Career Social Media — 05 October 2011
Job hunting? Keep calm, stay positive, and persevere!

Job hunting is tough, and what’s often most difficult is staying motivated and positive as you do your research, write dozens of cover letters and send out countless applications, only to hear the chirp of crickets in return.

A friend of mine (let’s call him Toby; not his real name, but he’s a regular reader of Firebrand’s blog!) left his job in search of “something better” about six months ago. He’s a digital creative with a good six or seven years experience, and left his position with a reputable, multi-national agency after just 18 months because he felt the reality of the position didn’t match the hyperbolic spin fed to him during the interview process. In short, he wanted a positive culture change and, on his final day, left the office full of optimism and with a smile on his face, convinced the best was ahead of him.

The next few weeks saw him dutifully apply to several targeted employers, and his previous experience, endearing personality and obvious talent made me and many of our friends think at the time that he would be snapped up in a heartbeat.

But guess what? It didn’t happen. The applications went out, but nothing was coming back in return; the silence was deafening. One interview here, a phone call there, but nothing concrete. Toby is a ‘glass half full’ guy at the best of times, but when I caught up with him about six weeks into his job search, I could tell he was feeling unsure of himself, frustrated, and was beginning to question whether he really was as talented as we all knew he was.

I relayed to him some wonderful piece of advice a dear friend told me when I too was stuck in the employment wilderness some time ago: just when you think nothing’s going to happen, something does. I explained that taking a positive change is never easy, and that things take time; there is a certain element of luck to any job search – the whole ‘right place, right time’ thing. I also suggested he take a day or two off from bashing out cover letters, tweaking his folio and being totally fixed on finding the right job to relax, take stock and reassess his approach.

He took my advice, went down the coast for a few days, and when we caught up the following week, he explained that taking the break was the best thing he could have done. He’d done some thinking, refreshed, and resolved to press ahead, but with a bit more patience and pragmatism.

Never one to take a scatter gun approach, Toby had at least a dozen applications out there around Brisbane, all targeted, thorough and complete. He was also a keen LinkedIn user and social media champion. About three weeks after his little break, he received an online message ‘out of the blue’ from a Creative Director of a well-known agency that he had long applied to (but heard nothing back from), offering him an interview. What appeared to have stoked this CD’s interest was Toby’s regular tweets and posts online about the industry he dearly loved, but at that particular moment wasn’t a direct part of.  His participation in online conversations and debate had obviously struck a chord, and had seen him stand out from the myriad of other faceless job seekers.

The rest, to use a well-worn cliché, is history. Toby ended up getting the job, with a great agency, competitive salary and a walk to work. To top it off, he met his current partner through this new job, and they’ve recently moved in together.

So what’s the point of all this? I think it demonstrates that timing, particularly with regards to the job search, isn’t always consistent with our best-laid plans. Disillusionment, frustration and self-doubt are par for the course when, despite all our best efforts, things just don’t work out as fast as we’d like them to. It’s important, however, to persevere. ‘Good things to those who wait’, but waiting for too long sucks, and in those moments of despair, it’s worthwhile to take some time out, relax and stay positive. I said there’s an element of luck to any job search, and there is, but luck, as Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca put it, ‘is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’. So keep your head up, stay positive, and persevere.  Just when you think nothing is going to happen, something will; just ask Toby.


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(15) Readers Comments

  1. I like the part where one takes a step back and reassesses his or her next steps.

    While taking a break during a job search may seem counter-intuitive, it really does help after the fact. The focus you regain is amazing.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Interesting advice.
    Very similar to creative problem solving in that the harder you try the less likely you are to crack an idea.
    So you walk away, go grab a coffee, or maybe a beer, and when you’re least expecting it along comes an idea.
    Don’t know why this happens, it just does.

  3. Great advice indeed. I am in a similar position to Toby (although my creative career is still very much in it’s infancy). I too quit my job- my first junior role, as it was primarily involved with the creation of junk mail. Full of optimism I was confident that I would find something pretty soon that would be another rung up the creative industry ladder, however things haven’t quite turned out like that.

