Thursday, April 18, 2013

8 ways to keep applying for jobs when all you (i) want to do is yell JUST GIVE ME A JOB and then go to sleep

red is the star   My contract with WWF-China finished in November of last year, and since then I've been busy but payments have been intermittent. I've been working hard on my con (just seven weeks away, and mildly stressful), working on a major personal (but hopefully fruitful) project, baking cookies for sale in a cafe, looking for a new place to live and dealing with my ever exciting depression and anxious tendencies.

So in all of this I have trouble with motivation; though to be more specific, what I have is a motivation issue in regards to finding a new job. I've been for so many interviews since I returned to Australia, and written so many selection criteria, and been told so many times 'you were amazing and we love you but we went with someone less qualified' - as if telling me that makes me feel any better about the job search that is slowly sucking my soul.

And I'm sitting on the couch right now, prioritising everything that isn't writing yet another set of selection criteria for one of the jobs that I have open in a tab, but I do have some techniques for getting this stuff done, even when I'm feeling demotivated and all I want to do is sit on the couch and watch Super Sizers.
  1. Do something little but useful every day. I get a whole bunch of job emails sent to me that I've tailored to what I'm looking for. I filter these into a separate folder, but I check that folder every day. Even if all I do on the job hunt that day is open the folder, read the emails, and open the jobs that look suitable in new tabs, that's still a thing, and I did it.
  2. Prioritise the jobs by date. I keep track of them in my head but if that doesn't work for you, put them in a spreadsheet. When I see how far apart the due dates are, it allows me to feel like I can breathe.
  3. Breathe.
  4. Break it down. Break the job application down into something that looks like a process, then do one part each day, or two parts, or whatever works for you. A normal government job for me looks like: find the pd; pull out the selection criteria; write each criteria point (not all at once); email BFF to review them; write a cover letter that directly addresses the sc points; review cv; have someone (BFF) reassure me that I would be great for this job; rewrite sc; submit; don't think about it again. You are good for doing each of those elements, you have achieved something for any step that you complete of that. 
  5. Sometimes apply for easy jobs. Not jobs that you easily get, jobs that are easy to apply for. With the work I do, for the most part I have to write five pages of selection criteria and a tailored cover letter, plus of course my CV. That takes days. Sometimes it feels really good to just write the cover letter and shoot it off. I might not get that job (though it's always a job I think I could do, just maybe a bit higher than I should be aiming or out to the side or something), but it helps me to maintain momentum on days when the thought of yet another 3000 words on my suitability just seems insurmountable.
  6. Take a break. Don't do it constantly, it wears you down.
  7. Get someone to poke you. For me that's a person whose specific task is to say 'hey did you apply for that thing? Let me sit on the internet next to you while you write one criteria and then we'll watch some tv together,' but your mileage may vary.
  8. Reward yourself. Applying for jobs is hard, for so many reasons, including the constant rejection and the constant doubts of your own self. You have to do this work, but reward yourself immediately for getting it done. The nebulous satisfaction of 'getting a job' is great but ultimately useless when you're in the throes of rejection/anxiety/omg I'm going to die homeless and friendless and alone, and sometimes you just need a cookie and a cat gif. 


  1. My sister has a friend staying with her who's in a similar position - highly qualified (philosophy PhD) and experienced (long term editing and layout of academic journals as well as various other office jobs).

    Over the last few months she's been rejected for countless positions both high and low, government and private sector, having been told her experience was wrong, she was over-qualified etc.

    Anyway, she kept trying using the sort of routine you describe, and found a job the other day that looks really good working for an overseas aid non-profit. So there's light at the end of the tunnel - good luck.

  2. Thanks for writing this, it looks like a good system for preserving sanity in the face of endless selection criteria.