Adapting and Evaluating During the Job Search
Staying positive, organized, and successful in uncertain times
I’ve been job searching for six weeks now. Every week, I take some time to think about what I could do better and how I can stay positive. I know there are a lot of articles like this out there, but maybe writing about my struggles will help others.
Disclaimer: Although this is about job searching in general, some things do apply to the field of digital product design.
Key Traits Worth Considering
Patience & Positivity
I’ve seen job searches span three months, six months, or more so the fact that mine has been going on for a mere six weeks is nothing to complain about. But I’ve still been struggling with patience. What’s the rush? For me, there really is none but there are a few goals I’ve been striving for that are dependent on me securing that elusive job.
It can be difficult to exhibit patience week after week when you’re putting in so much effort into your job search. I’ve tried to exhibit more patience by:
- Celebrating every win, no matter how small — I tell myself to appreciate each task I’ve accomplished. Everything you do in favor of your job search is one small step towards helping you accomplish your goals.
- Taking it day-by-day—It can be hard to think like this but I’ve found it to be so critical. Each day is a fresh start. When I’m making my coffee in the morning, I tell myself, “Today is going to be a good day.” Having that positive reassurance from the start makes all the difference.
Organization & Productivity
When things are all over the place during your job search, this won’t do you any favors. It will lead to a lot of unnecessary stress during an already stressful time. That’s why having a go-to organization/productivity system in place for your job search is necessary.
I’ve experimented with a lot of methods, tools, and tactics but the one I’ve been using recently seems to keep me focused. It’s called the Ivy Lee Method and I combined it with a little app called Tweek. It’s available on mobile and web. I originally found Tweek on the Dense Discovery newsletter. Usually, I don’t like my email inbox being crowded by newsletters I never read, but this one is actually worth it.
I enjoy the Ivy Lee Method combined with Tweek because they’re super simple. I don’t have to pull out my phone (a huge distraction) to use Tweek and there’s one simple view to plan my week.
Here’s a snippet on how the Ivy Lee Method works from an article published by Tweek and written by Alex Vasilevsky:
Assign yourself no more than six important tasks per day, list them from most important to least important, and then work on and complete each one in that order. Do not begin the next task until you have fully completed the one before it.
🔥 Tip: Once you download Tweek, pin it as a tab in your browser and refer back to it throughout the day.
Another productivity method I’m trying to incorporate into my routine is the Pomodoro timer. I recently found this fun browser extension for it called Otto.
Otto - Be mindful while working✨
Every time you visit a site that's in the block list while the work timer is on, Otto's health depletes. So, keep an…
All in all, do whatever works for you but just make sure you have a system in place to manage your tasks. Getting these ideas out of your head creates space for others.
The job search is mentally and physically draining, which is why taking care of yourself should be top of mind. During the first few weeks of my job search, I wasn’t prioritizing my health outside of the gym and I found myself more frustrated than ever. It was at this point that I decided to make a change.
Physical & Mental Health
I go to the gym four days per week, but on my “rest” days, I found I wasn’t being active at all. To get some movement throughout the day, I’ve started walking. I go outside, put on a podcast, and walk for a solid 15–30 minutes. This may not seem like a lot but it helps so much. It gives me a chance to:
- Collect my thoughts
- Get some fresh air and just breathe
- Learn about interesting topics outside of or sometimes related to design
After walking, I’ll come back to my computer feeling refreshed and more motivated to accomplish tasks.
Set Concrete Goals
As part of the UX/UI design certification program I completed in September 2020, I have to do three things every week if I want to be eligible for a money-back guarantee.
- Write one blog post
- Complete one design challenge
- Reach out to eight people
These are the three goals I complete no matter what. I also set some other goals to help me out:
- Chat with at least one mentor in the field
- Attend at least one online event and reach out to speakers and/or attendees afterward
- Apply to at least three jobs (this changes weekly, I like to assess how I’ve done in other areas first)
It’s important to limit your weekly goals because you don’t want to get overwhelmed.
Telling Your Story
Chatting with a mentor every week has been extremely helpful and I couldn’t help but notice the commonalities between all the conversations I’ve had.
Everyone has said in one way or another that how you position yourself is critical.
Here are some tips I’ve received:
- Know your strengths.
- Be cohesive and consistent when positioning yourself across your resume and portfolio.
- Tell a coherent story — this is not easy. To help me out with this, I’ve been reading Ellen Lupton’s, Design is Storytelling book. Two methods I’ve found helpful so far for telling my story are the Narrative Arc and the Hero’s Journey.
- Tie in your previous roles when applying to jobs and setting up your resume—the skills you’ve gained in them are useful, even if you’re a career switcher. Think critically here.
- Think of ways to stand out across your job materials—if 100 people can say the same thing, you’re not standing out.
- Have someone who has been in the field you’re in look over your resume. This has helped me so much. Sometimes, the way you frame yourself on your resume can hinder success. Know how to talk about your positions during an interview (also not an easy thing and something I struggle with).
Emphasize Quality & Be Strategic
Thus far, applying to jobs through an online portal hasn’t worked for me (even when I expend a lot of time on my application).
What has worked for me is getting my resume in front of a physical human being. You see, when you apply to a job online, if there’s not a certain percent match, you automatically get sent a rejection email.
Usually what I do is send in my application and then try to find someone on LinkedIn that I can reach out to. I get mixed results with this but it’s worth a shot. Another option is to find a recruiter’s email.
🔥 Tip: Try looking at the company’s press releases to find the email format.
Quality matters. Each outreach should be customized. This is difficult and it’s why you must be selective on who you reach out to. Don’t write an essay when reaching out. Instead, find a happy medium.
Your primary goal should be to develop a relationship with each contact. You never know how they may be able to help you in the future.
Ultimately, when it comes to the job search, the less traditional you are, the better. Network, go to online events and reach out to people. You won’t hear back from everyone and yes, it may be difficult not to send in a bunch of applications. Think strategically about how you want to expend your energy. I’m not saying don’t apply to any jobs but prioritize the tasks that will yield you results and constantly re-evaluate.
Also, remember to take a step back and prioritize your health. Networking is exhausting, especially for introverts like myself.
To end on a positive note, here are some helpful tweets and resources that have allowed me to shift my perspective during the job search.
Twitter (Tweets & Threads)
These tweets and threads contain advice from current/previous job seekers and hiring managers.
These resources contain resume, cover letter, and outreach tips.
Job Hunt Guide - Big Kid Lab
The Job Hunt Field Guide I've compiled all of my favourite tips, tools and resources to help when searching for a job…
Write a Resume that Tells Your Story - Holloway
Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash. This is an excerpt from Ask Me This Instead, the resource for job seekers…
Guide to Cold Outreach
Art by Adam Sandler. Hi everyone! I'm Lukas Steinbock, a rising senior at Washington University in St. Louis and…
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