Archive for August 2009
Warning: I am about to make possibly the biggest understatement out there. A job search can be frustrating. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the way I see it, it’s the only time in our lives when we consistently put forth effort with no reward. Of course, people who are unemployed get jobs eventually. For those who keep rejection letters, even stack them up and file them, it is very easy to become hopeless and discouraged. It’s difficult to keep from slipping toward negative thoughts–or beating your head repeatedly against a hard surface after the 13,468th rejection e-mail, always the same standard 3 or 4 sentences with slight adjectival or prepositional variations, if the rejector was feeling particularly creative.
While you will get that job eventually, it’s a reward that you can’t immediately see. Everything else in life has an instant reward. Completing assignments for school gets you a grade. Cooking dinner for your family satisfies your hunger. Punching the clock at work gives you a paycheck. All these tasks have one thing in common: there’s instant gratification. Though a job hunt certainly isn’t futile, it often feels futile because the result of your daily actions (writing cover letters, tweaking resumes, pursuing online ads, conducting informational interviews, attending job search meetings . . . and the list goes on) see no immediate benefit. And this goes against the cultural mindset that if something doesn’t reward instantly, it’s not worth our time.
Yeah, I’m in this boat myself. I can’t help but get depressed on days when I’ve spent six hours in front of the computer putting together several cover letters tailored specifically to jobs I want so badly I can taste. Sometimes it feels like there are just no words to tell the hiring manager how much I want the job and how happy he or she could make me by replying with an interview offer. Sometimes I come across job postings that I feel were created exactly for me. I know I’m the best candidate. (This mindset is the first step to getting a job–if you don’t believe this, why should the hiring manager?) Now it’s up to me and the blank computer screen in front of me to convey that to the hiring manager. But so often, words fall short.
Sometimes I feel like launching myself through cyberspace, shaking every employee at this company and screaming my life story to them and how I’ve written hundreds of cover letters and gotten my hopes up over an equal number of possible job leads that were dangled in front of me and, without fail, snatched away before I could grab on. But they don’t care. And when days and weeks go by and I follow up in every way I can with that company I’m dying to work for, and I either get the phone cycle run-around until I’m told the position was filled long ago, hear nothing at all or receive the inevitable rejection, I just feel like what’s the POINT of this all?
Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results–Albert Einstein called this insanity. I’m leaning toward rewriting the quote books and replacing “insanity” with “a job hunt.” Or are they one and the same? When that job finally does come along, will we even be any use to our employers because we’ve been driven out of our right minds by the numbing, depleting daily tasks of the job search? Maybe I’m taking an overly dramatic stance. Maybe a better way to look at it is that the reward is proportionate to the effort. It’s certainly not easy to find one, but landing a job does provide a way to make a living for yourself and/or your family while pursuing your passion. If you find the right job, you’ll end up doing what you were created to do. I guess it’s worth the effort in the end. If it doesn’t drive you crazy, that is.
As a Type A personality, you all know people like me, or maybe you’re the same way. I need things to be in order. I need a neat workspace, and even my “clutter piles” are organized. I’m not sterile in my cleanliness, but compared to a slob, I’m immaculately clean. And I run on a schedule. I show up somewhere when I say I’m going to be there. I’ll admit it; sometimes I can be inflexible. It just goes along with my personality and the fact that I need things to run a certain way because it’s my MO. It’s just how I do life.
I think there are perks and downfalls to being a Type A personality. Obviously, I’m organized, and I rarely lose important things. I stay on task, and for the most part, everything that needs to get done gets done. But it can also be a “boxy” lifestyle. I’ve “boxed” myself into routines that, after 22 years, are uncompromiseable because we Type A’s don’t do compromise well (a downfall). Also, spontaneity is great, and everyone needs it from time to time, but when I choose to do something that wasn’t originally scheduled into my list of things to accomplish that day, I can’t help but feel guilty.
Nevertheless, if I can give any advice to anyone in the job hunt along with me, I’d say that setting goals is probably the single most important thing you can do if you want to eventually be employed. Whether you’re Type A or Type B, goals are important. There are thousands of psychological studies out there about the importance of striving to meet goals. It makes us feel like we’re working toward a purpose. As human beings, that’s a natural tendency that we have. Goals give us motivation to do what we have to do, and they give us a focus.
For the more laid-back folks out there, don’t laugh at me. You may not sit down every night and create a List of Things to do Tomorrow (something I’ve done for years and works well for me, but hey, I respect that it isn’t so for everyone), but at least form mental goals. Ask yourself what you’d like to accomplish this week, and make a point to take actions that will lead to the fulfillment of those goals.
For those who are in between Type A and Type B (A 1/2??) maybe make a weekly list of goals. Each week, evaluate your progress. But realize that the world won’t come to a crashing halt if you don’t accomplish every single thing on that list. A risk of becoming too “list-y” is that you get depressed and hopeless when it feels like you just can’t accomplish everything you wanted to. This isn’t school, and the items on your list aren’t homework. You don’t get a failing grade for only completing 60 percent of the items on your list. Only you evaluate this list–no one else.
Be sure to do other things that aren’t on the list, too–exercise, go shopping, go out to dinner with friends. And don’t write all this on your list because then these things start to feel like chores. And when you look at your list, you’ll subconsciously have a panic attack because of everything you “have” to do (been there). The pleasurable items will begin to feel like obligations, and you’ll feel like a marathon runner in the endless race against time to do a million things that can never realistically be done in a day or a week.
Roll with the punches. Amend the list as need be. But do set some general goals. For instance, one of mine this week is to contact some alumni from my college who are working at publishing companies, magazines and communications companies. I’m going to see if they have any advice for me about landing that first job with an English degree. Another goal is to work on my website (which, due to an excess of networking meetings last week, I haven’t had time to play with anymore since I bought the space). Those are two things that will probably take awhile. So if I don’t get both completely finished this week, that’s okay. I realize that going in. No one’s going to evaluate your progress except for you. Want to get a job? Make some progress. Set some goals. It can make a huge difference.