Handling Those Job Search Blues


A long job search is a tough, miserable experience. Someone left a comment on this blog recently, and it ended up being a few paragraphs of woe-is-me statements. That’s OK – part of the reason for this blog, and what I’ve been trying to help people with for 15 years now.

Let yourself have those moments, but don’t stay “there” too long, or woe-is-me becomes a habit!

Instead of woe-is-me, try these 4 ideas:

1. Take a brisk walk for 30 minutes or an hour.

I always come back from a walk energized and more awake than when I left – better than a cup of coffee and cheaper, too!

It may feel like you can’t “spare the time” for something as “pointless” as taking a walk. Trust me – you’ll be much more productive when you get back! Medical researchers tell us that walking stimulates blood circulation in our brain, and we all need our brains to function at their best for job search. I find it always raises my spirits and my productivity!

Many people cannot walk briskly for 30 minutes, or at all. So appreciate that you can. Do it outdoors, if possible, somewhere you will be safe.  Enjoy the sun on your face, the breeze through your hair, the trees, the birds and squirrels, your neighbors and the neighborhood, and/or whatever else is available that pleases you esthetically or emotionally.

If you can’t walk outdoors, walk indoors at a mall or a big box store.  Become a people-watcher, increase your understanding of how retail works (who knows when that will come in handy), or whatever else interests you about walking inside. 

Find something to appreciate and enjoy about your walk – even if it’s only the fact that you’re not still sitting at your computer.

2. Help someone.

Volunteering as a win/win!  It truly helps the volunteer as much as it helps the people or the organization the volunteer aids. 

You can target an experience or skill gap on your resume with your volunteering. Volunteering is another way to get away from your computer. You’ll have a great reason to get out and meet new people. You may even learn some new things that will help you in your job search.  And, some of those people may end up being helpful for your job search, too.

In the USA, we’ve got –

  • Volunteer.gov which is “America’s Natural and Cultural Resources Volunteer Portal” connecting you to all kind of opportunities on the country’s public lands.
  • Serve.gov which is the Federal Government’s portal to community service opportunities.
  • The political party of your choice – 2012 is an election year, in case you hadn’t noticed, and you can participate in the process directly. It’s VERY educational!

You can also volunteer at your child’s school, your place of worship, maybe even your local public library or city hall. Look around and see what’s available and/or needed.

If you want to really impact your job search with your volunteering (who doesn’t?), volunteer with a local professional organization.  My favorite “volunteer position” is running the badge table where everyone checks in at the start of the meetings.  Check off the names, hand out the badges, and introduce yourself.  If the table is quiet, start a conversation.  At least you’ll meet most everyone attending the meeting, so they won’t be complete strangers at the next meeting (never stop at attending only one meeting).

This is good for the spirit, too, making you realize that you do have value even if you don’t have a job, and that you are an important and contributing member of society.

3. Don’t job hunt in solitude.

I don’t think there’s anything more discouraging than a solitary job search. When you job hunt by yourself, it’s very easy for the struggle to feel like a colossal personal failure when it is just “job hunting as usual.”

There’s no one to commiserate with, no one to cheer you up (or kick you in the seat, metaphorically, of course). There’s also no one to double-check that resume for typos, or to share a contact at a local employer.

“Misery loves company” is an old cliché that is true, and with “fellow (job seeker) sufferers” around you, it will be obvious to you that you aren’t the only one struggling. You aren’t the only one who isn’t getting 100% (or even 50%) call-backs. And you may learn more about how to job search effectively – social media, job boards, local networking opportunities, etc.

If you attended a college or university, undergraduate or graduate, get back in touch with them. See if they have career counseling available for “alums.” You often don’t need to have actually graduated to qualify as an alumni/ae.  So, check them out.

Find a local job search support group and join it. You can often find postings about them in the local library, city hall, places of worship, or the Career OneStop Centers we have in every state of the USA.

4.  Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

It may sound sappy, but when you focus on what you have – the great and the good things in your life – it helps put a job search, even a long one,  in perspective.  And it helps most of us to be more positive and optimistic during the day.  It also helps with going to sleep more easily, if that’s a problem.  Try it!

Before I go to sleep at night, after I’ve turned off the light, I run through a list of everything I have to be grateful for, starting with the big stuff we often take for granted – a safe and dry place to sleep, electricity, the country (mostly!), the Internet (usually!), my computer (most of the time), my education, my family, my friends and colleagues, and so on down to the “little” stuff like an important phone call or email or a child’s laugh and a husband’s hug. 

