I wrote and posted this article on LinkedIn in January in the midst of my own career change, reflecting on things I learned in the process and in hopes of helping other people who were in a similar space. The job search process has changed a bit in light of recent times, so I have updated this article for accuracy and freshness. Happy reading!
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint” is a great way to describe being on the job hunt.
It’s definitely an emotional roller coaster. At times, you’ll think a lead is certainly a shoo-in— and then it ends up going nowhere. Other times, you’ll think there’s no way you’ll get an initial response and you end up making it to the fourth interview.
Ah, the emotions. All the hours of searching for jobs online, filling out extensive applications, tailoring your resume and cover letter to each position. And then, if you do get selected for an interview: all the time spent researching and rehearsing interview questions and answers, picking an outfit, ironing your clothes, making copies of your resume, references, and letters of recommendation. Making sure to go to bed early, wake up early, prepare early. All the nerves, all the what-if scenarios played out in your head, all the hopes that this might be the one. Imagining getting hired and working there. And then – making it through yet another interview and then it’s done – and that may be as far as it goes.
It’s easy to feel discouraged and let down.
It’s so easy to follow your fear of “what if this lasts for months, or years!” or “what if I have to take a job I really don’t want?” and an endless pit of “what ifs?".
Something else that is easy to do: get attached to your ego. Getting caught in the mindset that being rejected equals “I’m not worthy/good enough/something’s wrong with me/they don’t want me/no one wants me/I shouldn’t have left my last job/what am I doing?” and so on and so forth.
Finding a new job on its own can be stressful enough. If you're making a career change, these feelings and thoughts can seem to multiply exponentially. You may not know where to begin. You may have a ton of experience and skills in your previous career or industry, but are unsure of how they apply to your future role. You may have a steep learning curve: so much to learn! It may seem overwhelming and at times impossible.
Every rejection is a redirection. Similar to the Dalai Lama’s saying that goes “Sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck,” if it doesn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to be at this time (and maybe ever), and that’s perfectly okay. Sure, it may take some time to get over the initial feelings of rejection and disappointment, but I promise you: something better for you is out there. It may not come exactly when or how you imagined it happening, and it may be something you never could have envisioned previously. But if you stay open-minded, focused, and positive, you will not go astray.
While job searching may look a little different than it did six months ago, my key takeaways remain relevant. Here are some things that can help along the job search journey:
To what, you ask? Opportunities of all sorts: online courses, webinars, phone calls, virtual coffee chats, volunteer experiences, virtual trainings, job fairs, and conferences. All of these experiences can show future readers of your resume that you did not sit around idly during the time you were in between jobs, and were being proactive with your time and goals.
When you're making a career change, there's a lot to learn. Coursera, Hubspot, Udacity, and LinkedIn Learning are great places to start with online learning. Some courses cost money, but all four of these websites also offer thousands of free online videos, courses, and learning paths. It can feel great to brush up on your skills, and exciting to know you’re learning new ones.
If you're somewhat new to the tech space and looking for some places to start, Freecodecamp and Codecademy are great for coding beginners, and W3Schools is a good place to practice HTML and CSS. Also, feel free to check out this article on 10 Projects and Skills That Will Make You a Better Developer for more ideas and resources. Full disclosure: I wrote it :).
Virtual trainings, webinars, conferences, and job fairs are great places to make connections and contacts. You never know where one conversation with one person could lead!
Volunteering is another wonderful way to make connections, utilize and develop your skills, and give back to the community. With the stress that a job search can bring, volunteering your skills to help a good cause can nurture feelings of fulfillment and keep things in perspective. Got photography, writing, editing, research, graphic design, or coding skills? Reach out to some nonprofits and offer your skills to a good cause.
Open up and say yes to something new today! You might be surprised at where it leads.
It can be easy to fall into desperation mode and follow the path to a job you don’t actually want, just for the sake of feeling accepted.
Are you looking for a change, but considering taking an interview for a job similar to the one you just had, or one you don’t really want? Do you find yourself thinking, “Maybe it would be different, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad…”?
Try to be honest with yourself. Tune into your heart and your intuition. You are allowed to (graciously) decline an interview or offer, or tell them you are interested in a different position. I did this several times throughout my latest job search. It can be scary, but if you truly want to make a change, it's the best gift you can give yourself.
