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Sarah Katz
Sarah Katz

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Staying Optimistic During A Job Search

Note: This post is part of a series of posts about my job searching experience that have already been posted on my personal site ( This post has not been edited since then - so all references to timelines and numbers of applications/interviews may not be current

Unemployment sucks. There's no better way to put it. I've "only" been unemployed for about three weeks now, and it feels like forever. I've gone to networking events, I've posted on LinkedIn and Twitter to leverage my professional network and the random internet, I've even cold applied to a few jobs online ... I feel like I'm doing everything right, but nothing is happening from it. When I spoke to one of my former co-workers right before he left my last company (about a week before my last day), he was deciding between four offers (and was in the interview process with a fifth company) ... how is it that he can get 4-5 offers and I can't even get an in-person interview? Am I just that unemployable? Should I be looking to make yet another career change?

No. Stop. If I'm going to get through this job search, I have to stay optimistic. Yes, sometimes things look bad, but it's important to stay positive and not let negative thinking take over.
But how do I do that? How do I remind myself that good things are coming when it seems like nothing good has happened since this job search started?

Here are some suggestions I have that I've found help me maintain a positive attitude:

  • Don't Be A Full-Time Job Searcher. Yes, much of your time should be spent on job-search activities. But make sure to make time for life things. For me, that means cleaning my apartment, running, and taking barre3 classes. For other people that may mean going on school field trips with their kids or meeting friends for dinner and drinks. The exact activities you do don't matter - what matters is that you're doing the things that make you happy in addition to job searching.
  • Take Time To Be A Learner. Part of being a developer (and many other jobs too) is learning new things that relate to your job. Sometimes it can be hard to find time for learning when you're working full-time. But when you're unemployed, you probably have some extra time - so take that time to learn. Catch up on the latest trends in the industry. Learn a new skill or language. For example, I recently spent some time reading the docs on React Hooks, and now I'm using them in a small personal project. Learning something new not only gives you a chance to take a small break from job searching (I try to do an hour or two a day), it also potentially makes you a better candidate for jobs.
  • Remember That It Takes Time. Job searching takes time. Yes, there is the occasional situation where a dev meets a company, there's an interview, and there's an offer all within a week. But that's not always what happens. It takes time to find the right connections and the right jobs. It takes time to cultivate relationships. Even if you feel like it's been a while, don't give up hope. Sometimes you just have to give it a little more time (assuming you have that luxury).
  • Celebrate Small Victories. Over the course of the job search, there will always be small victories. Whether that's giving your card to someone who is hiring or receiving praise for a take-home assignment you completed, remember that all of these small victories are steps on the way to your next amazing job, and remember, cherish, and celebrate these small victories.
  • Remember Why You Are Awesome. We're all awesome in our own ways. For some people, that's because they can do front-end, back-end, and devops. Other people may be able to go into a messy codebase and instantly know how to better organize it without impacting performance. Some people learn faster than most and can pick up new languages and technologies in a matter of days or weeks. Some people are average learners, but super hard workers who put in so much effort that you don't realize that it's taking them longer to learn. Some people are just the best coworkers who know exactly what the rest of their team needs and get it done. We're all awesome in our own ways - so find what makes you awesome and hold on to that when the job search gets tough.

Some days, even following these suggestions (or your favorite other suggestions for staying positive - please feel free to share!), you just can't stop the negativity. And that's okay. It's okay to be down on yourself sometimes. We all struggle. So take a day to wallow. Focus on something else. Spend the day watching TV and eating ice cream or go hiking or just do something that has nothing to do with your job search. It's okay to do that sometimes - as long as it's just sometimes. It's okay to let yourself fall, as long as you pick yourself up and keep going. Take a day to do something else, and then come back the next day re-energized and ready to start again. While positivity is important, it's also important to acknowledge that some days you just need a mental break from everything. Embrace that.

Nobody is perfect. Negative thoughts can happen, especially during a difficult job search. Try your best to stay positive, and if you just can't, take a little time to let yourself be upset ... and then pick yourself up and be even better the next day.

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