As students’ undergraduate careers come to an end, many are realizing that they will not meet
their goal of having a job lined up before graduation. For some, this may represent the very
first time they did not reach an important milestone they had set out to achieve. For those
who will be graduating this spring or summer, the media is brimming with stories about the
current climate for job seekers and many offer advice about driving an effective job search
campaign. Early careerists seeking a first job have a busy, stressful journey ahead.
Cultivating resilience is essential, as students and grads must prepare for both the positive
actions and negative outcomes that they will likely experience. Developing a framework for
resilience is as integral a part of the job-search process as establishing strategies for seeking
out appropriate roles and opportunities, and expanding their network.
Why is this so important? A career search process will inevitably consist of both positives
and negatives. Job-seekers will experience the triumph of identifying opportunities, creating
applications, and generating interest in their background. But they will also have to deal with
never hearing back about an application, being turned down, and not receiving constructive
feedback. And unfortunately, job-seekers should anticipate that this mix is 90/10, meaning
90% of the search will consist of non-productive, disappointing energy zappers.
Create a Personal Job Search Strategy
One must understand this reality while creating an individualized plan to counteract the low
points and build resilience. Here are some tips:
Mix it up
It is absolutely valuable to have a routine or daily discipline built into your job-search
process, as you need structure. But you should also mix it up, as if you are cross-training for a
sport. If yesterday was spent 100% on networking, make today’s focus industry and
company research. Or, if today you completed five job applications, use time tomorrow to
reach out to people on applications submitted a few weeks ago.
Micro-Actions Make Things Manageable
If any step of the job search seems overwhelming, be sure to break things into digestible steps
or micro-actions. Micro-actions build momentum and energy. Perhaps reviewing an entire
network of 500 contacts to pick people to reach out to seems like a daunting task – so cherry
pick five people that you find interesting and get underway. If filling in one more application
feels scream-worthy, start by only setting up a username and password. Take a walk, and then
come back to complete the rest. Just as a student creates a plan of small steps to prepare for
finals, creating outlines and developing study tools before writing an essay or preparing for a
test, job-seekers benefit from using micro-actions to create a more manageable process.
Build your new community
If you’ve returned home after graduation, approach it as if you just moved to a new city.
Create an infrastructure, as you are used to this from your college years, offering support,
discipline and motivation. Find issues that you care about and work to address them. Seek out
opportunities to volunteer, and work to be an active leader in these organizations. Your
involvement builds new skills and broadens your network with local leadership.
Enlist your troops
Actively enlist the support from family and friends as part of this strategy. Ask for help.
Share specific goals and request that family members check in with you regarding positive
tasks: “How many job applications did you complete today?” “Did you see any new
companies that you might be interested in applying to?”
While families can be sympathetic about the negative outcomes that impact a job seeker,
keep their energy focused on the controllable steps to maintain momentum.
The Gift of Support
If you are the family member of a disappointed job-seeker, recognize the reality of search
process dynamics and acknowledge that the 90% negative zone is hard work. The job search
is like training for a marathon – so rather than focusing on the award medal, ask “How many
miles did you log today?” Family members can certainly contribute to positive tasks as well,
such as building networks and assisting with searches for companies and roles.
Parents or grandparents should also consider the gift of professional guidance and support.
Arranging for career counseling or career assessment tools can be hugely beneficial if a loved
one is puzzled about mapping out meaningful career options; or needs help building a
comprehensive strategy, being accountable as well as executing the necessary tasks with
finesse and prowess.