How to job hunt when you’re unemployed
When job seeking is your only job, it can feel like a tough road. Here’s how to rally.
For a lot of people, it feels easier to find a new job when you’ve still got your old one. The research bears this out: In one study, employed people who are actively hunting for a job get more than half of the job offers on the table, versus unemployed workers who receive only 16% of job offers. What’s more, the offers were better for employed people.
When you’re unemployed it seems so unfair that more jobs are going to people who already have a job, and you wonder how you can achieve the same magic that employed workers experience. When you’re out of work and feeling out of luck, try these strategies to buoy your job quest.
Keep it positive
When you’re dealing with rejection—or simply non-response—for an extended period, it can be hard to keep your chin up. But drooping like the only person who hasn’t been asked to dance won’t do you any favors in interviews.
Changing your mindset can help. View this process not as an endless job hunt but as an opportunity to find the best fit for yourself. “Knowing your individual selling points is huge,” says Jessica Hernandez, president and CEO of Great Resumes Fast. “It’s going to help you present yourself in the best light to each employer and know what’s not a good fit for you.”
Not only does that lend you some self-assurance in interviews, but it gives you the confidence to say ‘No thanks’ when it’s not the greatest offer. “You don’t have to just take whatever comes by,” Hernandez says. “You can be selective, and those rejections don’t deal quite as bad of a blow.”
Keep your skills sharp by putting them to good use for a local nonprofit. “For me, as a recruiter, I’ve reached out to places like Catholic Charities or places that do resume reviews,” says Mary Warriner, a career coach in Niagara Falls, New York. “Find something in your niche.”
It may also be possible to pick up temp work or consulting gigs in your field. “A lot of times these lead to permanent positions,” says Karen Tucker, owner of online interview coaching firm InterviewOne.
Either way, your activities give you something to discuss in the same way you’d talk about a job you’re doing. It makes you seem active and involved. “And it’s great networking, too,” Warriner says.
Work on your weakness
Interviewers love to ask questions about your flaws: “What’s your biggest weakness?” or “What skill could you most improve upon?”
Whatever your answer, here’s your chance to solve the issue. “Maybe there’s a technical skill that you feel you need to improve on,” Warriner says. Take advantage of having more free time.
“That mindset shift of, ‘Right now my job is to find a job, but I’m also improving my skills and keeping myself current and relevant,’” Warriner says. “It helps with that mindset of being unemployed.”
Get some help
If you’ve been at it for a while and you’re not seeing results, it may be time to call in a professional. Sending out resumes and getting radio silence? Consider getting a resume review. Getting interviews but no offers? Get some interview coaching.
“I think it helps to have an objective outside viewpoint,” Tucker says. This is especially important if the position you left was one you held for years. The way you communicate may be a habit that doesn’t play as well outside your old company.
“Often you just don’t know what you’re actually saying or how it’s being taken… or you don’t have the right skills anymore.” Tucker says.
It’s more important than ever that you stay in touch with people in your field—but it’s not about sniffing out job openings. It’s about building relationships. Have lunches. Go to industry events. Ask for advice. The more you’re around, the more you might spring to mind when people hear of a job opening.
And as much as you can, stick to those who encourage you. “People get so down on themselves when they’ve been unemployed,” Hernandez says. “Find some positive career experts, positive people that you know. Run from the naysayers. It’ll help keep you positive, and you won’t feel desperate or like you need to jump at the first thing that presents itself.”
Stay up to date
Looking for a job while you’re out of work can feel very isolating and lonely, and it can be very easy to get discouraged. It’s important to stay in the loop on hiring trends, current openings, and search strategies. By becoming a Monster member you’ll get weekly job alerts as well as expert career advice emailed to you. Members can also upload up to five resumes to Monster, so recruiters can find you as soon as positions open up.