Saying no to something you could do, but don't truly want to do, can be a way of the universe testing you– testing you on what you want, what you don’t want, and how much you believe in the process. By turning down a role that will not give you the joy, challenges, and growth you are looking for, other options can open up and you can get more clarity on what you are looking for. You’ll have more time to use working toward a job you really want, and won’t end up accepting a job that would have kept you stuck in the past instead of moving forward.
If it gets to the point that you must take a job you don’t want due to financial reasons, don’t give up. Continue the job search in your free time, take online courses, and keep networking. As hard as it can be, persistence does pay off. Don’t lose sight of your long-term goals and dreams.
Are you utilizing LinkedIn or Dev.to as much as you can? They are not simply websites with job boards, groups, and forums– they are so much more. You can create and post your own content. You can network to your heart’s delight with people in your field, and learn something new from people that aren’t. You can comment on others’ posts, share interesting articles and your own ideas, and find people to meet up with for virtual coffee chats.
You can also follow inspiring people! There are dozens of people that consistently post job search tips, advice, and inspiration. When you are on the job search journey-marathon, it is important to stay connected with others. As humans, we need and thrive on connection, especially in challenging times.
At first, it may feel awkward reaching out to mutual connections and/or people you don’t know. It can feel inauthentic and you may worry about what they will think of you. However, the more you put any insecurities aside and reach out to people, the more you might realize you have nothing to lose. Think of it this way: if you don’t reach out to someone, you don’t even have the possibility of making a connection. If you do reach out to someone, you could potentially gain an important contact, phone call, or even an interview! If they say no or if you don’t get a response, you’re in the same exact place as you would have been anyway. Try not to let those insecurities get in the way.
There are truly wonderful and supportive places online out there to connect with others, and the more you use them, the more you will get out of them.
It can be hard to feel grateful when rejection emails keep popping up in your inbox or you find yourself waiting weeks to hear back from a prospective employer.
While you may not yet have your dream job, practice being grateful for what you do have, whether it’s a supportive loved one, a place to live, time, or the opportunity to pursue what you really want to be doing.
If you are unemployed, that's right– you have time! Time to dedicate to your job search process every day: researching jobs, tailoring cover letters and resumes, taking online courses, volunteering for a place you’d like to work, and beefing up your online portfolio, website, and/or blog. You have time to earn some part-time income on the side while you go after your dream job. Is there a way you could use your experience and skills from your previous career role to earn part-time income?
You could also think about being grateful for what you don’t have– a job you dislike, a long commute, a stressful work environment, or no time to cook healthy meals or exercise. It’s all about perspective. This won’t last forever, and when you do get a job, you might miss some of the things you have now.
If you were laid off, fired, or still at a job that's not your favorite, practice accepting where you are now. If you chose to leave, remind yourself why you did and congratulate yourself for doing what was right for you. You may not know where you’ll end up next or what the future holds, but it feels so good to honor the boundaries you are setting for yourself and prioritize your own health, happiness, and dreams.
Why are you looking for a new job? If you left your last job, why did you leave? What gift do you have to share with the world? What can you contribute? What fulfills you, motivates you, inspires you? Take some time and reflect on these questions. As far as we know, we only have this life to live. We might as well make it worth it by sharing our unique selves, talents, skills, and perspectives in a career that aligns with our own values.
Most people are familiar with the travel quote, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. It’s certainly easy to get fixated on the outcome, but the job search journey is actually the real destination. Every connection you make and every job you apply to; every phone screening and every interview you make it through; every rejection you get and every emotion you feel— all of it is part of the larger picture of helping you get more clear on where you want to be and what you need to do to get there. And when you do get there? The journey continues. :)
Reflect on your experience, skills, and worthiness. Visualize what you want your next place of employment to look, feel, and sound like. Think about the work you want to be doing, and identify a few next steps that will help you get there. Do not lose hope and faith, and trust the process. The darkest point of night is before the dawn. You can do it— and you will.
Stay tuned for a future post on how I made the transition from teaching to tech!
What tips do you have for surviving and thriving on the job search journey? Feel free to share in the comments below!
I'm Ruanna, a content creator for TomTom Developers and a freelance writer. Feel free to connect with me here on Dev.to and on Twitter!