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How to Stay Positive When the Job Search Drags On

The U.S. unemployment rate is shrinking, but the number of Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months recently increased. Read expert advice for staying positive and being strategic in your job search for the long haul.

Portrait of Katie J. Skipper

Katie J. Skipper (She, Her, Hers)
BECU Community Content Manager
Published Jan 11, 2021 in: Jobs & Income

Read time: 6 minutes

During COVID-19, with fewer job openings in many fields and more people looking for work, searching for employment can be downright exhausting.

Enter executive recruiter and career coach Angee Linsey, who has spent 25 years as a matchmaker for employers and employees. We sat down with Linsey to get her insights about how to stay engaged and energized during a job search marathon.

"Whether you were recently laid off or you've been at this for six months, there are steps you can take that will make your job search successful," Linsey said. "It's about being intentional in how you manage your search."

Career coach Angee Linsey and her dog Leo
Career coach Angee Linsey and her dog Leo

Give Yourself a Disappointment Deadline

As a long-time career coach, this is the third recession Linsey has helped people through. This time around is, in many ways, the same as other economic downturns.

"It's always scary," Linsey said. "When your identity is attached to your work, it can be demoralizing, and the pressure is intense."

It's natural to be sad or frustrated, and it's important to recognize and honor those feelings, but focusing too long on the negative will sap your energy.

Linsey recommends setting a deadline for those bad feelings. Then, it's time to regroup and take action.

"When life throws you a giant curveball, it's ok to wallow for a little bit," she said. "But don't stay there for too long. Once you hit your deadline, start focusing on how you will recover."

Resilience becomes more important as the months of job searching drag on and the cycle of excitement and disappointment repeats.

"The job search is a giant rollercoaster of emotion," Linsey said. "You get a call from someone about an application you submitted, or a recruiter calls you out of the blue, and then you get declined. That's when it's time to take break, do something you enjoy doing, then get back to it."

Refresh Your Story

Applying for jobs is about more than providing a chronological list of work experience. It's about how you see yourself and how you tell your own story.

Take stock of what your online presence says about you, and how you describe yourself verbally and in writing. Think about where you have thrived in your career and what made you a good fit in that role. What results did you drive for the organization? What are you proud of?

"If you're feeling good about your story, it will come through in how you talk about yourself," Linsey said. "Applicants who are enthusiastic about what they can do are appealing to employers."

Part of your story is also how you present yourself visually. Is your LinkedIn profile picture 10 years old? Time to update it. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. A well-lighted cellphone portrait of your head and shoulders is great. 

Reset Your Job Search Clock

In Linsey's experience, people get jobs by submitting applications only about 30% of the time. The other 70% of the time, it's because of their connections.

The time you spend looking for work should look about the same: Spend 30% of your job search time scouring job boards and submitting applications; spend the other 70% networking.

"If you're spending three or four hours a day searching for a job, spend your first 45 minutes looking at job boards and stop until tomorrow," she said.

Connect with Your Network

Reaching out to your network can be tough — especially when you're feeling down — but your network is your richest resource as a job seeker.

"Meaningful networking is really about strengthening those relationships," Linsey said. "Focus on the activity of connecting with people, not on the result."

As important as it is to know who you want to work for and what you want to do in your next position, keep in mind that the point of these conversations is to learn from people who are taking the time to talk with you.

"Reach out to them without an ask," Linsey said. "Approach them with curiosity about them, not about what they can do for you. How did they get to where they are? What do they like about their work? Who else should you talk to?"

And remember to always follow-up with a note of thanks.

Focus on Your Wins

Often on the agenda for her coaching sessions is something Linsey calls "wins of the week." She finds that celebrating accomplishments, even small ones, helps to build momentum.

"I always listen to what they're doing right and what is working for them," she said. "That way we can work together to do more things right and reduce energy they're spending on things that aren't helping them."

If you don't have a coach, you can get some of the same benefit by keeping a gratitude journal. Make a daily practice of writing down people, moments and places you appreciate.

"Gratitude journals are so important during a job search," Linsey said. "Write down three things you're grateful for or what went well every day."

For extra credit, Linsey suggests reaching out beyond your journal to express your gratitude directly to others.

Take Care of Yourself

With all the stress that comes with looking for work, it's important to take time out of your day for yourself. Do something you like to do that allows you to pay attention to other aspects of your life that matter, whether that's volunteering, exercising, spending time with your family or getting outside.

"People want to hire someone they want to sit next to — someone they want to be around for the majority of the day," Linsey said. "Take care of yourself so you can be your best self."

Angee Linsey is the founder of Linsey Careers, a boutique executive search and career coaching firm specializing in marketing and communications roles. She is the author of "Dare to be Deliberate: Level Up Your Communications Career" and hosts a podcast by the same name.

Portrait of Katie J. Skipper

Katie J. Skipper (She, Her, Hers)
BECU Community Content Manager

Katie writes for BECU about personal finance and social justice topics. Her career spans reporting for newspapers and communicating on behalf of government agencies and private businesses. Learn about Katie's career and education on LinkedIn.