What to do when nobody will hire you

We all know the job search can be exhausting and soul destroying. And this just seems to be getting worse. The employment landscape is increasingly fragmented, university degrees are decreasing in value, job tenures are getting shorter and shorter, and competition for almost every position is more and more fierce. But you have to keep trying because the options are limited to pretty much that or starting your own business… or starving.

If you’re sending out dozens of resumes, or going through many interviews, and not hearing anything back, you should probably try some new things. But what?

Here are three suggestions:

Ask why you didn’t get hired.

The lack of transparency in the job search has become a real problem. Hiring managers leave candidates hanging for months after promising to “be in touch and let you know,” and almost never explain why you didn’t get the job. And then people are afraid to ask why because they don’t want to rock the boat or damage relationships. This seems ridiculous to me.

If you don’t hear back after a couple of weeks following an interview, there is nothing wrong with following up to ask if a decision has been made. Now, I did use to say that if you don’t hear back after that, you should let it go. But I have changed my mind. I think that if you don’t hear back again after a month or two, you are justified in following up and saying “I assume at this point that you have decided to go with someone else. If this is the case, would you mind telling me why I did not get the job? I would like to know so that I can improve my chances with future applications.” They probably won’t answer you, but they might. And you might as well ask.

Ask for advice.

Reach out to strangers whose careers you admire and ask them for coffee. Contact hiring managers at companies you want to work for and ask them for advice about something specific. You can think of this as an “informational interview,” or you can approach it more casually, so it feels less stressful (and not call it an “informational interview” because that feels archaic and a little childish, even though it’s kind of the same thing).

“I’m looking for some advice on how to make connections in this industry,” or “Do you think you could share some advice on how to succeed as an [insert job title here]?” could be good openers. Be complimentary and make sure to ask for nothing but advice. People are almost always flattered to be asked for advice. It makes them like you because you must be smart if you are seeking their opinion, right?

If you make a good impression they might keep you in mind if anything opens up. Or recommend you to a friend. I would advise you not to ask them to do this. Keep it to advice. There’s an old saying “Ask for money, get advice. Ask for advice, get money twice.” And it’s absolutely true. (OK, it’s not an old saying. I think it’s a Pitbull lyric. Still true though.)

Improve your skill set.

You might as well beef up your qualifications. I mean, what else you are doing with your time? You don’t have a job. Kidding. I know we’re all busy and that job searching is a full-time job. Still, it’s a great idea to get out there and learn stuff. Register for a course at a college or university. Take a business course, a coding course, a language course, or a communications course. Not only will you learn something new, but you will also meet new people and expand your network. If you don’t have time or funds to go out and do this, sign up for some online courses. There are many free options.

Learning something new can rewire your brain to develop new ideas and perspectives, which will, in turn, help you devise new ways to approach your career and job search.

Then go out and keep on trying.

You can do it. I believe in you.

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