If you're sick of looking for a job, this is for you.

25 Ways to Breathe Life into a Painfully Long Job Search
Photo by Alex Siale

Although most of these tips are useful for any job seeker, all of them are intended for people who’ve been job searching for much longer than they expected, possibly even a year or more.

My own long job search story

In December 2001, I started looking for a career job in Israel for the first time, having taken a few months to relax after resigning from my managerial position at Amazon.com in France.

In July 2002, 8 months later, I didn’t have much to show for my job hunting efforts and with my savings dwindling, I was starting to feel a little desperate and more alone than ever on my job search. However, I made one major change to my job search strategy and within a few weeks, I entered the recruitment process that resulted in my starting a new job on October 1st of that year.

That major change I made is #25 at the bottom of this list of tips for others like myself who know too well the frustration of a prolonged job search.

How long have you been job searching?

25 tips when feeling hopeless about job search

1) Open yourself to change

There’s a fine but clear line between getting into a job search groove and a job search rut: in the former, you actually feel like you’re getting somewhere, moving closer to your next job, while the latter seems to go on forever.

Once you get into a set of bad habits, it’s not easy to change out of them, and it’s never easy to experiment when you feel that your livelihood (and reputation?) are in the balance, but you will need to embrace change if you’re not getting the job search results you desire.

2) Take a short vacation to recharge your batteries

Vacations are also good for inspiration and meeting people, plus- haven’t you ever felt like your best ideas sometimes come to you when your mind is 100% thinking about something else?

3) Stay positive

I know you're tired of not finding a job, but no one’s going to give you a job interview out of pity, and no one’s going to hire you out of pity. You need to stay upbeat while job hunting; your next job literally depends on it:

Do whatever it takes. Build on the successes of little things like finding a new job lead, making a new contact, etc., and by letting little achievements from outside of the job search throw some good feeling into your job search.

Another way to get the positive juices flowing is exercising regularly.

4) Stop job searching alone

For the 8+ months of my 2002 job search above, I spent almost every single day getting tired in front of my computer looking and applying for jobs online, rarely ever meeting with anyone outside of the occasional interview. It was no wonder that I felt alone and isolated, which certainly didn’t help my morale.

Instead, look for every opportunity to job search with other people, both job seeker and not, both online and off.

Have lunch weekly with other job seekers you know, hang out here on JobMob asking questions, and so on.

I wish I had known of such options back in 2002 when I struggled so much to find a job.

5) Write your curriculum vitae as if it was the first time, making a full job history you can reference moving forward

Go back to the beginning of your career. For each job you had, list your title, required skills, responsibilities, achievements and anything you were proud of.

Numbers are good if you have them.

Were there any memorable stories that may be worth recalling in a job interview? Jot them down too, for each position.

Can’t remember all the details? Use that as an excuse to re-establish contact with past colleagues or former employers.

6) Get an independent, expert audit of your job search to date

Go over what you’ve done well, what you’ve done wrong and get specific, actionable ideas of what you should be doing right now to change your luck.

Look for such help from your college/university alumni association, local employment center, favorite blogging job search expert, etc.

7) Hire a job search coach

They can conduct the above audit with you, and give you those kickstart ideas.

8) Reach out to local headhunters who specialize in your industry

They’ll immediately know if your skillset is in demand based on what their clients are looking for, among other things. They may also have better analysis on why all the job rejection.

Get a second opinion too; you don’t want to make any decisions based on just one person’s thoughts.

9) Consider relocation

Perhaps there really is no demand for your skillset locally. The farther you’re willing to move, the more job opportunities you open yourself to.

10) Consider remote work

If there’s no local demand for your skillset, find out where there is demand and apply for a teleworking opportunity. This allows you to respond to a company’s needs without the radical changes of a potentially unnecessary move, or possibly to test the waters before such a move.

11) Update your skills

The irony of having a job is that you’re often so busy, you don’t have time to refresh your knowledge, and this can even be true in countries where employee education budgets are required by law like in France.

Technology is always advancing, discoveries are being made, new ideas are practiced. If you’ve been job searching for a long time, stop to look around and make sure you know what you need to get a job today, not what you needed to know a year ago. Add value.

12) Learn new skills

When meeting local headhunters, ask them which skills are most in demand. Browse recent job board listings to corroborate, and choose the skills that can most increase your worth within a reasonable amount of time.

Then start learning every day. If you’re not someone who learns well on their own, take a course online, sign up for workshops at a local community center, college or institute. Again, add value.

