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Finding light in the job hunt: 7 strategies for staying positive during your search

Finding light in the job hunt: 7 strategies for staying positive during your search

  • Why is job hunting so stressful?
  • Is job hunting getting worse?
  • Can job hunting be enjoyable?
  • 7 Strategies for staying positive during a job search
  • 1. Stay organized and make lists 
  • 2. Don’t forget to take care of yourself
  • 3. Set realistic and attainable goals
  • 4. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative
  • 5. Maintain your professional network
  • 6. Don’t let the job hunt take over your life
  • 7. Let go of disappointment
  • Key takeaways

Winston Churchill once said, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts." Resilience is vital for success, and we’ll give you the strategies you need to stay positive during your job hunt, no matter what obstacles you encounter.

A job search is never easy, and very few people ever think to themselves, “Yay! I have to look for a new job!” Job hunts often involve worries about money, stability, or your future—that’s a lot to have on your plate. It can be very stressful, mentally and physically, and it’s easy to feel negative or dejected. It may be difficult, but you absolutely can learn how to stay positive during a job search. Think of it as an opportunity rather than a chore: a chance to reinvent yourself and start fresh. We’ll give you the strategies you need to maintain that optimistic, positive attitude that will help you take on the world (or at least keep you from throwing in the proverbial towel).

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Why is job hunting so stressful?

  • Is job hunting getting worse?

  • How do you enjoy job hunting?

  • 7 strategies for staying positive during a job search

Why is job hunting so stressful?

People generally prefer stability, and if you’re looking for a job, your life might be in a state of flux. That can make you feel anxious or worried and lead to stress. In fact, in a 2020 JDP survey of 2,018 people, 93 percent have experienced anxiety regarding job interviews. People are nervous about being nervous, too, as the survey also said that “not being able to answer a difficult question” (41 percent), “looking nervous” (20 percent), and “not coming off as intended” (16 percent) were also at the top of their lists. Additionally, according to a 2021 Pew Research survey, 49 percent of unemployed adults who are job hunting say they are “pessimistic” about finding a job in the near future; 18 percent are “very pessimistic” and 31 percent are “somewhat pessimistic.” That’s a lot of stress!

Is job hunting getting worse?

You might think we’ll tell you that it’s all in your head, but here’s the truth: job hunting is becoming more difficult. While just a few years ago, companies were working at warp speed to hire new employees, that trend has definitely cooled, especially post-COVID. The interview process is becoming more drawn out, with candidates (especially in the tech field) being subjected to multiple rounds of interviews, unpaid projects, or take-home assessments without any job offers in return. Companies are also receiving a lot more resumes for each position, including people who aren't qualified for the job. That's a lot of material for HR departments to deal with, considering many HR departments are themselves dealing with staff shortages

There's also the concept of "ghost jobs," where companies post jobs they have no intention of filling; it's just to expand their potential candidate pool for when they do have an actual opening or give the illusion of company growth. And let’s not forget the uptick in job scams, where people posing as recruiters set up interviews and offer what sounds like a great job as a way to get access to the applicant’s personal information and account passwords.

Statistical Insight

The job market itself isn't making job hunting any easier, with the February 2023 unemployment rate sitting at 3.9 percent (although that’s still lower than the unemployment rate for 2020, which was 8.05 percent.) Lastly, there are about 1.3 jobs for each unemployed worker, and the number of open jobs in February 2024 was 8.8 million, which was unchanged over the previous month, but down from a high of 12.2 million in March 2022.

Can job hunting be enjoyable?

Believe it or not, yes! While it may never fall under the heading of “fun,” job hunting can be made more enjoyable. It all depends on your attitude. Some ways you can liven up the process include:

  • Being open to new opportunities. You might find a new career in a field you hadn’t considered before. 

  • Structuring your job hunt in a way that plays to your strengths, whether that means attending social, in-person networking events or working solo on revamping your online portfolio.

  • Rewarding yourself for meeting job hunting goals, such as taking brief breaks after a round of applications, or buying yourself a small treat after a great interview.

