We spoke to Alana Surgenor (pictured right), our Employment Consultant based in Northern Ireland, about the challenges of job hunting and her tips on how to stay motivated.
What are the possible difficulties or setbacks people can face whilst job hunting?
Job hunting can be difficult for a variety of reasons, which can vary depending on the job market at any given time.
In today’s climate, the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the job market are still emerging. During the pandemic, when there were many redundancies and changes within organisations, job-seekers were keener to move to any job, to ensure that they had a job. Consequently, many job-seekers were less targeted or specific in their job search because they needed employment. Now, a couple of years on, individuals are prioritising satisfaction in their work, and so are making their job search and applications more targeted to specific industries and roles. This has resulted in a crowded and competitive job market. In order to secure a job, you need to stand out.
Standing out and selling yourself on paper can be difficult. Set time aside to build your CV and target it to the roles you want to apply for, and if you’re stuck, our employment advisors are on hand to provide CV support.
Another difficulty some job seekers face is panic applying, particularly if they are out of work or desperate to leave their current role. Alana explains how panic applying, or applying to a multitude of roles as quickly as possible in the hope it helps you find a job sooner, can actually be to your detriment. Rushing through applications can result in you not doing yourself justice, and if you’re looking to stand out, a considered and targeted application is much more likely to make an employer notice you.
The best thing to do is to slow down. Look at the job description of each role you’re interested in and consider whether you meet the essential criteria. Take your time to target the role and the industry by doing your research and tailoring each application you make.
If you are finding that you are feeling panicked and stressed about finding a new job, seek the support of a Forces Employment Charity Employment Consultant to talk through your fears and to make a plan for your job search.
There may be other types of work that you haven’t considered, such as temporary roles or fixed-term contracts. These can still be beneficial, not only tiding you over whilst you search for a permanent job (if that is your aim) but also these roles can help broaden your job search and help you to gain more experience and upskill over a condensed period.
Coping with rejection
It can be demoralizing to receive rejections, or sometimes no response at all, from your applications. It is natural to lose motivation, and rejection can be a knock to your confidence.
However difficult, it can be helpful to remind yourself that a job rejection is not personal and that you would have been one of many applicants for the role. Everyone receives rejection at some point, and it can be useful at times to remember you’re not alone in this experience. Talking to friends, family, or your employment consultant can be helpful in sharing your feelings about rejection, hearing other people’s similar setbacks and processing it.
Some people find the mindset of ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ helpful, and that what is right for you is out there, just around the corner. Sometimes rejections occur because the role was given to someone internally, or someone with more experience in a certain area – things that are out of your control.
If you haven’t heard back from an organisation following your application and the date they said they would respond to applicants, then it can help to follow up with them; even if it is a rejection, at least hearing it from the employer can give you some closure, allowing you to move on to other jobs.
You can ask the employer for feedback, which may help you understand why you weren’t successful and what, if anything, you could do differently for future applications. If you reflect and know that you did everything you could, then it may be that the particular role wasn’t for you right now. If you realise retrospectively that there were some gaps in your preparation then this can be turned into a learning experience, which can be utilized in future applications and interviews, and can help increase your confidence.
If you’re struggling with rejection and motivation, the best thing you can do is take a break. Take a day or so away from trawling job boards and writing applications. Job hunting can feel draining and relentless when you’re in the midst of it, so taking a step back can help you to refocus and gather yourself, and remind yourself of all the things you can do and the goal you’re working towards.
A key thing to remember is to be kind to yourself. Next month, on 13 November is World Kindness Day, and a facet of this is treating yourself with kindness, especially when you’re having a difficult time. This is also applicable when you’re dealing with rejection or struggling with job hunting. Bupa provides a helpful list of ways to be kind to yourself, which includes:
- Talking kindly to yourself as you would to a close friend – if you don’t get the job, try not to berate yourself. Be kind and supportive of yourself. Know that this wasn’t the job for you, learn from it, and when you’re ready, move forward.
- Look after yourself physically – exercise, eat well, sleep well. All of these essential basics can help to make you feel good about yourself and make you better equipped to deal with difficult situations.
