(Last Updated On: 21/03/2017)

Let’s face it. The reality is that job searching is hard. If done correctly, a search can almost feel like a full time job in itself. It takes time to build networks, craft resumes, and research companies. In between those tasks are trips to the dry cleaners, haircuts and let’s not forget all that internet surfing time, checking job boards and social media. It can feel like a numbers game, and if luck isn’t on your side, negativity can easily set in.

Sitting in front of the computer may seem productive at first (All those job postings! All those cover letters!), but continued solo work can also lead to feelings of isolation. One way to counteract these feelings (and get out of the house!) is to volunteer.

Volunteer

Volunteering can help you stay positive for a variety of reasons. It can expose you to fresh perspectives, new areas of your neighborhood, and new people. Contributing to your community in a different way can also help you build new skills.

Staying in a familiar routine may seem easy and ‘safe’, but stretching out of your comfort zone allows you to build muscles (both literal and figurative) you may not have even known you had. These feelings of accomplishment can also go a long way towards building confidence – something that can dwindle with repeated job rejections. (Secret tip – you may even snag a surprising job lead this way. I once worked on a Habitat for Humanity crew that connected me to a person who later became a friend. Fast-forward a few months, and this friend ended up helping me get my first job in higher education!)

To find out more about volunteer needs in your community, search the internet, or speak to your local library or chamber of commerce.

Talk to people

Another tip for staying positive? Talk to others who’ve been in your shoes.

Being out of work is commonplace in today’s market, and chances are good that you know at least a few people in your network who might have struggled staying positive during a job search. There is nothing embarrassing about sharing your difficulties. Ask them what they did to keep moving forward.

Hearing specific examples will remind you that you are definitely not alone and that things will change. People who have experienced the challenges of a lengthy job search understand the situation you’re dealing with and will most likely be quick to offer support. If you aren’t sure of who to talk to, investigate your local area unemployment office for networking meetings.

Be generous

Offer your skills to someone. For free.

Studies show that giving stimulates the reward centers of the brain – which can lead to all kinds of good feelings! Just because you haven’t found your dream employer yet, doesn’t mean your skills don’t have value.

Where can you give away your gifts? Is web design your thing? Can you help a struggling entrepreneur design a website and logo? Are you an educator? How about offering to tutor someone in your neighborhood? Paying it forward is one more way you can make a positive impact.

Make time for fun

Finally – don’t forget to have fun. A job search can feel all encompassing. When you’re not on the computer, you are most likely glued to your phone, checking messages and email every hour (or every few minutes). Taking a break from the search to play taps into different areas of your brain and allows you to change focus.

Is your idea of having fun to binge-watch Arrested Development on Netflix? Get off the couch, kick it up a notch and give something new a whirl. Try an improvisation class or a glow in the dark miniature golf session to tap into your inner child. It may have lasting effects. (Secret Tip #2 – improvisation has been known to aid in soft skills development – key characteristics employers are looking for in today’s working world!)

Staying positive during a job search can seem like a daunting task. Taking time to get away from the computer and try new things is a great way to inject new life to your routine and start feeling those positive vibes.

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Erika is a career development professional with over 15 years of experience in both corporate and higher education settings. Her current role is Assistant Director of Career Education at a private university in Chicago, Illinois. She also works with individuals on strengths discovery, interviewing skills and networking. She can be reached at careerplayground (at) gmail.com

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