We all have stuff to be grateful for – perhaps some of us need to dig deeper to find it than others.  But I think that it’s SO important to remind ourselves of all the “good stuff” in our lives, so the woe-is-me feelings don’t take over, bumming us out, and sabotaging our job searching.

Bottom Line:

Job hunting is hard work. It’s relentless, and it is discouraging. Keeping your spirits up is important for your confidence and your success. Don’t underestimate it.

Good luck with your job search!

More About Handling Job Search Blues:

When You Can’t Find a Job, Do You Forget How Good You Are? 

How Helping Others Helped Her Find a Job

Why Volunteer if It Doesn’t Lead Directly to a Job?

15 Job Search Tips From a Guy Who Just Got a Job

Help for Your Job Search

Job Hiring Process – Behind the Scenes

Health and Stress Management


© Copyright, 2012, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been  observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on .


  1. I REALLY needed this today. I am days away from the 1 year anniversary (no cause for celebration) of my unemployment. I have been freelancing and volunteering but it still gets depressing when you can’t pay your bills. This site has been a God send! My situation is unique because I have a lawsuit against my former employer and that has hindered my search because of the area and industry that I’m in. On many days I need that extra “umph” to keep fighting the good fight. Thanks again and I am looking forward to reading more informative and uplifting posts here.
    God Bless

    • Hi Nikki –

      Thank you for the kind words and the Blessing!

      Tough situation, but freelancing and volunteering are excellent methods to support yourself and to market yourself, too.

      Looking forward to hearing some good news from you very soon!

      God Bless

      • I volunteer with my church, including our Girl Scout chapter. I have found that some people have tried to take advantage and get me to freelance for free. Sometimes if its somebody in a position like myself (ie unemployed and seeking work) I will do a resume or write a letter for them. I also do some good ol fashoined bartering. Like today. I’m on my way to the salon for hair, mani and pedi BUT its all paid for by the owner because I help her market and plan events for the salon. I get a day of pampering that gives me an extra boost of confidence when I am on my interviews tommorow and next week as well as some great examples of my work for my portfolio. She has doubled her business due to my efforts…win win 🙂

      • What a sad state of affairs when people try to take advantage of someone who is unemployed, Nikki! Not nice, but not surprising.

        If a for-profit organization asks for a customized “demonstration” of a candidate’s expertise before hiring them, I’d call that being sleazy – taking advantage of people. That’s not what I mean by “volunteering”!

        If confronted with a request for a “free sample” of my work, I would ask for a short contract to compensate me for my efforts in case I wasn’t hired. Perhaps that would lead to the end of the relationship, but the reality is that I wouldn’t want to work in an organization that thinks it’s OK to take advantage of job seekers. That organization would probably have the same attitude toward employees and clients. Sleaze may pay off in the short term, but it really is the classic going-out-of-business strategy over the long term. I’d be on guard all the time if I accepted a job at that kind of company.

        Barter isn’t a bad idea in these situations – you receive a day of pampering and some recent work samples in exchange with providing marketing help, although I do wonder what the IRS would think.

        Good luck!

      • Well Susan I may have to ask my friend at the IRS…maybe LOL

  2. This is also good advice for entrepreneurs like me who work alone and feel overwhelmed with how much it takes to keep things going forward in this economy. Taking walks is important and I often don’t get to them for days. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. I thought all of them were good suggestions except for the advice to volunteer, lately I’ve been reading books for women about making more money i.e. “Overcoming Underearning” which tell you bluntly not to volunteer. But I do still think its a good idea – should there be a time maximum of how much you volunteer a week?

    • Hi Kjen,

      I’m a bit familiar with “Overcoming Underearning,” and I think the no-volunteering idea is addressing women who give away their time and talent because they don’t think it has value in the marketplace. That’s not what this volunteering is about – this volunteering IS a good idea because it helps you extend your network, fill a time gap on your resume, possibly fill an experience gap in your career plan, and helps your spirit.

      It’s hard to pick a “maximum” amount of time. Off the top of my head, I’d say not more than half a day a week, unless the volunteering is providing you with important experience and learning that will help increase your personal value in the job market. Then, I’d say one or two days a week would probably be appropriate, but not for an extended period of time like months.

