By Deborah Walker, CCMC, Resume Writer - Career Coach
If you're experiencing an extended job search, chances are you’ve been through several hills and valleys: days of optimism followed by days of discouragement.
One symptom of this job search discouragement is the tendency to avoid other people. This is what I call the "hermit" phase, where proactive search efforts are set aside in favor of hunkering down in front of the computer, spending fruitless hours going through online job sites. As dull as this activity is, it at least it prevents the job seeker from hearing rejection.
The problem is that avoiding people only prolongs the period of discouragement. The longer one remains in "hermit" mode, the longer the job search drags on—and the downward cycle continues.
The fact is, the more people you interact with, the more you'll hear about positions in the "hidden" job market. Everyone, whether employed or unemployed, is connected to some form of information grapevine. The more people you meet with during the week, the better your chances of learning about positions that haven't even hit the job boards or classified ads yet. The shortest route to any hiring manager's door is through the recommendation of others.
Think back over the last couple weeks. If you've had less than six opportunities to mix with people outside of your home, it's probably time to force yourself into networking situations.
If you're stuck on where to start getting out again, your local newspaper is a good place to start looking. Most likely, your paper's business section publishes business events or professional workshops on a daily or weekly basis. Scour these listings to identify which events could most likely put you eye-to-eye with good networking sources.
If you're not yet connected with a professional association, this is a great time to search out active, local groups where you'll meet people who can introduce you to influential hiring managers. Look for associations whose leaders are well connected with your target industry.
For casual, low-stress networking, health clubs or fitness centers are a great way to meet potential networking contacts. Chances are you could use the exercise anyway! Choose early morning or late evening times for your workout, when you're most likely to meet employed members. A game of handball could lead to a discussion on upcoming job opportunities.
If you attend a church, synagogue or house of worship, this would be a great time to get involved with your organization's activities. Working alongside your fellow members will not only lift your spirits as you participate in worthwhile activities, but you'll also build trusting friendships with those eager to pass along helpful job leads.
Another great network-building source is volunteer work. Whatever your personal or professional passions are, there are nonprofit organizations that would value your knowledge, expertise and ambition. If you approach volunteer opportunities with a "serve first" attitude, you will naturally attract individuals willing to help further your career ambitions as well.
If you make it part of your job-search priorities to stay connected with people on a regular basis, you'll find the days of discouragement are fewer while the potential career opportunities multiply.