    Rather than slave away at my portfolio and job letters everyday I make sure I take I good chunk of time to exercise, do yoga, play guitar and importantly do some free-spirited illustrative work that one doesn’t often get to do. These little recreational time-out activities have really helped me stay focused and stay positive.

  4. Great advice and perfect timing too. Im new to Auckland and have been searching for the right position that fits my background and passion. At start I was full of optimism and hope but after 8 weeks of searching for the right role I am now disheartened. However, reading your blog really put things to perspective. I’m now taking a step back to regain the positive energy I dearly need. Thanks!

    • What job are you looking for and can Firebrand help?

      • i was browsing this site and i thought id try to ask how do i get office based work when i dont have the experience i do have excellent IT skills (word , Excel , etc . up to Christmas last year i was working for a manufacturing company but due to injuring my hand at work had to give up manufacturing on the advice of my specialist, so i have to look for work in another sector > i have adone a course on admin , where i worked in a virtual officw

  5. I came to London from Australia about 2 months ago and have been in search of a journalism/editorial role since the day I arrived. I came here in search of a valuable career jump, international experience and the chance to work in one of the world’s biggest media industries. There are plenty of jobs going around; I’ve applied for close to 100 already. And I’ve been getting responses to my CV, had numerous phone and face-to-face interviews but am failing to be selected for a role. I’m pleased to see that I am attracting the attention of employers with my qualifications and experience and most have passed on feedback that I interview well. But I’ve always just missed out, or been their 2nd choice, because they decided to give the role to someone with a little more experience or a little more ‘edge’. Eight weeks into the job hunt and unemployment is getting old. Up until this point I’ve been very positive and haven’t complained about a single knock back yet but I’m starting to lose hope.

    What I’d love to know is, what more can I be doing to either maximise my chances of landing a role or standing out at (and after) the interview? I welcome any tips.

    • Hi Sharon

      Chin up, it’s a tough old market out there but your time will come. The advice I would normally offer to anyone in your circumstance would be:

      I would delve deeper with regards the feedback from the clients. It is human nature to not want to offend or upset and therefore we often receive stock replies rather than truly constructive feedback from interviewers.

      If you were to explain that all critique would be appreciated even more so if there is any negative and that you are just keen to improve on your technique or strengthen your folio.

      Ask a few more questions: By ‘interview well’, were there any aspects of the interview that you could improve upon, what would they like to have seen in your folio that would have made it more ‘edgy’, what have they felt in the past has made the difference with regards the candidates they employed?

      Also time to be selective. 100 jobs is a lot to apply for. Were all of those truly relevant to your experience? If your CV lands on someone’s desk too many times with regards a multitude of positions they begin to wonder whether you are a focussed professional or clutching at straws. It is better to only apply to those that you feel truly match your experience.

      Instead time to be proactive. Select the publications that you most want to work for and make sure the right person has the right work from you. Find the Editors details and send them either previous articles that fit to their content or better still produce something unique and innovative that will make them pick the phone up to you.

      AND don’t forget all those wonderful opportunities to write up to date articles online – get out and about in the best city in Europe, review bands, art exhibitions, plays, whatever takes your fancy and makes you relevant and ‘on the pulse’.

      Good luck and keep us all up to date


  6. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post with us.

  7. I’m pushing 6 months of job hunting now, now that’s disheartening! So many meetings starting with “we don’t have any work at the moment but you have a great CV”.

  8. Fantastic article Tim! Just the pick-me-up I needed. I am in Toby’s position of looking for the “right fit” job rather than lurching from one unhappy job to the next. It’s hard to keep the faith. However, I am really starting to look at what it is I want and rather than apply for all and sundry. So to keep positive, I’m doing creative things I like – my blog, playing my ukulele and doing some painting. Thanks for your pearls of wisdom

  9. So this is all about Cinderella story ?

    One day, my job will come…


  10. Pingback: It is not impossible to land a new job before Christmas, Career

  11. A good article to keep a Job Hunter motivated and positive. Thanks!

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