an old friend who can cheer you up. You can make up for lost job search time that evening.
  • Take on household chores you don't have time for when you are employed. When you were employed, there's a good chance you came home from work exhausted each day. The last thing you may have wanted to do was tackle a chore like cleaning out the closets or painting the den. Since you will probably tend to your job search from home, you won't have a daily commute to deal with. Therefore your day will end a bit earlier and you may not be quite as tired as you were when you had to contend with traffic or crowded buses and trains. You'll also have some excess energy to get rid of before you retire for the evening. Those chores you put off can be just the thing you need to help you feel like you've accomplished something concrete.
  • Volunteer. Look for a cause that you feel strongly about—one that can also use your skills and talents—and donate your time and energy to it. If you can work on this project during weekends when you won't be working on your job search anyway, that would be best. If you can't, it may be worth taking a few hours off from job hunting. Volunteering may provide a great opportunity to make connections and it will definitely allow you to do something really good. It can make you feel better when you are helping others. Just be sure not to abandon this gig entirely when you find a paying job.
  • Learn a new skill. Learning something new can make you feel better about yourself in addition to making you more marketable. Since this is a time when you may not have a lot of extra money to spare, look for free online courses and low cost courses available through continuing education in your community.
  • Join a job hunting support group. You can find a list of these on the Riley Guide. Also check local libraries, houses of worship and community centers. Share your experiences with others who are in the same situation.

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