What to do when you don't know what to do
Here’s one of the most obvious statements I can make, but sometimes we all need to be reminded: Job hunting sucks!
It’s depressing, it’ll crush your soul, and it’ll make the heartiest of souls stop dead in their tracks. It’s good to be reminded of this, though, because sometimes we get pissed off at ourselves or at the world, we start doubting ourselves and our value.
Nope, it’s not you. It’s job hunting. It sucks. Case closed.
When job hunting has you in its icy grips and you’re not sure what to do, here’s what to do:
If you’ve been working diligently, sending out resumes, cover letters, and making contacts, but it seems like you haven’t been getting anywhere, stop it. Just stop. Get away from it for a while and get it out of your head. Like those people who work 70 hours a week thinking they’re getting SO much done, they’re really burning themselves out, and so are you. Put it away for a day, a weekend, a couple of days, or whatever it takes.
One of my favorite stories on this subject is attributed to Abraham Lincoln. “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four hours sharpening my axe.”
Finding a job is a big tree to chop down. It take a lot of work and a lot of sweat, but sometimes you have to take some time to rest and sharpen your axe.
Sometimes you rest, clear your head, sit back down and intend to work on applying for jobs, but it just seems overwhelming.
Crazy, isn’t it. Suddenly you can find 50 other things to do on the computer BESIDES applying for jobs. You feel like a fool, but you keep doing it.
In this case, you’re just overwhelmed. The mountain seems so high that you can’t take a step. It happens to the best of us, and here’s how you put it behind you.
First, set some SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely). A great SMART goal is to apply to 3 jobs today, or even to reach out to 5 new contacts today. You can even break that down by applying to one job by 10 a.m., another by 1 p.m., and the last by 4 p.m.
Need to break it down more? One of my favorite productivity tools is called the Pomodoro timer. Go ahead and Google it. And don’t pay for one; in many forms, they’re free. The Pomodoro timer is a scientifically proven method to make you more productive.
It’s simple — you work for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. Easy!
What you’ll find, though, is that 25 minutes of work seems very easy to handle, so you start working. After a bit, you check the time, and you’ve got 10 minutes left, so you begin to race the clock to see how much you can get done before your break. The break comes faster than you expect, you get up from your desk and rest for 5 minutes, which is just enough time to keep you from getting fatigued, but not so much that you lose your train of thought. Then you’re back at it.
Try it for a half a day. You’ll be surprised how much you get done.
One thing I’ve learned in job hunting and in life is that things come in waves. Either you have plenty of activity or none whatsoever, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
When things are super slow and you feel like the world’s ignoring you, these are my words of hope: It won’t last long. Things will pick up soon, so plan for it. Use this time to get all that necessary office work done applying for jobs, because the harder you work doing that, the sooner things will pick up and you’ll be too busy interviewing to apply for jobs.
Believe me, it happens all the time. I’ve spoken with scores of clients who are at their wit’s end only to have a surge of interviews or a job offer come without warning. Keep working; it’ll happen.
On the other hand, when you’re flush with interviews, don’t get used to it. Just like the quiet times when the world is ignoring you, your sudden popularity won’t last forever. Embrace it, do your best, and keep in mind that things will subside.
We all have times when we don’t know what to do. Those are the times when we need to regroup, reflect, set goals, and remember that change is always around the corner.