The larger and more diverse your network becomes, the more powerful a job searcher you’ll be.
Job search got you down? It happens. How could it not? It is a tough time for all. You feel helpless at times and are at the whim of what seems like a never-ending uphill battle. With an empty stare you look at your phone, willing it to ring, waiting for that magical sound of someone trying to contact you in your time of need. You imagine someone calling – about a hire, an interview, a rejection even? Sometimes you do not care which – as long as someone is reaching out. In essence, you are waiting idly for something to happen. As we all know, idle hands are the devil’s work.
So what to do?
Here’s a simple idea that may seem outlandish at first, but trust us on this one, it works. Get out and do something. Choose a particular time each day and devote it to the heavy lifting of job searching: resumes, applications, return calls, Linkedin/Glassdoor research. However, also choose a time slot to tune out of that mode completely (do stay connected hourly in case a call or email comes through) and get yourself out of your hamster wheel and start looking to do something new.
Now, here’s the secret. Do not do passive things. Attending a movie may make you feel good for an hour, but it is not going to help you find a job. No, we are talking about stepping way outside your comfort zone and doing things you’d never normally choose to do. Moreover, this may involve changing your perspective and attitude, even if temporarily. This is a time of change, of rebirth. Your future is uncertain, so embrace that change.
Go to the library and look for community events to join in – cleanups, book groups, yoga, it makes no difference what the activity is – provided there be new people there to meet and network with that are outside your normal social circle. By looking outside the box, you engage with entirely new people, each of which has a friend, or a friend of a friend, who may know someone who has an open job, or can introduce you to an entirely new industry. It is also about perspective, by exposing yourself to a new group of people, you are broadening your view of the world. Think of it as LinkedIn, but with real people. Instead of counting virtual connections, count real connections. Try to add friends and colleagues or peers to your contacts list, but be organic about it.
Don’t think there is value in this? LinkedIn just sold to Microsoft for 28 Billion dollars. People thrive when they are connected.
Meet, engage, befriend, and let the natural connection of human interaction take place. You would be deeply surprised how effective this strategy can be. We tend to gravitate toward the expected and often stick within our comfort zones, especially when it involves a circle of friends. Take this time to expand your circle into unexpected places.
Pick a few charitable organizations and volunteer. Teach someone something you know a lot about, or learn something you know little about. Don’t approach this as finding people to badger for work, approach it as meeting new people and finding out how their world works. Be honest, tell them you are between jobs and looking to find yourself, and leave it at that. Plant the seed that you are looking for work, but don’t push it. Be vulnerable, listen to their stories, ask about their experiences. Be open to anything (you have time!) and make it a point to learn something from every person you meet. This includes your recruiter. We know a lot, but it takes an interest from you to bring that information out.
Sure, it sounds crazy, and you are wondering how this will ever get you a job. It probably won’t, directly, but it teaches you how to engage and relate to others that are not like ourselves. When you think about it – every conversation equates to a job interview – an assessment of you by someone who is not you from across the table. The more likeable, flexible, and relatable you appear the more likely you are to be offered a job. If you are set in your ways, grouchy, or unwilling to listen to opinions other than your own, or simply have lost touch with the outside world, you are likely not to exist in that conversation very long. These activities primarily teach you how to be that flexible person.
So spend your downtime doing, not thinking. It does not matter what you choose to do. Sports, cooking, theatre, fishing, dancing. Just get yourself out and about, it does the mind good to be active, and the connections you can make with people can get you farther than you can typically go on your own. Keep the job search going and fight the good fight, but take the time to grow as a person and you’ll see doors opening up along the way.