Six things to try when you can’t get a job

Job seeking can be long and tedious, and sometimes totally fruitless. It can be frustrating and disheartening, and very hard on your self esteem.

I once went through a very long stretch where I couldn’t find a job and it became very difficult to continue. I realized I had to do something different than what I’d been doing, because what I’d been doing wasn’t working. So, I did. And it worked.

If you’ve been unsuccessfully job seeking for a while now and it’s not landing you the gig you deserve, you probably need to try some new approaches.

Here are a few courses of action you can take to shake up the job search and that I know to be effective, because as a contractor, I’m always job seeking, so I’ve tried them all at one time or another.

Apply to fewer jobs: Sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it? But maybe you’re just throwing a generic application at everything you see and what you should be doing is working harder to impress hiring managers at each individual opportunity. Find jobs for which you’re singularly qualified, and tailor your application to each of them. This means not just writing a job-specific cover letter but also adjusting your resume to include specific keywords found in the job posting, and highlighting the skills listed in that posting. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try for jobs for which you’re not 100% qualified, but don’t apply for everything. Doing so just wastes everyone’s time.

Tap your network: Most jobs actually go unadvertised, so you have to ask people you know for help. For example, you could write a short note to friends explaining that you’re job seeking and asking them to let you know if they hear of anything for which you would be suited. Outline what you’re looking for and briefly list your skills. You don’t have to send your resume. People will ask for it if they want to see it. Say thank you in advance and offer to return the favour should the opportunity arise. People usually want to help, and will if they can. This tactic has worked very well for me in the past.

Apply when companies aren’t advertising: Remember what I just said about most jobs going unadvertised? Companies may be looking for talent at any time, whether they’ve gotten around to posting about it or not. When a job is posted can actually be a really bad time to apply, because that’s when everyone else is doing the same, and your application just gets lost in a pile. Find organizations and people you want to work for, write to them and introduce yourself. There’s always a chance they’re looking and will hire you.

Volunteer: If your search needs new life, consider volunteering for a cause you believe in. Not only are companies more likely to hire someone with volunteer experience over someone without it, it also gets you out of the job seeking rut, and out of the house, into the world where you can make more contacts. Plus, volunteering is good for the soul.

Work on your online presence: Companies are going to Google you, and if they don’t find anything, depending on the industry, there’s a good chance they aren’t going to call you in for an interview. Expanding your presence improves visibility, as well as provides an opportunity to increase the size of that all-important network we’re always harping on about.

Work on yourself: Hey, you’ve got time right? I mean, you don’t have a job to go to. Yes, you should be treating the job search like a job and doing it full time, but if nothing is working out for you, it might be time to add to your skillset and education history. Take an online course, learn to code or use a new software, read books on negotiation and communication. Self improvement is never a bad thing, and adding skills, education, and experience to your arsenal makes you more desirable on the job market.

These aren’t the only new tactics you can try but they should get you started. There is something out there for you. You might just have to try a new way of looking for it.

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