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Surviving an extended job search

Advice on keeping positive during an extended period of job hunting, and how to make the most out of the experience.

Present economic conditions dictate that the job market is an extremely competitive one and as a result it is inevitable that some graduates will take longer to find their first position than in the good times. Extended job searches can not only be extremely frustrating whatever stage of your career you are at, but can fill you with self-doubt and leave you questioning your abilities. They can also take their toll both physically and mentally.

As a consequence, if you are to survive, you need to boost your resilience and find mechanisms to remain motivated and upbeat. But rather than it be an entirely negative experience, if approached in the correct way it can also prove to be a great developmental experience. The techniques acquired and levels of self-reliance built-up during an extended job search can remain with you for the duration of your career.

Talk to a professional

Continue to take a focused approach to your search but make sure you aren’t missing any potential avenues to employment, cautions Henry Noteman, operations manager at talent management consultancy, Integrated HR, a division of engineering specialist Jonathan Lee Recruitment which provides independent job search support.

“It is essential that you maintain confidence, self-belief and motivation,” he says. “One way to do this is to talk to recruitment consultancies which know your sector well. They will help you recognise your value and confirm that there is a way forward with your skills and talents. They may also suggest option you may not have considered before, as they see successful pathways to work for many people.”

Revisit your CV

If you’re months into your search it might be time to take a second look at your CV and the way you write covering letters. According to Noteman far too many people still rush into creating a historical CV and covering letters can be far too long and obtuse.

“Be succinct and sell yourself effectively,” he says. “The recipient is likely to be very busy, and will need to see how you meet their needs very quickly or else they will lose interest.” Also consider whether the structure of your CV is appropriate. “For example, if you have relevant qualifications which exclude many other applicants state them early in your CV, however if it is your experience which sets you apart, bring this in early, and refer to it in your cover letter,” he adds.

Stay fit and healthy

Studies frequently show that people who are physically fit and healthy are better able to cope with stress and exhibit higher degrees of resilience. Exercise not only boosts energy levels but also produces endorphins which are known to reduce stress, so use your lunch break to go to the gym, play sport or swim. If none of these activities particularly appeal you can still incorporate a brisk ten minute walk around the block as part of a regular routine.

Also try to adopt a sensible and healthy eating regime. Eat regular wholesome meals with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Drink plenty of water and reduce your tea, coffee and sugary drink intake as after the initial caffeine or sugar rush they can leave some people feeling low.

Keep on learning

While you have extra time on your hands, use it wisely to make yourself more marketable to employers. Undertake a course of study to acquire a new skill such as a foreign language. While not a pre-requisite for entry-level jobs in the engineering sectors, employers are increasingly sending their graduates to overseas offices and it might just help you steal a march on other candidates.

Looking for a job should remain your priority but with many more flexible ways to take a course these days it is possible to combine your job search with some form of learning. Voluntary work also provides an excellent opportunity to take you into new areas, build confidence and advance your people skills. A survey conducted by the professional networking site LinkedIn found that one in five hiring managers have made a hiring decision based on a candidate’s volunteer work experience. What’s more further study or voluntary work will also provide you with a welcome break from thinking about the fact that you’re not employed.

Know when to switch off

It’s important to remember that while finding a job may be pivotal it is only one aspect of your life and to maintain a healthy and positive outlook you also need to have a happy and fulfilling home life. Recharge your batteries by engaging in recreational activities you enjoy and treat yourself regularly. Spending lots of quality time with a strong support of family and friends will also help maintain a sense of perspective and take your mind off it as well keep your spirits up and improve your focus during the actual 9-5 job-search quest.

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