Getting Un-Stuck from your Rut!

March 22, 2010 at 12:05 am 12 comments

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” This is one of my all-time favorite quotes. OK, trivia experts: can anyone identify the actual author of this quote? (Hint: contrary to popular myth, it was not Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin!)¹

Did you ever feel like your job-search is stuck in a rut? Are you doing the same things over and over, and expecting different results? Do you feel as though you are doing all the “right things” but still getting nowhere? Are you wondering why your carefully planned, well-thought-out plan is not producing results (i.e. a job!?) Sometimes you need to step back, re-assess what you are doing and consider alternative strategies. Sometimes you need to get out of your “comfort zone” and try new things that may seem scary at first, but ultimately may move you forward.

Job-seekers often get stuck in a rut, and don’t know how to get out of it. Let’s face it – the job-seeking road is often a very long one, and is full of repeated instances of rejection. It’s the nature of the beast. Sales people may be used to facing rejection on a daily basis … but most others are not. Emotionally, that can take a huge toll on a person’s attitude … which is a big problem when maintaining a positive attitude is so critical to a job-seeker’s chances of success. [Read “The Power of a Positive Attitude.”]

Here are a few suggestions for things to do to get unstuck from a job-seeking rut. These are ideas that may just shake up your routine a little, get you moving in a different direction, get you talking to new people with new ideas, or simply re-energize you.

Re-Visit and Expand Your Target Company List
You already have a target list of companies that is your road-map for networking your way to a job, right? NO??? If not, Do Not Pass GO, and proceed directly to “How to Network: A Step-By-Step Guide for Job Searching” for instructions on how to create a target list and use it to conduct an effective networking campaign. Assuming you do already have such a list, and you’ve been working off of it for a while, this may be a good time to re-evaluate that list and consider expanding it to include new companies that you didn’t consider before. Go back to square one and re-create your list with wider parameters so that you have fresh new places to target. Having new targets can re-energize a stale search plan.

Set Measurable Daily Goals For Yourself
Time management can be a real challenge for someone with nothing but time on their hands! You’ve heard it before – looking for a job is a full-time job in and of itself. It would be easy to say that you should put in a full 8 hours a day, 5 days a week doing it … but that’s a bit much for most people. I would suggest that a minimum goal should be 4-5 hours a day. That’s time spent online, on the phone, traveling to and from meetings, and (most valuable of all) actual face time with people who are part of your targeted search plan. Failure to plan out your days or prioritize your time are common pitfalls that can easily lead to getting stuck in a rut. One way to avoid that is to set measurable goals for yourself that you can realistically achieve. For example, here are two suggested goals you can try: 1) Research and contact two new companies each day; 2) Talk with three job-search related people each day (actual conversations … leaving messages or sending emails don’t count.) I’m sure you can think of other similar goals that make sense for yourself. Whatever goals you set, make sure they are both measurable and easily achievable, and keep track of each day’s progress for yourself. This will help you stay on task and not waste too much time with useless distractions. [Read “Time Management: Recipe for a Well-Balanced Job Search” for more details on how to prioritize your time.]

Spend Less Time Online, and More Time Actually Talking with People
The internet is a wonderful tool for job-seekers. It can also be a huge distraction and waster of time. Make sure you are not spending your days in front of a screen without having actual meaningful conversations with people that are part of your job-search plan. Answering online job postings is one of the least effective ways to find a job. Limit the amount of time you spend doing that to around 10%. Sending emails to targeted people is often a good first step in the right direction … but in the end, direct live communication with actual people is the ONLY way business gets done, decisions get made, and people get hired. Overcome your fear, stop worrying about rejection, step outside of your comfort zone and PICK UP THE PHONE! Better yet, set up appointments with people connected to your target list, get out of the house and MEET WITH PEOPLE!