13) Followup with old contacts

You probably told everyone about your job search back when you began looking?

That was well over 6 months ago, and unless they know better, they may think you’ve already found something. Send a gentle reminder that you’re still available.

14) Stay in touch with your contacts

Once you’ve reached out to someone, whether at the beginning of your job search or now so much later, stay in contact with them so that they are less likely to forget about you.

Also, don’t break contact again once you do find something, leaving them feeling used. Perhaps you can help them back somehow.

15) Find new contacts

Over months of searching, it may feel like you’ve exhausted all your contacts. Discover new networking opportunities by joining local associations or networking groups, attending conferences and meetups (find them here), both offline and online; if they’re locally-based, you can then carry over an online meet into a real world meet.

Learning new skills (#6 above) will also introduce you to new communities of people.

16) Reapply to a former employer

As long as you left a good impression on the way out, they may only be too happy to have you back since they know what you’re capable of, making for a shorter, less-expensive recruitment and a quicker integration.

Another good reason to stay in touch with your ex-colleagues and ex-bosses (at least, the ones you enjoyed working for).

17) Start freelance consulting as soon as possible

Whether you’ve been looking for work for 1 week or 1 year, get yourself business cards that say you’re a consultant in your field of professional expertise.

When people ask what you do, reply “I consult on X, but am also available for full-time work” and hand them a business card, which leaves a better impression than just saying “I’m looking for a job”.

Plus, you might even get some clients, which is a great way to fill a resume gap while potentially leading to a permanent position with a client company or business partner they referred you to.

18) Offer job trials to prospective employers

Let employers see what you can do by working in a temporary job capacity for them or on a per-project basis.

However, the end goal should be definitive i.e. a ‘yes or no’ achievement, to prevent employers from taking advantage of you.

19) Get a temporary job

Use a temporary job to impress employers into finding ways to convert the position into a permanent one. Also a great way to build your network of contacts even more, and discover other jobs, both temporary and permanent.

You might even decide you like the temping lifestyle and aim for those types of positions, which are in constant demand due to natural company turnover.

20) Line up information interviews

If you need a hook, find a magazine/trade publication/blog (your own?) to whom you can submit an op-ed or guest post and then tell companies how you’re researching an article for them. If you write well, aim for this interview reason first.

Otherwise, you can always take notes or record the interview on your cellphone and then hire a freelance writer to finish the article for you.

21) Be selective in which positions you choose to apply for

Aim for the quick win by applying for jobs you have already succeeded in. This will mean fewer jobs to apply for, but will increase your chances of finally getting a positive response.

Fewer job applications also means less demoralizing rejections or non-responses, and more time for other more interesting job search activities listed here.

22) Avoid career changes

Similarly to the previous tip, now is not the time to look for a change in career direction. It’s much harder to convince someone you can do a job without any experience than when you’ve already succeeded in that role.

That said, be open to new opportunities if such an unexpected offer comes your way.

23) Volunteer

There are many reasons to volunteer while on a job search, but these are even more true on a prolonged job search.

Achieving through volunteering will improve your morale in leading to new contacts while potentially improving your skills, if you choose an appropriate organization to volunteer for, such as the leading association of professionals in your industry.

24) Consider a move downward

Like an army that retreats to fight again another day, it’s better to take a step down the career ladder than stay off it entirely.

This can be tricky as employers may see you as overqualified and you may be frustrated by not being able to show off all that you can do. All that really matters is what you can achieve for your new boss and how you can leverage that into a position that will allow you to meet your potential.

Even entry-level jobs can be used to springboard you back up the ladder again.

If you do take a step down, start looking again as soon as you're ready:

25) Be flexible

Take a good hard look at the self-imposed limits of your job search and decide which limits you can remove, opening yourself to new job opportunities.

In the story of my 2002 job search in Israel, what made a big difference was my decision to no longer limit myself to jobs in Israel itself, and with that, my wife and I returned to France with a good job in hand, found almost immediately after I’d become more flexible.

Bonus tip

26) Keep trying!

Don’t give up looking. New opportunities can appear at any time.

In hockey, a goal scorer in a slump will eventually score as long as he keeps shooting pucks at the net. Likewise, if you persevere in following best practices while trying new ideas in looking for leads, growing your network and improving your skills, something will eventually come your way.

Question of the article

If you overcame a long job search, what was the turning point? Tell us in the comments.

