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Last year I was disappointed to learn that, after a protracted process, I wasn’t on the final shortlist for a job I really had my heart set on. As far as I was concerned this role was a perfect fit for my skills and experience. I had done my research, had a lot of questions and ideas and could really picture myself in situ, doing what needed to be done to make a success of it.

Naturally I felt a bit low given the amount of time and energy I had invested in the application process, but as I picked myself back up I thought I would share some thoughts for other jobseekers about staying positive in these difficult times.

1. Get to know yourself

You should be defined by far more than your job title, so you need to spend some time discovering what motivates you, where you get your energy and those things you need to avoid. When I started work I was terribly shy and was delighted to learn that as a very junior analyst I wouldn’t get to speak to clients (bag carrier and coffee buyer was essentially my early job description) and for years I carried around the notion that I liked independence and solitude. It was only when I started doing consultancy work based at home that I realised I really missed constant human interaction and I was only really motivated and energised when in the middle of a cut and thrust debate with clients and colleagues. Having that knowledge has allowed me to change my practices so I get that level of interaction and am recharged by it. If you don’t know what fires you up, or conversely drags you down, then remaining positive is a game of chance rather than skill.

2. Turn off your newsfeed part 1

We all understand that bad news sells and we are inundated with it right now. Bank of England economist Andy Haldane summarised the issue when he said “My concern at present is that good news on the economy is being crowded out by fears about the future. Collective anxiety is as contagious, and could be as damaging to our well-being, as this terrible disease.” Even if before you were required to be literally up-to-the-minute on world events, why not try checking in on developments in the news only once or twice a day instead and taking the pot of media alarm off the simmer?

3. Turn off your newsfeed part 2

Most social media involves people trumpeting about their personal, family or business successes. Even LinkedIn, a supposedly serious networking platform is turning into a forum for just bragging and I’ve seen posts showing off expensive new cars and others berating anyone who dares to “hate on” someone’s success. It’s hard to stay positive when you perceive everyone else is doing well but keep in mind that some (maybe most?) of this is bluff and bluster, so be ruthless in who you follow and are connected to if you’re using the network for jobhunting and research. Alternatively, just commit to spend less time on social networks and when you do browse them, do so with a purpose and stay away from the narcissists.

4. Stay busy

You are used to being busy through daylight hours. Many of us have had time to adjust to working from home which broke the travel, work, travel rhythm of the day but still filled all of usual working hours. Hopefully it won’t come as a surprise but there are just as many hours in the day and you can you fill them equally well or better than you did at work. Exercise, do those routine maintenance jobs you keep putting off, spend time catching up with friends and colleagues (actually speak to them, don’t just fire off a 1 line email), do the school run, start that hobby you have an interest in but could never justify committing time to. DO NOT sit around and wait for the world to come to you. It won’t.

5. Be ruthless in your job search

Job hunting is tough. Job hunting in a global pandemic is downright depressing. There may be a temptation to just carpet bomb every job which has a keyword in it and hope something sticks but this would be a mistake. If you’re sitting on hundreds of automated rejections or non-responses (which my data shows around 47.5% of applications!) then it is going to be nigh on impossible to maintain your self-esteem. Research potentially interesting roles and determine if it is right for you and if you are right for the job. If so, then commit time to addressing the requirements for the position and thinking about how you solve their problem before applying.

Seek feedback from roles you don’t get but thought you were in the running for, as this can help you identify blindspots in your profile (we all have them, don’t kid yourself that you don’t).

Finally, if you’re being ruthless about which jobs you target then also be ruthless in who you deal with. If you make a number of applications to a company or through an agency and never get a response or they won’t give you any feedback, seriously consider automatically disregarding anything they might advertise in future as you are clearly either not ticking enough boxes or raising a red flag in their systems. You don’t have the time or mental energy for people and business who are closed off to you, so move on.

6. Be patient

This will take time. It will take more time than you imagine. Don’t expect the world to change overnight or a new job to drop into your lap tomorrow. It will eventually, and you may get lucky with the first application you make, but believing in the long game means you should avoid the disappointment of feeling like you’re not getting anywhere fast.

7. Don’t draw comparisons with others

This should be true of all things in life but we’re human and it’s part of our nature to size up how we’re doing against others. Beating yourself up over why x wasn’t made redundant when you were or how y managed to get back into a new job before you doesn’t gain you anything. They are different people with different lives who may just have been in the right place at the right time. Let them tell their story, you focus on yours and all will be well in the end.

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Headshot of alumnus William Vandyk (Global MBA 2018)

About William Vandyk

Global MBA 2018
William (Global MBA 2018) came back to the Business School to undertake one of our online executive education courses, Leadership in a Technology Driven World, as part of an specific offering to alumni who had been negatively affected by the pandemic. Since then he is has been appointed as a managing director at financial services advisory firm Addere Capital.