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How To Regain Momentum After A Protracted Job Search

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at August 21, 2021

This Billing Manager wants to know if she should give up on her job search:

My role was eliminated at work last year and then I took some months off to attend to some family issues. When I started to apply to roles in my industry later in the year, I wasn’t making any progress landing a new job. Frustrated and discouraged, I decided to launch my own business and enrolled in an MBA program that starts in the Fall. I’m excited and optimistic that taking this step will help me develop the skills and gain the experience I need to be in a formal leadership role, which is what I’m most interested in, and also lead to higher earnings. It’s this interim period that worries me because I worry that I’m becoming unemployable with every passing day (it’s been 16 months since I was last employed).

I’ve rebranded myself as a business consultant and am enjoying developing that, but continue to look at jobs in my previous industry so I have a fallback and can pay for school when the bills start rolling in. I’ve had some very promising conversations with the hiring managers, not just HR, but then I get told that they’re going to go with another candidate.

  • Do you suggest I stop my futile efforts to find a job?
  • Why are there so many unemployed people and so many open jobs?
  • What concessions will employers make about candidates in the post-pandemic hiring decisions?
  • I’m somewhat of a mature candidate and the younger workforce is threatening to quit when they’re summoned back to work. Does that mean more opportunities for the likes of me, to make a living while pursuing bigger goals?

I normally don’t include all the backstory when posting reader questions, but I thought Billing Manager eloquently captured sentiments I frequently see in other submissions – frustration, discouragement, confusion about what to do next. When you’re in a long job search, it can be tough to figure out what you can do to turn things around or if you should just do something else.

At the same time, this question goes off-topic, which many job seekers also do to their detriment. Billing Manager isn’t just thinking about landing the next job, but also about whether they’re now unemployable given the gap between jobs. Other questions tap into hiring trends (why so many unemployed?), employer behavior (what concessions will be made post-pandemic) and the generational divide (will the Great Resignation lead to more jobs for older workers?). It’s important to remember that, unless you’re a labor economist or sociologist, your job search is about you, not general trends. Control what you can control, and don’t pile on even more things to worry about.

What you can control are your career management efforts and approach. In the case of Billing Manager, there are three options she uncovers as she relays her backstory:

1 – Quit your job search and build the consulting business

Billing Manager alludes to a consulting business she’s starting, and she might speed up growth by redirecting the time and energy from her job search to her consulting business. Former bosses and colleagues from her billing days might be potential clients or have potential clients to refer. Her undergraduate alma mater, former professional associations and personal connections are additional sources for clients or leads. As an older entrepreneur (Billing Manager self-describes as a “mature candidate”) there might be business grants she can apply for.

It doesn’t sound like Billing Manager wants to continue in her former career, which is why she’s pivoting to graduate school. Doubling down on the consulting business over the job search is a way to further invest in her career change. Yes, a longer time away from your previous career makes a smooth return less likely, but you shouldn’t worry about marketability for a career you no longer want

2 – Pivot your job search to target “money jobs”

Billing Manager cites the need to pay for school as a reason to return to her old career, but if we isolate what’s truly necessary for that obligation, it’s cash flow of any kind, not necessarily income tied to her former job. Actors sometimes wait tables or do other non-acting jobs to pay the bills in, but they know they are actors by profession. The restaurant or other work is the money job that supports the long-term career.

Similarly, if you’re making a career pivot like Billing Manager, you could continue in your old career while doing it, if you have the opportunity to remain in your job. Or, you could just do something else. Look for a job at the university where you’re doing graduate studies. Sign up with a temp agency to do administrative work. Declutter and sell things you no longer use to build up reserves. Since the end goal is to ultimately move away from your initial career, there’s no reason to limit your job search to your former line of work.

3 — Change your job search tactics

Whether you target a new job altogether or continue to look in your old field, change tactics if your job search is not yielding results. If you’re not getting interviews, make sure you’re applying to enough jobs and also reaching out to live people instead of just spraying and praying with unsolicited resume submissions. If you’re getting interviews but not moving forward, revisit your interviewing style. Maybe you’re rambling and need to be more concise. Maybe you need to better describe your experience. Work with a mentor, coach or friend in HR to pinpoint and fix the problem.


Combine all three tactics to jumpstart momentum

You could supercharge your job search efforts by continuing to search in your old field, broadening your search to money jobs and stepping up your consulting efforts. If you’re unemployed, your job search is your full-time job, and it helps to juggle multiple paths to ensure you have enough leads to pursue.

Whatever you decide, strategic, consistent job search efforts are not futile. You meet people who become allies and friends. You learn about yourself, your preferences and your priorities. You discover new roles, companies and industries. All the work you do along the way to eventually getting a job helps to shape your overall career. Remember to revisit old connections, leads and ideas – there might be new opportunities that have popped up since you last looked.

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