Nearly two years ago my then beautiful girlfriend, now my gorgeous wife, quit her job and moved to Maryland. Over the next month, she faced an adversity some are now facing, the seemingly endless futility of searching for a new job. She was jobless for quite a while, sending out dozens of resumes and cover letters a day, and falling deeper into the pit of futility with each passing day. While she didn’t feel actual financial pain, she was feeling the pressure of not earning money but still spending it, on rent, groceries, etc. It was that pressure and her ingenuity that resulted in these three morale boosting tips we discussed over dinner the other night.
The key behind each of these tips is that they’re designed with a single aim in mind: boosting your morale. Sometimes it’ll feel like finding a job is a numbers game, where you send out hundreds of resumes in return for a handful of callbacks and an even fewer number of actual interviews. That’s because it is a numbers game and it is just as important to keep your chin up as it is to keep sending out your resume.
Aside: On Being Fired
Let me briefly tackle an aside for a moment. If you were let go from a company, don’t feel bad. Despite what the numbers may indicate or what the pundits may say, we’re in an economic slowdown that has companies letting people go. If you were fired in a time of prosperity, perhaps you might feel bad about yourself. However, given the economic climate today, it’s just as likely mismanagement on the part of your company (in planning, projecting, etc) has as much to do with your departure as you do. Either way, being fired is not the worst thing in the world and to think that is counter-productive. Perhaps this is the opportunity you’ve always wanted, a chance to look inside yourself and figure out what it is you actually want to do. Don’t squander it by going down a dead-end path for the sake of money.
Onto the three morale-boosting tips…
Track Your Progress
The first step in her job search was to build a spreadsheet of all the companies she was interested in. The next step was the track what she did with each of those companies, whether it’s calling them up, visiting their offices, or sending a cover letter and resume. This lets you accurately track your progress and builds structure into your work.You have zero control over whether the company responds but you have control over your level of effort. You alone control how many resumes, cover letters, and emails you send out. If you don’t track your own progress, all you’ll focus on is the fact that no one has responded and it will disenchant you.
Hand in hand with tracking your progress is setting achievable goals for yourself such as number of resumes sent, or number of companies contacted, or number of companies identified to contact in the future. You have to feel success in the things you can control, effort, because you can’t control anything else.
Do Something Else
You can only job search for so long before you start feeling burned out, so do something else. If you have a choice, pick up something that gives you a sense of accomplishment or improves your skills. If you’re a software developer, perhaps you can use this time to brush up on your programming skills by building side projects. If the prospect of something that close to your real work is discouraging, pick up an entirely different hobby like gardening or running.
What you want to do is get that feeling of accomplishment and success because it’ll give you a strong moral boost. You want to be able to look back on your day and say: “I sent out five resumes and I planted a bed of roses, that’s a pretty good day.” or “I set up my company tracking spreadsheet, hit the gym for an hour, and cooked up a nice little dinner.” Honestly, those two examples are probably more productive than most people are in 8 hours at work.
Read What Color Is Your Parachute
I haven’t personally read this book but my wife said it was great when she was looking for a job. What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles has been lauded in many places and I would take a trip to the library to check it out. My wife said that the most poignant part of the book, for her, was the section that explained how this should be an exciting time in your life. It’s one of the few times that you can honestly give yourself an assessment and decide what you really want to do with your life.
If you left or were laid off from a job in the financial services industry, now is a great chance for your see if you want to try something else entirely. Maybe you went into a career for the money but not because you loved it, now is your chance to try something you truly enjoy. I’m sure there is more to the book than that concept but that’s certainly a good point.