Three ways to stay optimistic while searching for a job

Last week, we blogged about how self-knowledge is a key component of a successful job search. The post sparked an interesting discussion and was a good reminder of the complexities of job seeking that go beyond resumes and networking etiquette.

Looking for a job can be many things: exciting, tiring, inspiring, and deflating. No matter the ratio of ingredients, it’s often like being on your own personal roller coaster. Just last night, I overheard an elated new job-lander talking on her phone. She was shrieking into the receiver in a way that turned out to be joyful, but easily could have been taken as terrified. “I got the job, I got the job!” she cried, and as I passed she was launching into the sea of details. Talk about a melodrama! Of course, this is the happy emotional state we all hope our job searches are headed for, but what about the meantime?


Remember: sometimes it's the little things that keep us happy. (Photo Credit: Peyri, Creative Commons/Flickr)

Feeling discouraged is a top complaint of job seekers, and how could it not be? If you’re doing your homework, you’re setting yourself up for regular dissection and rejection from a range of audiences. But you don’t have to stay mired in the blues. Consider these stay-on-top tips:

Create a routine. The same advice that helps anyone facing a tough transition can work wonders for job seekers. If you’re unemployed, don’t sleep until noon one day and get up at 7:00 the next; try not to cram all your LinkedIn tasks into a four-hour period and then lose touch for two weeks. Setting up even a basic routine while you search for a job (perhaps a daily cocktail of one part surfing the want ads, one part networking, and one part researching your field—with a sprinkling of fresh fruit breaks and walks around the block) can really help keep you grounded and feeling like you’re doing “something,” even if that thing isn’t always getting a job offer.

Explore alternatives. This one is taken directly from the brain of Dick Bolles, author of the deservedly ubiquitous What Color Is Your Parachute?. No matter how grim your employment options may seem in the dark of night, you always have options; sometimes it’s only a matter of illuminating them. For example, if you’ve been pursuing work in a certain field, try identifying two other fields you’d enjoy working in. If you spend most of your time visiting job seeker websites, look through a newspaper for a change. Just as leveraging the power of biodiversity serves evolution in nature, so leveraging the power of options serves the discouraged job seeker. Bolles writes extensively about this conviction in Parachute, but a mini version can be found in this edition of the Job Hunters Bible newsletter.

Don’t forget to live. All work and no play will not only make you dull, it will also make you less productive. All manner of studies and experiments show that our brains generally thrive on variety—not frenzy, but not repetition, either. So be strategic: pick enjoyable break activities that have natural starting and ending points, so you don’t wind up lost in Facebook or on an interminable phone call with your grandmother when all you wanted was a brief respite from salary surveys. Try balancing two hours of hardcore job listings searches with 20 minutes of cereal eating, funny episodic blog browsing, podcast listening, or even a nap (just set the alarm!). Then go back to work feeling refreshed.

When all else fails, I like recalling the great proverb “this too shall pass.” Because even if you’re feeling down-and-out now, one day you’ll be shrieking joyfully to a friend on the phone. That’s life.

Your turn, job seekers: tell us how you keep from feeling discouraged!

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Three reasons not to post your resume online

Amy Potthast served as Idealist’s Director of Service and Graduate Education Programs until 2011. Read more of her work at

“Can I post my resume on Idealist? How do I post my resume on Idealist? Why can’t I post my resume on Idealist?””

In my five years working here—chatting, writing and teaching about nonprofit careers—countless community members have asked these questions. Here’s why we don’t host resumes on our site:

1. Resumes should reflect position descriptions.

We don’t host your resume because employers should never see a generic resume from you.

Your resumes (plural) should each be almost mirror images of the positions you’re applying for. They should reflect your experiences with the roles, qualifications and job duties the hiring organizations seek, and the issues they champion. See Chapter Eight of the Idealist Guides to Nonprofit Careers for tips (p. 142 if you’re reading the guide for first time job seekers and p. 146 in the guide for sector switchers).

As a hiring manager, I love it best when an applicant’s resume tells me that they were born for this job or internship. A generic resume will never do that.

2. Resumes should not open you to identity theft.

We don’t host your resume because we don’t want to encourage identity theft.

Professional, non-financial identity theft involves using the details of another person’s professional and educational background to gain employment. Perpetrators can access your personal information in plenty of ways – including information you post about yourself online.

Listing specific details of your current and past employment online (including your contact information, accomplishments, references, awards and professional memberships) opens the door to professional identity theft.


From Flickr user Yasuhiro (Creative Commons)

3. Resumes should not invite spam.

We don’t host your resume because while we want to promote connections among our community members, we dislike spammers.

In the current job market, it’s unclear how many worthy organizations are browsing online resumes in search of people who haven’t bothered to apply for the organization’s openings.

However, it’s very clear that spammers are always on the look out for people to pester.


Posting your resume online may seem like hedging your bets: you can’t possibly know about all the openings out there, so maybe it makes sense to post a generic resume, just in case your dream employer discovers you that way. The risks of such passivity are professional identity theft on one end of the spectrum, and spam on the other.

In fact, worthy employers who post job openings in the current job market are inundated with worthy applicants. The best way to get their attention is to send your perfectly-tailored resume directly to the hiring manager. Read more about presenting yourself on paper.

And take note: if you have a crush on an organization that’s not currently hiring, connect with them in the meantime through social networks. For example, on the newly relaunched Idealist, you can connect with an organization as a fan of their page. Then you won’t miss out if and when they do post a new job listing.

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