Whether the target is a retail job on Main Street or an executive-level job in the C-suite, stress is still high among long-frustrated job seekers. There's no shortage of fingers pointing at potential culprits. Depending on your politics, it could be the House, the Senate, Obamacare or presidents who have long left Washington, D.C.
When you're worried about making ends meet today -- and unable to even think about the financial security you'll need through decades of retirement -- it's easy to blame everyone and everything for your misfortune. The fact is, though, that job seekers are not powerless victims of an economy that has volatile fits and starts.
The reality is that strategic, optimistic and tenacious full-time job seekers do find jobs. The more lackadaisical, defeated, angry, once-in-a-while job seekers do not.
So many job seekers need to hear this -- including a 22-year-old recent college grad who is waitressing in Washington, D.C. I read about this young woman in a Business Week article, "You Can Have Any Job You Want As Long As It's Waitress". She is not in her desired line of work -- she's hoping to land a job at a think tank or policy-related organization. I applaud her for not letting her ego get in the way of a paycheck, but I think there are probably some big holes in her job search strategy overall.
My first clue was the fact that this young woman has applied to about 20 companies with "minimal response." Job search pessimists would read this and say, "Well of course -- it's an uncertain economy, few employers are hiring and young people are having the hardest time of all."
But on the job search optimists side, I say that anyone can find a job in any economy. At last count, there are far more than 20 potential employers in Washington, D.C.
So, here are six nuggets of advice for this young job seeker -- and her brethren at every other age and life stage:
1. Cover the waterfront. In a difficult job market, you can't limit yourself to the top 10 or 20 "ideal companies" on your wish list. Reach for your ideals, but also consider tier two and three companies that are in your areas of interest. Companies of all shapes and sizes offer resume-worthy experience -- and paychecks.
2. Don't die on the vine waiting for a "response". Even in the best economic environment job seekers wait and wait and wait while they hear radio silence from companies that have their resumes in hand. Hiring managers are busy and distracted. One follow-up call won't do the trick. And pursuing only one contact at a company is futile. Through Linkedin, personal connections, friends who work for the company and your alumni network find as many contacts as possible who can rustle up some action and get you an interview.
3. Stop hibernating in the Internet "black hole". Recognize that many jobs are never advertised and online job boards can be wastelands of old, spoken for or undesirable jobs. In the Business Week article, the job-seeking temporary waitress talked about watching job postings on her alumni web site. The jobs listed on most alumni websites are few and far between. She's probably checking job postings on a lot of other websites, too. Don't make her mistake: you'll find a job through real people, not computers.
4. Consider options other than a permanent full-time job. Employers are guarding headcount and doling out fewer and fewer permanent, full-time jobs. One of the young women interviewed for the Business Week article said she will consider internships -- and I say that's a good idea as long as they are paid. Too many companies are getting free labor while they hang a very small carrot off in the distance that may or may not turn into a paid job. Gravitate more to short or long-term freelance jobs (which are more plentiful as companies adjust to Obamacare) or intermittent project work -- both available to job-seekers of any age.
5. Remember that finding a job is a full-time job. It makes total sense to get a less brain-consuming part-time job to pay the rent (even if it's far from your desired professional path), but you still have to put the required time into your job search. An hour here and there while you're catching up on "Breaking Bad" episodes will not get you to the promised land. Until you find the professional job that you want, embrace the fact that you'll have two jobs and you'll be working pretty much around the clock.
6. Don't make job search failure a foregone conclusion. Be an optimist, not a pessimist. Put blinders on to all the stereotypes about who can find a job when -- particularly any intimations that you're too young or too old. You'll always find statistics that make your job search seem like a hopeless pursuit. Ignore the media hype and you're sure to beat any real or imagined odds.
This post was originally published on Kathryn Sollmann's blog, 9 Lives for Women, where she helps women navigate 9 stages of work and life from college through retirement years. Follow her practical advice on "Finding the Work that Fits Your Life".