Job search depression: 11 ways to cope when you’re discouraged

Job search depression: 11 ways to cope when you’re discouraged

Not hearing back from employers? Not finding the right opportunities? Here’s how to reboot your job hunt and stay positive

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Crickets: There’s nothing quite as dispiriting during a job search. You’re not hearing back from the organizations you’re applying to or meeting with, particularly when you feel like you’re a great fit for the roles? It’s one of the biggest frustrations that Kelly Doyle, managing director of Heller Search Associates, hears from well-qualified IT leaders: “It gets discouraging when this happens over and over again.” 

Just as disheartening is failing to find opportunities that match your experience and capabilities. “In some cases, you’ve done nothing wrong; you may be the victim of an economic slump,” says Art Markman, the Annabel Irion Worsham Centennial Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Bring Your Brain to Work: Using Cognitive Science to Get a Job, Do it Well, and Advance Your Career. “Even then, it’s worth considering what you might do differently. Perhaps your industry sector is shrinking. Your job may be one that many companies are outsourcing or automating.”

[ Is it time to shake up your approach? Read also: 9 counterintuitive job hunt tips. ]

While the inclination may be to shelve the search, job-hunting IT leaders can do a number of things to reboot in such situations and better set themselves up to find their next position.

Consider these 11 suggestions:

1. Network in new ways

“My advice on this is to not give up, and try to think of creative ways to continue to network for a particular role of interest,” says Doyle. “Do you happen to know someone else in that specific company who can make a more personal introduction? Can you make inroads with the hiring manager or head of talent to get your resume into the right hands?” LinkedIn is your friend; use it to uncover untapped inroads.

2. Reassess your skills

If your industry is consolidating or your role is ripe for automation, it’s a good time to rethink your career direction. “You may need to retrain to stay relevant in the economy of the future,” Markman says. “It may signal that it’s time to consider alternatives and to find a degree or certificate program to acquire additional skills. Even if you’re at mid-career or beyond, you can acquire skills that will allow you to change the job you do. In fact, it’s a great way to stay mentally sharp.”

[ What training pays off? Read also: 13 top-paying IT certifications for 2019. ]

3. Rethink geography

The timing may be off for finding the perfect role in a specific location. If possible, consider expanding your search nationally. “Or if you must stay in your local market,” Doyle advises, “then being a bit more open on titles or the level of the role may be helpful.”

[ Read also: 10 cities with the best IT salaries. ]

4. Develop a routine

If you’re between jobs, it’s important to continue to do things that keep you focused and upbeat. “Searches are slow,” Markman notes. “You face a lot of waiting, and your habits around getting up and going to work have been disrupted. It’s easy to lose motivation.”

Instead of focusing on outcomes, turn your attention to the process. “Create a routine that’s productive but includes enough flexibility to take phone calls and interviews as they come up,” Markman recommends. “Check employment websites daily for new postings. Develop new job-related skills by taking classes in person or online, and by reading.”

5. Get out

Make sure to continue your face-to-face networking. Go to that industry event. Meet for coffee. “You never know what conversation will lead you to your next opportunity,” Doyle says. “And it’s just good for morale to be out talking with people.”

6. Review the data

“Ultimately, in a situation where you are deep into a search and making no progress, the data is telling you something is wrong,” says Michael Solomon, co-founder of 10x Ascend compensation advisory services for tech talent. “The scientific approach to this is to evaluate the problem and test one variable at a time.”

Some common culprits include resume issues, interview technique, skills mismatch, overreaching in title or compensation, or market softness. Seek out the root causes and address them. “Have a professional look at your resume, be realistic with your expectations, be open to interviews to get practice,” advises Gina Curtis, career coach for Employment BOOST and executive recruiting manager for JMJ Phillip Executive Search.


Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.

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