7 Strategies for staying positive during a job search

While it might be frustrating at times, it's important to maintain a positive, confident attitude during your job hunt. Here are seven tips for staying positive during a job search:

1. Stay organized and make lists 

Keep a spreadsheet of the jobs you’ve applied for (or consider Career.io’s Job Tracker tool), and maintain a clean, uncluttered workspace. Consider making a mini-career path list of the positives and negatives of each job you apply for, your strengths, accomplishments, things you appreciate about your current job, and qualities you'd like your next job to have, such as more opportunities for growth, a commitment of diversity, or a culture of community involvement. Don't think about the negatives right now; it's important to focus on the positives.

2. Don’t forget to take care of yourself

It’s so easy to get caught up in the aggravating minutiae of a job hunt that you need to remember to take a deep breath every now and again to maintain your positive attitude. Periodically remind yourself that you’re a capable, resilient person who is capable of great things, and you deserve (and will absolutely achieve) success. Consider incorporating one of these mantras into your daily routine. 

  1. Every day, things are getting better. I am moving forward.

  2. Nothing that is truly meant for me will ever miss me.

  3. I trust myself. I am making choices that are taking me in the right direction.

  4. Confidence comes from action.

  5. I am capable of anything I put my mind to.

Additionally, don’t neglect things like sleep, eating well, exercising, drinking enough water, and doing activities that make you happy. Any activity that takes your mind off your job search, even for a little while, will go a long way toward keeping stress at bay.

3. Set realistic and attainable goals

Considering the current time-to-hire is about 44 days (or longer), you’re most likely not going to land your dream job in the next three or four days. Divide your job search into small, manageable, and achievable goals—think of it as your career “To Do” list. These small tasks might include revising one portion of your resume each day or reaching out to a professional contact. Once that's done, take a look at available jobs in your field to get an idea of who is (and isn't) hiring. Apply to only a small number of jobs per day, tailoring your resume for each one. This will keep the job search from becoming overwhelming, and you'll feel good each time you complete a task!

4. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative

Don't dwell in disappointment, even if things are taking longer than you had anticipated. Create a document of all the positive things you have going right now, and remind yourself of all your past accomplishments (and yes, winning the third-grade Spelling Bee counts!). Make a note of all the people in your life who have your back, like your family, partner, friends, and those in your professional network. Read this letter to yourself every day to remind yourself of all your good qualities. There’s a concept called “Manifestation,” which incorporates affirmations (like the ones mentioned above) as well as visualization and establishing clear intentions to get your thoughts lined up with what you want to have happen. Far from being a “woo woo” practice, manifestation techniques have the science to back them up, as having a growth mindset, for example, has been shown to help clarify your aspirations and meet your goals. That includes getting a great new job.

5. Maintain your professional network

Networking is a two-way street and thinking outside of yourself is vital in maintaining a positive attitude. Instead of thinking, “What’s in it for me,” consider what you can do for other people in your network, whether that’s reaching out to say hello, commenting on a post, or sharing an interesting professional article. Or go to a local event and talk to people in person! There’s strength in numbers, and cultivating an attitude of positivity and helpfulness is good for you and everyone in your network.

6. Don’t let the job hunt take over your life

Your professional life is important, but it’s not the only aspect of your life, so don’t get so laser-focused on the job hunt that you neglect everything else. Set clear timeframes for how much time you’ll spend every day doing research, sending out your resume, completing applications, and networking, and then stick to it. Keeping everything in balance is important for your mental health and positive outlook. Remember, you are more than just your career.

7. Let go of disappointment

Look, you’re not going to get an offer for every job you apply for. Even great interviews don’t always go the way you want them to. After you follow up on your application, instead of dwelling, acknowledge your disappointment, and, like Elsa from “Frozen” once sang, “Let it go” and set your sights on your next goal or application.

If you need a little career help, check out Career.io’s Career Coach service. With a 90% satisfaction rate, our coaches are ready to help you identify and set goals, establish a job search strategy, and offer workplace and career transition advice.

Key takeaways

  1. Searching for a job can be stressful, and it’s more stressful if you don’t have a plan, apply for jobs randomly, or lack self-confidence. 

  2. Job hunting has become more difficult and takes longer, due to staffing shortages, an increase in applications, “ghost jobs,” scammers, and the job market.

  3. The process of searching for a new job can be made more enjoyable, as long as you have a positive attitude, are open to new opportunities, and practice self-care.

  4. To stay positive during your job search, stay organized, make lists, set boundaries, network, and take good care of yourself.

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