Amid America’s Great Resignation, millions of workers continue to leave their jobs.
In February, 4.4 million employees quit, according to the Labor Department, and the unemployment rate dropped to a pandemic-era low of 3.6% in March.
But despite headlines about employers struggling to attract and hire workers, finding a new job can still be a long road.
“If you’re feeling like you are running up against rejection after rejection…that kind of dissonance that you may feel between your lived experience and what you are seeing in headlines and feeling – like all your friends are finding their ‘dream jobs’ and you are the one left out of it – it can be very, very disheartening,” said career coach Cynthia Pong.
Here’s what to do if your job search has hit a roadblock:
Take a quick breather
The job hunt can be exhausting: scrolling through listings, submitting applications, and going through multiple rounds of interviews and follow-ups is draining.
If you’re feeling burnt out and discouraged, step away for a bit, Pong recommended.
“If you’ve been full-time looking while working for the last few months and you are feeling frustrated, try to take a week off…step away so you can regain some perspective. It’s very easy to fall into this rabbit hole and then it does gets demoralizing very fast,” she said.
Narrow your search
Focusing your search can help improve your chances of getting hired, according to Marlo Lyons, a career coach and human resources executive.
She advised taking the time to determine what kind of role you’re looking for along with the type of company.
“Be more discerning with exactly what you are looking for instead of just spraying your resume and praying that someone will see it and hire you,” Lyons said.
Expand your network
Having a connection within an organization can help land a job – so work on expanding your network.
“Make sure you are maximizing your connections,” said Pong. That means reaching out to former colleagues, mentors, professors, friends and family members, people you volunteer with or who are members of the same professional organizations to re-establish connections or seek help with your search.
Pong suggested having a few different email templates depending on what you’re asking.
For instance, when tapping your existing network, she suggested opening with some small talk and then mentioning you are looking for your next opportunity. And share which positions you’re interested in or the type of companies that might be a good fit. You can then ask if they know of any potential contacts or possible opportunities.
Just reaching out to reconnect with someone can also be energizing, even if you’re not asking for any specific job help – and it can pay off down the road. That email can say something like: I saw this article/podcast and thought of you. I hope you are well, and would love to catch up soon.
But you shouldn’t limit yourself to people you know, Pong said. Reaching out cold to employees at a company you’re interested in for a coffee chat or informal interview is fair game. One way is to send an email explaining that you’ve seen their work at XYZ company and are interested in learning more about their experience and then ask if they’d be willing to chat.
“Be clear, be straightforward … you’re respecting people’s time by getting right to the point,” said Pong.
Be an early applicant
If you find a job posting that matches what you are looking for, don’t wait to apply. Submitting your application quickly after a job is listed can help increase your chances of being noticed, according to Julia Pollak, chief economist for ZipRecruiter.
“Timing is everything,” she said. “If you apply in the first week that a job is posted, you have a much higher chance of getting that job. Many hiring managers and companies only look at applications that come in during the first week.”
Give your resume a refresh
Pinpoint where you might have some weakness in your process.
For instance, if you aren’t getting a lot of recruiter attention or calls after applying for a job, take a fresh look at your resume.
“Look at the job description and your resume and make sure there is a synergy,” said Lyons. “And make sure the recruiter, who doesn’t know you at all, can see the connection between you and the job description.”
And sometimes simplifying your resume can garner more attention – especially if it’s going through an applicant tracking system, according to Pollak.
“Make sure your materials…are very computer readable – they don’t have fancy tables and have crazy formatting,” she said. “A lot of people make mistakes by being too fancy and they stop themselves from getting through the first hoop because they don’t write a resume that is readable by robots.”
She also suggested using clear language – especially when it comes to former job titles.
“Use standard job titles in the field, not the fancy ‘data ninja’ or ‘customer loyalty master’ it’s important to use the most widely understood and known version of that job title.”
If you aren’t getting call backs, keep honing your interviewing skills, including having sharp answers for common interview questions and being able to detail your skills and experience and how they relate to the job.
Try to stay positive
Whether it’s never hearing back after applying for a role or not getting selected after the final round of interviews, rejection can be hard to take.
“When you apply to 10 jobs and you get rejected from all of them, you feel as though it’s your own failing and it’s a reflection on you,” said Pollak. “It can harm people’s confidence and self-esteem much worse than failures in other markets because what you are pitching is your labor and time and care.”
Keeping a list of your positive qualities and achievements can help keep your confidence up during a prolonged search.
“Create a list of positive attributes about yourself so you can remember how great you are when the search doesn’t go as planned,” said Lyons. “Job-hunting is a full-time job and people need to realize it is going to take time.”