“You can't tell me I wasn't qualified for at least half if not a third of them,” the Twitter user wrote. “Just wanted to share this with anyone who feels like giving up.” The tweet went viral, receiving over 300,000 likes and thousands of comments from other users expressing similar struggles with their own job hunts.
To be sure, finding jobs in today’s market can be discouraging and, often, it can take a lot longer than expected. Sometimes it feels like, no matter what, the end just isn’t in sight. And, though the country's unemployment rate stands at roughly 3.9% — a 30-year low — for many millennials, finding a job is still a huge challenge. Young professionals today must juggle crushing student loan debt, skyrocketing living costs, and a rapidly evolving hiring market. And, for recent grads, these problems can be especially pronounced. So, what’s a job seeker to do?
Moriah John understands these struggles firsthand. From January to June of this year, she was unemployed. During this time, John estimates she submitted between 250 and 300 job applications, and though she did manage to get several interviews, she did not receive many follow ups. “I still had my savings and I was in school for my Master's degree, so I didn't worry right away,” John told Refinery29. “It wasn't until the end of April when I'd run out of my savings that I began to panic.” John developed a system, tweaking her resume and cover letter templates depending on the industry and position type she was applying for. But, looking back, she believes her negative mindset was a big reason for her lack of success in the the first several months of her search.
For Maddie Boone, a recent graduate as of May 2018, job hunting as a fresh grad presented significant challenges. Starting in August, Boone began applying all over the map — from jobs in public relations, marketing, to advertising. She agonized over every detail of her resume and cover letters. And still, Boone was unable to secure a job for several months. “Aside from the experience and education associated with job searching, the unfortunate thing was that a great deal of my efforts were for naught,” Boone told Refinery29, noting that she wishes she had waited until graduation season to apply. “Constantly applying to jobs and interviewing left me incredibly stressed out.”
Career coach Theresa Merrill believes that many job seekers, regardless of their experience level, are going about things all wrong. According to Merrill, finding a job requires creative initiative and a desire to think outside of the box and, if you have them, using personal connections. Merrill told Refinery29 that too many people still think finding a job is only about uploading a compelling resume onto an online portal and waiting, but says this approach is not always effective. “[My] clients sometimes send out hundreds of online applications and only get one response,” Merrill said. However, Merrill believes that it takes a lot more than an application to secure a job and recommends following up via LinkedIn or directly to the hiring manager. “Don’t just wait — take action beyond that.”
Merrill, who approaches job hunts from a sales mindset, says that many people who make the mistake of submitting online applications without any outside research, follow-ups, or additional communication, are selling themselves short. "In different ways, people sometimes equate selling with being too aggressive, but when people are afraid of being too aggressive, they’re missing the point,” Merrill said, noting that use of marketing strategies and soft introductions pegged to a company’s recent project or initiative is a far better way to go. “You have to be the squeaky wheel and create a top-of-mind awareness."
Still, developing this type of sales-minded approach is certainly not easy, and Merrill recognizes that looking for work can be difficult and exhausting. Being repeatedly rejected can wear down on anyone’s confidence and can affect job searcher’s feelings of self confidence and self worth — something John admitted she experienced firsthand. “Applying to so many jobs and getting no responses can do something to you mentally,” John said, admitting that at a certain point she began to question her qualifications. “It makes you not as confident in your skills [so that] when you do finally get an interview you start to question yourself.”
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin, psychologist and executive coach and partner at Dynamic Transitions Psychological Consulting, says that feelings of depression, worthlessness and anxiety are very common in long-term job hunters. Dr. Orbé-Austin says it's important to develop a practice of resilience, given that a job can often take months to land. She also recommends developing coping mechanisms such as a meditation practice, regular physical activity, and other self care activities that can help alleviate feelings of stress and rejection. Additionally, maintaining a daily and weekly routine can help make job hunters feel more grounded even though things are up in the air.
Dr. Orbé-Austin knows that unsuccessful job searches bring up a lot of unanswered questions, eat away at job hunters’ self worth, and open up space for negative thoughts and speculation about why they are being rejected. Given this, Dr. Orbé-Austin says it’s important for job-seeking individuals to maintain a strong social support network of people who truly understand their challenges: "You want people who can support you; [who] help you boot and rally when you need to and help you get up when you fall down,” Dr. Orbé-Austin told Refinery29.
After nine months of searching, Boone was finally able to secure a position as an account coordinator at an award-winning public relations agency this April. John also secured a job as a marketing specialist this past June after a rigorous interview process. John is grateful for the job she now has, and says she feels supported by her coworkers in her new role. “Being unemployed for six months was a tough and scary time, but it taught me a lot of lessons about work, life, and finance that I wouldn't trade for anything,” John said.
Both Boone and John learned from their job searches and feel that being able to talk about and reflect on their challenges was critical in pushing through. And, while utilizing effective job hunting strategies is important, Dr. Orbé-Austin feels the most crucial thing is to have a strong support network of people made up of people who are able to cheer you on as well as those who are able to provide more strategic support, such as help with cover letters.
As for Boone, having a support network made all the difference in surviving her grueling long-term search. “It is so important to talk about job hunt struggles and I am so thankful for my friends who were in it with me,” Boone concluded. “Not speaking about the stress and disappointment of job hunt struggles can leave you feeling insecure, lonely, and fearing for your future. Just remember: While the struggle is real, we are not alone.”