- Take time doing things you enjoy, such as hobbies, interests, spending time with family and friends – even when you’re busy job searching, keep making time to do enjoyable things. Not only will it give you alternative focus and a break from job hunting, enabling you to come back to job hunting feeling refreshed, but it can also help provide a wider perspective. Whilst job hunting is important, there are other important things in your life too, which you should continue to devote time to.
How to maintain motivation and make job searching more manageable
It is easy for job searching to become all-consuming. However constantly looking for jobs can lead to burnout and fatigue, and there comes a point where all jobs start to blur into one. At this point, you’re unlikely to be productive.
To make the process more manageable, take breaks and implement structure by setting yourself a schedule. For example, you could plan to spend your morning researching jobs or on an application, then go for a walk or meet a friend. Having an alternate focus can also be helpful when in the midst of job hunting, as a way to distract yourself. This could include taking up a hobby that is completely separate from your search, such as exercising, joining a class or group, or learning a new skill.
Another option for some clients is to get involved in volunteering opportunities. You could volunteer your time to work in the community or to give back as a way to distract and upskill whilst you are job searching. Alternatively, you could get involved in volunteer or charitable schemes. The latter can be helpful for Service leavers who need to leave the military or are medically discharged, and require some structure and additional support as they adjust back to civilian life. If this is something that you feel could be beneficial to you, speak to your Employment Consultant.
How do you recommend job-seekers conduct their search?
When looking for your next role it is useful to look ahead and consider your short and long-term goals. What role would you like to be in? What steps do you need to take to get there? Consider how your next move can help progress you towards this goal, and whether you would also need to do some education or training to complement this. You can find out more about training and upskilling, and the support the Forces Employment Charity provides for this here.
Whittling down what you would like to do not only helps make your job search more targeted but also makes each application easier to write, as you will have similar information and examples to provide about yourself for similar kinds of roles. A Forces Employment Charity employment consultant can also help with this; they can be your sounding board, talk things through with you and make some suggestions, which can help to clarify your thoughts.
Employment consultants will also work to manage your expectations and have realistic conversations about the kinds of roles you could land now, and any training or upskilling you may need to do.
Alana explains how some Service leavers can become disheartened if they move into a job post-military that they don’t like, and how it is rare that someone will leave the military and step immediately into the perfect job for them. It can take time to find the role, industry and organisation that works for you – and our consultants are on hand to help you make positive changes, so your work life is fulfilling and enjoyable. Nothing, Alana explains, is set. You don’t need to stay anywhere for the rest of your life, and each new experience can help you learn more about what you do (and don’t) want. Having a mindset like this can help stave off any panic or stress, and putting a plan in place can help have more control over your job search and next steps.
In your role as Employment Consultant, how do you support people who are struggling with their motivation?
Alana explains how her role and the support she offers for clients is wide-ranging. She looks over CVs and application forms, and schedules in calls with clients to help research organisations. She touches base with her clients a couple of times a month, so they are aware that she is still there to support and advise on any issues or questions they may have.
Alana also tries to be realistic with clients about the length of their job search and the time they will need to dedicate to job hunting, to give themselves the best chance. She pays attention to the mindset of clients; some clients who seek her support are frantically searching for a job, and say they will ‘do anything’. Alana works with them to define what roles the client would actually be interested in doing – it is rare that an individual will actually do anything. Often taking more time to consider what you want, rather than jumping at any opportunity, will lead you to a role that is more satisfying and suits you longer term.
One veteran Alana supported was working in the Middle East when he became stranded there during the COVID-19 pandemic and was unable to return home for 18 months due to travel restrictions. He was away from his family and it was a difficult time for him. Alana spoke to him every couple of weeks, so they could talk about business, the job market, and potential opportunities, so the client had another connection to his home.
The client explained how ‘Alana provided an invaluable framework and sounding board throughout the entire process, was impartial and always offered pragmatic solutions and ideas based on seasoned experience. It cannot be stated what an invaluable role model Alana has been for me over the past year.’
The client’s knowledge of the industry, his proactiveness, and his support and insight from Alana enabled him to find a job as soon as he landed home in January 2023.
In need of support?
If you are a Service leaver, veteran, reservist, or family member register with us to receive free employment support at any stage in your career.