Past Issues

October 29, 2007

6 Ways to Spark Your Job Search

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6 Ways to Spark Your Job Search

By Penelope Trunk

Hunting for a job is almost always difficult. So it's unfortunate that the truism that good things happen to optimistic people cannot be overstated when it comes to your job search.

Of course, I've had my share of announcing to the world that there were no jobs for me and sleeping until mid-afternoon. But experience with misery breeds experience with how to beat it, and here is a list of things I have found helpful to do when the job hunt starts feeling desperate:

1. Check your attitude.

Write a list of things that are going well in your life. You are not your job, and you are not your savings account. There are many facets to yourself and some remain unscathed, even during a terrible job hunt. Don't just think about the list. Writing is a powerful tool, because whatever you take the time to write will feel more important to you than if you just thought about it. In fact, you should write a list of personality traits that you like about yourself, too.

2. Check your focus.

Decide if you are looking for the right kind of job. If you are applying to tons of openings and not getting them, think about whether your resume stands out enough to get a job in the field you're pursuing. Be honest. After applying to 200 jobs and not getting one interview, it's safe to say that you need to change what you're doing. Ask for outside advice to figure out if you need a new resume or a new field. Start with friends and colleagues. If no one gives you new insight, hire a professional. Resume consultants are everywhere, and good ones end up giving career advice when a resume is obviously going nowhere.

3. Check your pace.

If you have a strong network, set a goal of three networking opportunities each week. They can be a lunch, a conference, even a coffee break as long as you're meeting someone who might be able to help. If you are not particularly good at networking, you'll have to rely on your resume. So send it out as often as you can. One resume a day would be a reasonable goal. If you can't find a job to apply to, send a resume -- cold -- to the CEO of a company you like. You never know what will happen from a shot in the dark like that, but if you send nothing, then you know exactly what will happen: Nothing.

4. Check your personal life.

Don't forget to see your friends. Don't forget to kiss your boyfriend. It's always easier to retreat into misery when you're in the midst of a job hunt. But you need a home base, so stay connected to the people who provide one. These are people who love you even when you are living off your retirement savings.

5. Check your spending.

You can get a lot more time for your hunt if you keep your spending down. The faster you run out of money the faster your hunt is over -- and you don't want to be in a bind where you have to take the only position you can find, and it entails flipping burgers. Also, if you can keep your spending down permanently, you open yourself up to opportunities that are a good next step for your career but require a cut in pay.

6. Turn off the TV and read.

One of the hardest parts of unemployment is the lack of intellectual stimulation. Spending a lot of time in front of the boob tube only reinforces your feelings of doing nothing. Networking is a pain, rewriting your resume to fit each job opening is monotonous. Read books that have new ideas. Try something that stretches you; gaining new knowledge is one of the best antidotes to feeling stuck.

Penelope Trunk writes the Brazen Careerist blog. Her new book, Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success (Warner Business Books, 2007), is available at

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