The Secret to Escaping Your Job Search Rut

The weeks and months after tossing your graduation cap into the air and celebrating with the class of 2015 are exhilarating—graduation parties, spirited selfies, and hilarious Snapchat videos. The thrill continues as you look forward to the next chapter and diving into your first job. However, if you can’t find a job right out of college, don’t despair. “If your job search is taking several months and you’re not getting the results you’re looking for, then it’s time to stop and re-evaluate rather than panic,” says John O’Neill, Assistant Dean at the Stanford University Career Development Center. Below, O’Neil shares eight ways to get there:

1. Stop searching solo

“It’s important to involve other people in your job search, and one way to do that is to search with a group. Get together with friends or peers who are also seeking jobs so you can share leads, exchange contacts, and encourage one another. You should never seek a job all by yourself, and your search should never be limited to online applications.”

2. Revamp your resume

“One of the biggest pitfalls about resumes among all job applicants is that they write them as a list of responsibilities and duties. Your resume should be revamped to tell a compelling story about your background that highlights skills, interests, and experiences—not duties and responsibilities. Don’t think about it as a list of things you’ve done, but rather as a record of accomplishments, skills and experiences.”

3. Get a mentor’s opinion

“Frankly, if you show your resume to 10 people, you’ll get 10 different opinions. However, it’s good to show it to someone who is working in the industry that you would like to be in. They will offer insightful feedback for what that specific industry is looking for and wants to see on a winning resume. The key question to ask is, ‘When you look at my resume, can you tell what my skills are and what I want to do?’”

4. Dive into your industry by any means necessary 

“Volunteer in areas that you’re passionate about. It’s a great way to not only spend the time, but you never know what you’ll learn or who you might meet. If you volunteer in the field that you’re looking to enter, you’re tapping that many more people in the network and expanding your job search. It’s important to get out from behind the computer when you’re searching and this is a great way to do it.”

5. Embrace career happenstance

“When it comes to job searching, it’s not about luck. Career happenstance comes from being curious, persistent, and willing to take risks. Go to networking events, seminars, informational interviews, or conferences and conventions. The more people who know you are a smart, educated, recent college grad looking for a great opportunity, the greater the chance for a positive career happenstance event occurring.”

6. Evaluate your strategy regularly

“Set deadlines once a month to focus and fine tune your search as much as possible. Every month, evaluate your successes and your failures. How many jobs did you find, how many people did you talk to, how many interviews were you in? Re-evaluate that every month and change your strategy. If you aren’t getting interviews, then you need to change the way you’re looking for jobs. If you are getting interviews, but not securing the offer, then you need to change the way you interview.”

7. Reconsider how you prepare for interviews

“A lot of people prepare for interviews by trying to anticipate what interview questions they will be asked. However, there’s no real way of knowing what those will be. It’s far better to prepare for interviews by preparing you own story and your background. Come up with anecdotes about your most important skills, learnings, and contributions that relate to the job. Then, practice practice practice; with friends, with family, on the phone, in person. Don’t take it personally when you receive criticism or feedback. The better you are at explaining your narrative, the better you will be at answering any interview questions that come your way.”

8. Try out a temp job

“It’s not a bad idea to take a temporary job to help alleviate some of the stress of paying bills while gaining skills and not feeling stagnant. It will help you earn an income, be around people, develop transferrable skills, and that’s a great thing.”