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How to Break Out of a Job-Hunting Rut

How to Break Out of a Job-Hunting Rut

Sometimes it takes a little longer than you would like to find a new job. After the excitement of deciding to make a change, you might feel like you’re losing your momentum if you don’t find a new job right away — and that can be discouraging. Before long you may find yourself in a job-hunting rut.

This can be discouraging, and at some point you’ll need to kick-start your search to get out of this rut, says Noelle Gross, founder of NG Career Strategy and an expert in career strategy and job search. “Without this kick-start, you will run out of steam and potentially stay stuck in your current situation for much longer than you would like,” Gross says. “There is a ‘perfect job’ for you and you have the power to find and land it. The key is to take control, fix what’s broken and surround yourself with the positivity and support you need to make the change.”

Here’s what to do.

Recognize When You’re Stuck

Recognizing the situation is a good first step to helping you fix it. It’s easy to get stuck, and the majority of job searchers do so at some point, Gross says, so don’t feel like you’re a failure if you lose your momentum. Signs that your job search is falling into a rut include:

  • A dead end. You may feel like your network has been tapped out, that you’ve run out of ideas about what to do next or that you don’t have any motivation to do even basic job-search activities, Gross says.
  • Uncertainty. You may wonder about the effectiveness of your résumé, LinkedIn profile, online strategy and cover letter, Gross says.
  • Lack of response. If you’ve been looking for a job for more than three months and haven’t gotten interviews, new networking leads or offers, then you’re in a rut, Gross says.

Reboot Your Approach

Starting fresh is critical if you find yourself in a rut, Gross says. “The more time you spend in a rut, the more time it will take to get out,” she says. A fresh set of eyes, such as a career expert or accountability buddy, can help break you out of your rut, Gross says. She recommends working with them on the following steps:

  • Perform a SWOT analysis. Identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and troubles of your current approach, Gross says. This will help you maximize your path to getting offers as well as sharpen your personal brand. “If you’re applying without receiving responses or aren’t experiencing any LinkedIn activity, there’s a big chance you are off in your branding,” Gross says.
  • Revisit your priorities. Look carefully at the targets you’re aiming at, Gross says these may include job features, such as salary and promotion opportunities; roles and industries; companies within your geographic constraints; and potential contacts you might have with them. “If identifying your target is a challenge, this is an indicator that you may need to spend those job-search hours getting clear on your career path and not searching for jobs,” Gross says.
  • Jump-start your networking. “Shifting focus from online applications to networking is a game-changer for nearly every job-searcher I’ve supported in getting out of ruts,” Gross says. “It will bring an element of freshness to your search strategy and break the temptation of relying on job boards for the bulk of your search activities.” Informational Interviews are a good way to get the hang of networking if you don’t feel it’s one of your strengths.

Keep Your Head in the Game

Through it all you’ll need to focus on not letting the job search get you down. Halting negative self-talk is key, Gross says. “If you are hearing negative voices, know that those voices are lies and the sooner you stop those voices, the sooner they will go away and the better you will feel,” she says. “There will be a lot of mental chatter so you want to hit ‘stop’ and ‘eject the disc.’ Visualizing a mental image of this can be helpful.”

You’ll also want to surround yourself with positive people to help in this regard, Gross says. “You must engage a continual voice of encouragement to keep pushing you forward,” she says. Coaches or accountability buddies can help. And keep networking. “As you hold regular informational meetings with contacts in your target industry, you’ll start to feel the power of personal connection and in-person conversation,” she says. “Talking to people in your target field who can give you insights and also learn about what you’re looking for is a positivity booster like no other.”

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