What makes the average job search difficult is the fact that you’re making no progress. It’s apply, apply, apply, apply, and when the stars align, you have a job.
Imagine on the other hand that you were getting consistent feedback and progress. Every day, you learn something new, and four weeks in, you know you’re 40% of the way through your job search, and that you can expect to have a good job by week 10. Even if the search takes exactly the same amount of time, it’s a lot less frustrating.
So the way to reduce negativity is to use a job search process that gives consistent feedback and progress. Now, I can’t guarantee that my process will get you a job in X weeks, but it will provide consistent feedback and progress:
1. Pick a very specific job title and company profile that you’re interested in. This seems counter intuitive — shouldn’t you be flexible when searching for a job? But consider the following situation: if Jane tells Judy that she wants to work as a social media coordinator at a startup with less than 50 people, and Judy hears about a social media specialist job at a company with 60 people, Judy will probably refer Jane. But if Jane tells Judy that she wants to work in online marketing, Judy will say “Oh, that’s nice” and promptly forget that Jane exists. It’s much better to be too specific than too general. As a personal example, I told people I wanted a job doing Lisp at a startup that does machine learning for marketing. I got a job doing SQL at a startup that does machine learning for sales, and it ended up being my best job so far.
2. Use LinkedIn to find people who are or were in your dream job. You can use the LinkedIn advanced people search to find people pretty easily. Then, send them a message saying you’re interested in job X and would love to hear their experience. Use the words “informational interview” — this implies that you’re not asking THEM for a job, you just want to hear about it. Ask them to meet for lunch if they’re local, or for a phone call if they’re not. Personally, I’ve found that about 20% of people will be happy to talk, or 50% if they have something in common with you (e.g. same alma mater.)
3. Talk to these people to see if your dream job makes sense. If it turns out your proposed job would be a horrible match for you, go back to step 1 with a new job title. Otherwise, ask your interviewee if they know anyone who’s hiring. Do not ask them for the job. If they ask for your resume, pass it along, but at this point you want to be really nice to this person — they took time out of their day just to help you! Make sure to send them a thank you note afterwards, etc.
4. Once you’ve finalized your job title/company combination, start networking aggressively. Every two weeks, send an email to your contacts asking them if they know of anyone who’s hiring for your dream job. Reach out to hiring managers directly on LinkedIn and ask to meet with them. Go to meetups where people in your job work. Tell everyone that you’re looking for job X. Because you’re so specific in your requests, people will often refer you to friends of friends of friends — it’s just so easy to pass your name along!
5. At this point, you should start getting plenty of formal interview offers (as opposed to the informational interviews in step 3). Now that you’ve got interviews, either pass them or learn how to interview well. After each interview, ask your contact related to the company for feedback. Since they knew you personally, they’ll be much more likely to give you real feedback than a normal recruiter would. Use this feedback to keep improving until you get a job.
You’ll notice that this approach is very procedural — at any time, you can tell which stage you’re in. The fact that you’re moving from stage to stage means you’ll experience a lot less anxiety. Plus, you’ll probably get a much better job than if you just fire off resumes and cover letters.