Additional reading

READ NEXT: Stop Falling into Resume Gaps

Subscribe to JobMob via RSS or email and follow me on Twitter for more insight on ending long job searches.

Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. Pingback: Most Tweeted Articles by Recruitment Experts

  2. Ron Ozery

    I liked this !

    Another important thing :

    Send more resume -> Generate more job interviews

    -> Find a job faster !

  3. Donna Svei

    Hi Jacob,

    The number one thing anyone can do to accelerate their job search is to join a good job search club. The best clubs get their members out of the house, teach them job search skills, and provide mechanisms for goal setting and accountability. Job club members find work up to four times faster than solo job seekers. See more on job clubs and how to find them here: http://bit.ly/bvx8HO.



  4. Tim Tyrell-Smith

    Great post, Jacob. What a nice list of ideas for people. Everyone will find a few new thoughts here.

    I wrote a guest post recently for a local paper about my interviews with job seekers who had been out over a year. A really interesting project. I learned that every person I spoke with felt that, despite the pain and frustration, that each had changed for the better. As a result of going through the experience.

    To your point about opening yourself to change, they opened either on their own or because they had to and learned some great life lessons along the way.

  5. Pingback: Resume Gaps: How To Explain Them, How To Avoid Them | JobMob « ANDYWERGEDAL

  6. Pingback: Laura Vainio

  7. Allison

    Try doing this in Spain…after being super felixble, opening myself to change and sending almost around 800 CVs to job offers, I only got 1 full-time employment, that lasted only 6 month (less than 6 months afterwards they ended up closing business with the property crisis). There is nothing like a job search coach here. The job situation was already dismall, specially for foreigners (even if you have EU passport), before the 2008 crisis hit. AND I have a Ba, a PG DIP a partial MA, and now finishing another MA…seems there is nothing to do in Spain except study (and the quallity of education offered is really bad, BTW). Now…moving countries, wow! How many years have I spent wishing for that? (for married people with children, this is a very tough decision if you are jobless)…and Who, in a foreign country, is going to hire a jobless foreigner? And how will they get past the huge gaps i nyour CV for the past 9 years? You can be an incredible asset, but how are you goint to prove it?


  8. Jacob Share

    Allison- it sounds like you’re going through a tough time. Luckily there are always options.

    Make a list of the jobs you are most qualified to do i.e. the jobs for which you are most likely to get hired. If you can work anywhere in Spain- then try to find out where in Spain those jobs are most in demand, and apply there.

    If you might need to relocate, make a plan for how you would do that quickly, so you can convince potential employers that relocation won’t be an obstacle for you or them.

  9. Pingback: Starting A New Job on the Right Foot | Career Sherpa | HerRochester

  10. Jennifer

    I love this! I crossed my 2-year threshold last month and I’m just really tired of having “unemployed” and “job hunting” hanging over my head!
    These are some simple steps, but it’s nice to know that you care enough about long-term unemployed people (yes, we are people – I find I forget that sometimes) to put this advice together.
    Have a good day 🙂

    1. Jacob Share

      2 years, ouch 🙁

      Really hope there’s a game-changing tip for you in this list. Which do you think it could be at first glance?

  11. PigbitinMad

    Speaking as the most unemployable person on the planet (and maybe all women over the age of 50), I can tell you that you can keep trying and never give up. But there is no power on earth that will get someone to give you a chance unless you know someone. I have been applying for jobs for more than 10 years. Even when I have every qualification and have done the exact job before, someone younger always gets the job.

  12. pigbitinmad

    No, you are wrong. I will not “eventually find something” It’s been 15 long years and I have not found something. Applying constantly the whole time.

    It is possible to keep trying and NEVER succeed. And yes, I do learn new things. I am just the most hated person on the planet. It doesn’t matter how good I am at the job.

    I cannot do a personality change. THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE.

    Killing myself is the only way out of this.

    1. Jacob Share

      If the way you’ve been looking hasn’t been working for so long, the odds are low that you’re going to suddenly get lucky. You’re better off making some changes that can lead to a quick result so you can regain your self-confidence and pay the bills, and then you can decide if you want to stay in the new role or look for something better.

      Look around your neighborhood and its surroundings, both physically and online. Which jobs are currently in demand that you can do or have done in the past?

      The odds of discovering hidden jobs are surprisingly high if you’re willing to go door-to-door in a large office building or an industrial area, albeit for completely different kinds of work.

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