Getting stuck in a job search rut is easy to do and very common amongst the majority of job searchers I encounter. If you’re not careful, or aware of the ways around this rut, your job search can take significantly longer. It can also take a hit to your mental game, masking your ability to see a light at the end of the job search tunnel and dinging your confidence significantly. Before you continue your job search, you’ll want to know everything there is to identifying and getting around the job hunt rut.
STEP 1: Know when you’re in a rut
There are many signs that a job searcher is stuck in a rut and the job searcher will typically experience one or more of these signs if they are stuck (or about to become stuck):
- Feeling like your job search has fallen flat and your network is tapped out
- Running out of ideas for which actions to perform next and losing motivation to perform even basic job search activities
- Uncertainty around the effectiveness of your marketing materials: your resume, Linkedin profile/strategy, and cover letter
- Not landing interviews with your submitted applications
- Being in the job search for 3 or more months with little to no indication of promising job search fruits (interviews, new networking leads, job offers)
- Spending multiple hours a week looking through job boards, without finding jobs of interest
STEP 2: Regroup
Once you have identified yourself as being in a rut, the next step is to regroup. Regrouping is critical if you find yourself falling into a rut because the more time you spend in a rut, the more time it will take to get out (not to mention the more time you will waste)! It can be difficult to regroup on your own since the activities that have led you to the rut may be bad search habits you’ve formed. The goal here is to break those habits and shift direction in your strategy, which may take some extra help from a career expert or accountability buddy.
I recommend recruiting a fresh set of eyes to help you successfully make the shift, especially if you are having trouble regrouping. Partnering with a career coach is a great way to move forward if you’re having trouble finding a career-savvy buddy.
STEP 3: Make a new plan
Once you’ve regrouped, you’ll need to make a change (and quick). Instead of just jumping back in and potentially experiencing the same roadblocks, create a new plan so you can approach your search with a fresh outlook and strategy. To create your plan, I recommend the following:
Conduct a search audit of your current activities to spot the strengths, weaknesses, gaps, and opportunities (SWOT).
If possible, you want to do this with a hiring expert who can decode the hiring process for you and ensure you are taking the proper steps to minimize your path to interviews and maximize your path to producing offers. It’s also important to conduct a brand audit with an expert set of eyes to ensure you aren’t missing any branding opportunities on your resume, Linkedin profile or cover letter. 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. A one-hour strategy call with an expert is a great way to tackle this strategic piece and pull your plan together. It can get you unstuck almost immediately and back on track.
Revise your roadmap.
Once you’ve diagnosed where your search is off you’ll need to come up with a detailed strategic plan for getting re-focused on the most strategic options for making quick progress. Since losing focus is part of the reason, your job search likely fell flat, it’s a good idea to put everything on paper so you have a visual guide that you can refer to every time you sit down to bank job search hours. Think of this roadmap as a marketing plan that details your targets: priorities, constraints, industries, companies, potential roles, relevant contacts (Linkedin is great for finding these) and targeted elevator pitch. 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.
Heading into a job search without clarity is a big no-no and will definitely land you in a rut so it’s something you want to fix asap)! Use Linkedin to research career paths that appeal to you. If your clarity challenge is identifying what fulfills you as a professional, Clarity Coaching is probably the best route to uncovering deeper personal insights.
STEP 4: Restart your search
Now that you have a plan in place, start with what I consider to be the most effective strategy ever: Networking. The quickest path to a new job lies within your network so that’s where you want to start. Shifting focus from online applications to networking is a game changer for nearly every job searcher I’ve supported in getting out of ruts. It will bring an element of fresh to your search strategy and break the temptation of relying on job boards for the bulk of your search activities. Informational Interviews are a great way to venture into networking if this is something that intimidates you.
STEP 5: Pause the resume revisions
One of the quickest paths to your rut was over-editing of your resume. I know this because I see it tripping up job searchers ALL the time. Resumes are subjective so of course, you received drastically different feedback from everyone you asked! If you want to avoid this never-ending hazardous cycle, put your resume on hold. Focusing on your resume may sound like a great strategy, but the truth is unless you are an expert in resume writing/tailoring, (ie. you are landing interviews through online job boards) this is going to be a huge time-suck. Constant resume analysis is one of the most common points of paralysis for job searchers because it can completely consume time that is more valuable spent elsewhere.
Use your resume writing time to identify and network with key contacts instead of hyper-focusing on your resume. You shouldn’t bring your resume to a networking meeting anyway so chronologically speaking, it’s not something you should worry about until you have to. If your resume is really consuming you, I recommend having an expert give it a one-and-done treatment. A total resume makeover can give you peace of mind knowing that your brand on paper is fully optimized. You’ll also see a return on your investment with every career move since you won’t have to wonder whether or not your resume is up to par.
STEP 6: Stay positive & keep moving forward
Mental game is HUGE in the job search especially when it comes to making the shift from rut to effective strategy. Some tricks for avoiding discouragement:
Reject mental chatter
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). 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. You have the power and only you can end the chatter so do it! Saying aloud: “stop, I do not give you permission to speak!” has even been helpful for folks battling negative voices.
Make a point to surround yourself with positive people
This is the “part 2” after you’ve stopped the mental chatter. You must engage a continual voice of encouragement to keep pushing you forward – coach/accountability buddies are great for this! The job search can be grueling and remaining a party of one will in no way help you with the endurance needed to remain positive throughout. Here are some proven ways for remaining positive and hopeful in your job search.
If staying positive for the duration of your search is something you struggle with, a career coach can be tremendously beneficial. Throughout my years of coaching clients through the job search process, I’ve learned that the additional positivity and support I bring is just as important as the tools and approach I provide.
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. 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! Even if these meetings don’t result in immediate offers, you’ll find that merely having a conversation with someone in your target field, who shares your career passion is quite empowering and does wonders on the mental game.
The bottom line for getting out of a rut
There isn’t too much at stake when it comes to jumpstarting your job search. There is much more at stake if you don’t hit “pause” and hit restart. Without a job search restart, you will run out of steam and potentially stay stuck in your current situation for much longer than you would like – some job searches come to me after years of being stuck, and at the point of total hopelessness! Also at stake is your confidence and your overall happiness in your work and in your life. 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 broke, and surround yourself with the positivity and support you need to make the change.