Keeping Yourself Sane While Job Hunting

As anyone who has spent time job hunting can tell you, the process has a nasty way of threatening to take over your life.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in searching for new leads, obsessively trying to make contact on LinkedIn and at networking events, feverishly churning out cover letters and resumes, and checking your phone and e-mail every ten minutes to see if you’ve gotten the all-important call back.

Important, of course, but it can also make your life miserable.  More importantly, the more you slip into panic mode, the more likely it is your work will suffer.  If you’re cranking out five cover letters and resumes a day, but they’re all mediocre, you’re not likely to make any progress in your search.

With that in mind, here are some tricks that helped me maintain my health and sanity while job hunting:


This is key.  First, whenever I found a job I was interested in applying to, I printed out the posting right away.  If there was absolutely no way to get to a printer, I would email myself with the heading “job posting” and print any such emails as soon as I got home.

Once the posting was printed out, I printed the due date at the top with a bright pink marker.  I then filed the post in a folder, organized in order by due date.  For jobs with no date listed, I assigned an arbitrary date of one week after I saw the posting.  Due dates were also entered into my day planner.

When it came time to work on an application, I took the top item out of the folder.  After perusing the institution’s website, I would staple any notes I had made to the position description.

Once an application was complete, the position description and notes went into a new folder (“completed applications), organized in alphabetical order by institution, easily accessible in case an interviewer came calling.

If I received an interview, phone or in person, I retrieved the posting and notes from the completed applications folder, along with a copy of the resume and cover letter from my computer, and put all of these things in their own folder, so they were all together and accessible when interview time came.

In addition to organizing your job search, make sure you’ve got the rest of your activities organized, as well.  This is especially important if you’re finishing up school.  Make sure your assignments are also entered in your planner.  If you don’t have a planner, start one for free using an online application like Google Calendar.  Schedule time to complete your reading, papers, presentations, group meetings, and anything else you need to fit into your life along with your job search.


However hard it may be, you have to spend some time not focusing on school or your job search.  Both tend to demand attention and suck up a lot of your time, but not having some downtime to relax can be very detrimental.  There are any number of things you can do to spend some time away from work, school work, and your job search.  Read a good book.  Exercise.  Meditate.  Try a new restaurant with friends.  If you have a hobby such as knitting, scrapbooking, painting, etc., schedule some time for it.  Spend at least a few hours a week focusing on yourself and things you LIKE to do, rather than things you HAVE to do.

Someone to Talk To

Actually, I’d recommend two someones.  One should be a friend or colleague who has good grammar and writing skills and is willing to read and comment on cover letters and resumes.  Even when you write a new letter and resume for every application (which you should be doing), they all start to sound the same after a while, and when this happens, it becomes easier for the brain to miss corrections that need to be made, or to gloss over things as we proofread.  A fresh set of eyes is quite useful.  Pay the person with food or beer or an IOU, but find somebody who can give you honest feedback.

The second person should have nothing to do with your job search whatsoever.  This is the person who will listen to anything and be supportive – the person you go to when you need to bitch, or need a reassuring thought.  This might be a trusted friend, parent, or supportive partner.  It might be a professional counselor or therapist.  The point is that this is somebody who will listen when the going gets tough (which it almost certainly will).

Once you’ve figured out a basic method of organization for your search, you’re ready to begin searching in earnest.  Next week (or soon thereafter), we’ll cover my favorite sites to find job postings.


2 thoughts on “Keeping Yourself Sane While Job Hunting

  1. As I apply to more and more jobs, I end up thinking of this post a lot and I finally decided to air my grievances.
    The section on organization borders on counterproductive; organization is certainly important, but your methods are outdated by a couple decades. Printing and putting papers in physical folders is anachronistic; we have pdfs and directories on hard drives for this now. I would strongly recommend an analogous process, but on a computer where you don’t waste money/materials/time printing (I despise printing, if that’s not evident) and can utilize search to navigate as well as hierarchies. I personally have a “Career” directory where I keep application materials and job descriptions, while I track positions on a Google spreadsheet.
    Better yet, forgo the hard drive altogether and do this entire process in Google Docs or Office Live or Zoho or [insert favorite cloud service here]. Then you can access your entire system wherever you are, without carrying around a laptop or filing cabinet.
    Great post otherwise, it’s just that analog inefficiency is a pet peeve of mine.

    1. Well, I think the take away point of the post wasn’t so much that people needed to follow my steps exactly, so much as they need to keep themselves organized. If one is more comfortable using a computer to do that, more power to them – as you point out, there are plenty of programs and organizational methods that will do that.

      I, however, as much as I love technology, greatly enjoy the feeling of creating with pen and paper, whether it’s a cover letter or a creative project, and find that I do better work when I write early notes and concept maps in longhand. Perhaps some people see this as inefficient, and for some people, probably a lot of people, it is. I can’t change their minds, but I also understand how to adopt and adapt processes that allow me to put my best work out there, and that’s what I would encourage everyone to do – figure out a system that will work for you, makes logical sense to you, and is easy for you to maintain!

      I certainly understand your frustrations with printing, particularly the expense of ink and paper and the toll it can take on the environment. I hadn’t used as much ink and paper as I did last summer in a long time, and I haven’t used as much since. In fact, I don’t think I’ve printed more than about 10 sheets (most of them Hobby Lobby coupons) on my personal printer since I finished my job search last August. It just happened to be the method that I found worked best for me at the time. I don’t expect it to work for everyone; rather, I was just sharing one possible method, and I’m glad you chose to share your version as well!

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