      I would be wary of for-profit companies who ask for “free trials” of a job seeker’s time to see if the job seeker is a good fit for the job. That sounds like a scam to me, and I would avoid it if I could. Someone doing work for a for-profit company should be paid for their work, even if the “job” is temporary.

      Good luck!

  4. What an awesome post. Volunteering can be a wonderful networking opportunity, although it is rarely the reason people get into it. You just get to meet so many like-minded people.

    • Hi Carla,

      Thank you for the kind words!

      Yes, volunteering can be excellent – I’ve met people through volunteering that are friends 20+ (eek!) years later! It’s a great way to network, learn, and have fun. Also good for job search and business.


  5. Great Post! And, really good comments.

    I tell my clients to have a pity party if they feel the need but to strictly limit it to no more than one day. Then resume the hunt.

    Volunteering is a great way to network. If you can, be ultra smart about it and target charities where movers and shakers in your industry are involved. That way your networking is very focused, instead of just casting a wide net and hoping.

    Tom S.

    Author of “Fire Yourself: Get the Job You Want” from XLibris Press

  6. I’ve been in career transiton since last Nov. Since then, I have been reactive as I had a surgery schedule after the holidays so planned to start my proactive aproached in Feb. I have landed interviews and in company a 5-round interviews- almost there but did not get the job. I’ve engaged the services to have my resume done professionally for the first time in my whole career and invested substantially in those professional services along with collateral materials- considered an investment instead of a high expense. I’ve been reading and learning how better use social media such as LinkedIn in networking and expanding contacts. One advice I rec’d was to get recommendations so I could get a better chance on the search results. I’ve also passing along job posting to fomer colleagues who are in the same position as me but in different fields. Job hunting is not easy and is very fustrated process.
    After almost 3 months since I started, this is taking a toll on me. I’ve reached out to people whom I have worked in the past and asked to be endorsed. These are the same people I provided my endorsements when they asked for my input. I rec’d a couple of replies stating that they’d be glad to send their recommendations. It has been weeks for a few and in one case a couple of months and so far I’m still waiting for those few “good words” that will help to raise my online profile.
    It is very difficult when we are in need for help not to receive. We can’t force anyone to help us but if we are asked to help others who are in career transition, please don’t hesitate and don’t take too long as that person is relying to have just a better chance to land a face-to-face conversation or a job interview.
    How do we cope with this lack of empathy? Is there an etiquette to remind the request? I prefer not to follow up as this should be a simple request, and I am not comfortable with this whole process. But it strikes me the lack of response from the same people who were the recipients of endorsements – including mine when I was asked for it.

    I want to keep positive and will try hard to remian this way but these little things drag you down and make you wonder how distant some of us are when we are in our day-to-day jobs while some of us have to face the uncertainty of when the next challenge will be a reality.
    I would appreciate your inputs/thoughts as I might not be the only one facing with this issue.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve had these setbacks. It would have been so much easier if your colleagues had come through with the LinkedIn recommendations.

      The advice you were given about needing to have LI recommendations for better search results is correct. You need at least 3 recommendations, along with several other requirements, for LI to consider your profile to be “100% complete”.

      When you meet those criteria, your profile is more likely to land higher in search results for the relevant keywords you’ve included in your profile. The higher your profile lands in search results, the more likely people will be to read your profile.

      It could be that some of the people you asked forgot, or have been too busy to get around to it. Some people simply have a hard time writing anything at all.

      Since they did say they would write you a recommendation, I think you should follow up and remind them. Maybe lead the email with something like:

      “Just a gentle reminder about the LinkedIn recommendation you offered to write for me…”

      I provide my job-seeking clients with a short list of questions they can send to the people they want to get recommendations from. Here they are. Why not tweak them for yourself, and provide them to those people:

      1. What do you feel are my top strengths and skills that have most benefitted the company?

      2. How did I add value to the company?

      3. What things did you know you could always rely on me to deliver?

      4. In what ways have I helped you do your job?

      5. How would you describe and rate my performance on the job?

      6. What makes me stand out compared to others at my level and/or doing the same work?

      Maybe you should introduce these questions in your email with something like “I thought it may be helpful to provide some questions, if you’re not sure what to write.”

      I hope this helps!

      Meantime, here’s another wonderful post by Ronnie Ann here on WorkCoachCafe, 12 Ways to Stay Sane After a Job Interview —

      Good luck!

      Meg Guiseppi,
      Member of the WorkCoachCafe Team

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