Top 10 Ways To "Unstuck" Your Job Search
Ross Macpherson MA, CPRW, CEIP, CJST

Ever feel like you were just spinning your wheels? Finding your next great job can definitely feel like that sometimes, especially if you're not getting the results you want. The first thing to realize is that this is normal, it happens, and the important thing is to respond accordingly.

In this article you'll find the Top 10 techniques you should consider to get the ball rolling again. Please note that they are not listed in order of importance, and they are not all required for all people. Take a look through the list and honestly consider which might apply to YOU and which YOU think could most benefit YOU. The list covers the most important bases, so you will definitely find something that will work.

1: Evaluate where you're getting stuck

The first thing you have to do is take a step back and try to determine where exactly you are getting stuck. What specifically isn't working? Is it your resume? If your resume is strong, then is it how you are submitting your resume? Is your job search operating on outdated assumptions? Take a good look at your process. . .sometimes it's the tiniest little detail that might be causing the problem.

2: Determine whether it's an "uncontrollable"

One very important thing to recognize is whether you are getting bogged down and frustrated by the "uncontrollables", because these are the things you have no influence over and they'll drive you nuts if you try. For example, you can't control a poor economy, a slump in your specific industry, or the fact that your type of job is disappearing due to technology or market changes.

An important detail in any job search is focusing only on those things that you can control. . .as for the uncontrollables, you can only control how you respond to them. If you are facing an industry or market decline that is beyond your control, or if you are in a position or industry that is disappearing, you may need to look carefully at your goal, recognize that you have limited influence over things, and consider re-evaluating your strategy.

3: Evaluate where your time goes … be honest

As we all know from our business lives, there's a big difference between being busy and being productive. You need to take a brutally honest look at how you are spending your time.

The fact is that most people are deluded about how much productive work they're actually doing. They're either not doing enough of the right things, or doing the right things incorrectly. Take a good look and be honest with yourself. Your job search should be treated like any other work project, and should demand the same amount of care, focus, time, and effort.

4: Re-invent yourself

If the image you're putting out there isn't generating the kind of results you want or expect, think about re-inventing yourself and/or your approach. Consider re-doing your resume, re-packaging your marketing materials, designing a new job search approach. . .sometimes if you take a completely new and creative approach and/or hit your target from a new angle, you can stir things up a bit.

5: Laser focus your goals

Sometimes people tend to try to spread themselves too thin. For example, they're open to a number of possible directions career-wise and they try to hit all of them at once, often with the same resume. Others don't really know what they want specifically, and try to point themselves everywhere. If this sounds familiar, you might need to focus your goals more. If your goals are unclear, the job search tends to be equally unfocused, and the results are less than spectacular.

6: Accept the bumps

If you find that you're getting bogged down and obsessing about the challenges in your job search, you need to adjust your focus or it will all come to a grinding halt. In any job search, there are bound to be some bumps along the way, and these can lead to distraction, disappointment, anger, and frustration. Accept the bumps as part of the process. It's not happening to just you. . .it happens to all of us. By all means, try to avoid them with a sound job search plan, mitigate them proactively by focusing on high-yield strategies, but accept them when they arrive, adjust if you have to, but don't over-focus on them.

7. Get help if you need it

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you need the assistance of a professional to break through and turn things around. Recognize when you need help, and get it. Every week you are without a job is a week's salary lost, and many of the top career professionals out there will charge you no more than that. There's no point spinning your wheels and re-doing your resume for the 30th time if it's just not working. Cut your losses and get a professional's assistance. At this point in the game it's not a cost, it's an investment.

8. Get the right support network

Never underestimate the importance of a strong support network. Family and friends can be a tremendous support during those frustrating moments. However, consider also joining a job club or networking group of professionals. It's important to realize that you are not alone in your job search, and these clubs tend to offer great speakers, great resources, and great contacts that can help keep you motivated and on track.

9. Contribute your expertise elsewhere

Sometimes the best way to keep things going and stay motivated is to offer what you do best to a local charity or non-profit group. The benefits are obvious - you get to keep busy, keep your skills fresh, and feel like you're contributing, and the charity you help benefits from your expertise. It's a win-win. Not only can these contributions look great on a resume, but I've known clients who have turned them into new and rewarding careers.

10. Take a break

Have you ever been completely stumped with something, racked your brains over it, and the suddenly the answer occurs to you in the shower, or just as your falling asleep? Your brain (and your emotions) need a break to work at optimum levels, so sometimes the best course of action is to step away and give your brain a rest. Go to the cottage, go camping, do something you love, something that re-energizes you, and don't even think about your job search. Then, when you return, you can come back with renewed vigour and maybe a fresh approach. Does wonders for the spirit, especially if you're getting frustrated.

Best of luck!


Ross Macpherson is the Founder and President of Career Quest, a Certified Professional Resume Writer, and professional Interview Coach with over 12 years' experience in career development and training. You can reach Ross by emailing him at


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