Stage Three of the Search: The Wagon
How did Eric manage to keep himself from falling off the wagon? He couldn't. At various points during the search, he found himself completely and utterly depleted. It's only natural to lose steam even in the best-managed searches. Despite the fact that Eric was highly motivated, he was unprepared for the rejection that is inevitable in job search. He had always succeeded. In high school, college, and business school, he graduated at the top of his class. He won awards and scholarships. He was recognized and rewarded for being smart. So, for Eric, like many of us who do well academically, rejection implied failure.
He couldn't have been more wrong. To be successful in job search in a very competitive market, you have to expose yourself to rejection by relentlessly seeking interviews that can lead to your goal. This doesn't mean you should be indiscriminate by presenting yourself for opportunities that are clearly inappropriate. The more you do, the less control you have over who will make a decision about you and when that decision is likely to be made. Even more important to remember, in a tough market, no one wants to be responsible for adding headcount. It's a lot easier to get fired than it is to get hired. You may have made a dazzling impression, but the person making the hiring decision is accountable to his or her own superiors. He or she may not be comfortable taking a bold stand on a candidate, especially in an organization where cutbacks have happened.
All said, however, the more active you are, the more likely it is you will shorten the time it takes to successfully find the job you need and want. Obviously, this requires a sound strategy, but it also means redefining rejection. When you haven't heard back from a recruiter or your response to a posting goes unanswered, please don't presume it's because you don't measure up. You don't know why there is silence, and there is absolutely no benefit to speculating. Chances are, the position you are applying for has been put on hold or a recruiter has not heard back from his client company—you'll never know. If you are rejected, try to get information about who wasn't. Knowledge is power, and it also allows you to figure out how to make yourself an even stronger candidate.
What happened to Eric when he fell off the wagon? He stopped making phone calls and networking, he spent hours surfing the Web and playing computer games, he got a little cranky with his friends and family, and despite all of his free time, he was less likely to go to the gym, attend professional events, or network. He withdrew. How would he re-emerge? Eric would get back on the wagon when he received some sign from the market that he was still worthy...a call from a recruiter about an opportunity or a response from a resume he may have long forgotten was sent.
The irony is that much of this downtime could have been avoided. You must remind yourself daily (pray if you do, meditate, or write in a journal) that you and you alone are responsible for managing how much energy you devote. More activity always generates more interest. Inertia is reinforcing, and so is momentum. You just don't know when and in what form that interest will find its way into your inbox. The lesson: Take time to re-charge and to re-think your job search. Meet with friends and colleagues to get realistic feedback on what you're doing to promote your search and on how you can address challenges and roadblocks. Have some fun, too. A little play makes you a happier person, and that always comes across in your conversations.