Re-Connect With Contacts You May Have Forgotten About
Make yourself a list of each and every significant person you’ve contacted about your search since you began the process. If you’ve been searching for a while now, there are probably people on that list that you’ve let slide and not talked with in a long time. Go back and re-visit with those people now. Let them know what you’ve been doing since you last spoke with them – who you’ve met with, what companies you’ve applied to or interviewed with, what decision-makers you’ve made contact with, and who you are still hoping to connect with. If you haven’t already done so, send or show those people your target list and ask if they know anyone in your niche at those companies. Then, keep those re-visited contacts on an organized list of people to stay in regular touch with. Create follow-up reminders for yourself, using a calendar. Don’t let your contacts go stale.

Find New Networking Groups to Join
There are some really great local Networking Groups (sometimes called “Job Clubs”) in almost every community. They’re easy to find with a simple Google search. Many job-seekers attend regular meetings of those groups, and derive a lot of help, guidance, and advice … and also meet many other job-seekers who can often be very helpful and supportive. After a while, though, attending those same meetings month after month can get repetitive – and you keep seeing the same people over and over. Try seeking out a new local group or two and drop in on their meetings. You just may find a fresh perspective, hear a new idea, or meet new people that you can add to your network. [As a starting point, check out his state-by-state list of job-seeker support groups: “Directory of Networking and Job Search Support Groups by State.”]

It’s worth noting here that, despite the “Definition of Insanity” quote, certain job-seeking activities actually do have to be done over and over again to yield positive results. Networking is the prime example of that. Done properly, networking is a complicated process which must be viewed as a long-term strategy – and as such, it can also be both repetitive and very time consuming. Patience and consistency are the keys. While it may not produce quick results, it will position you well for long-term success.

So don’t let the job-searching saga get you down. Don’t give in to negativity. If you find yourself feeling stuck … shake things up by trying some of these new ideas. Break out of your rut and dig yourself out of the hole you’ve fallen in. You never know – that illusive treasure you are seeking might just be closer than you think!

¹The Answer:
Even though this is probably totally useless trivia information, if you just can’t stand not knowing … the answer to who actually authored “The Definition of Insanity” quoted at the top of this article is here: THE ANSWER.

Entry filed under: Advice for Job Seekers. Tags: , , .

Time Management: Recipe for a Well-Balanced Job Search “In Transition” and Other Awkward Euphemisms

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rowena Simpson  |  March 22, 2010 at 10:24 am

    There’s some great advice here. I agree that finding a job is a job in itself, and should be treated as such. It’s hard to keep up the motivation in the face of repeated rejection, but you’re right Michael, the key is to be creative, seek out new ideas and take advantage of the mass of free careers and job hunting advice freely available on the net.

  • 2. Anne Ashley  |  March 22, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Thank you Michael,
    Well written, great graphics, yes it is time to get out there.
    I have shared this on my Facebook page.

  • 3. Marla Freeman  |  March 22, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Thank you for some great advice! I really enjoyed reading this. I have been out of work for a year now and definitely feel like I am in a rut. I am going to take your advice and shake things up a bit.

    Keep them coming! I would like to read more of your words of wisdom!

  • 4. Kent L. Hamilton  |  March 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Good evening Mr. Spiro,

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your articles. I have learned a lot. I have been very fortunate to have encountered a friend that is an HR employee for a company here in the Cleveland market. I forwarded your publication blog on to her and she totally agreed with everything you had mentioned.

    Keep up the the good work.

    Best regards,

    Kent L. Hamilton

  • 5. Debi W.  |  March 23, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    More pearls of wisdom. Thank you, Michael. Working your network to set up meaningful face-to-face meetings is the #1 most effective job search process.

  • 6. Tim Krenn  |  March 25, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Another well written and informative piece! As always, I have printed it out and read it over several times. My favorite take away is to remember to pick up the phone and to make the calls. It is easy to get caught up in simply surfing the web all day.

  • 7. Jim C  |  March 25, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Great intel, thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge. I find myself in a career transition and your thoughts definitely help sharpen my focus.

  • 8. artin Greenberg  |  March 31, 2010 at 1:10 am

    Franklin or Einstein could have written the definition of insanity. I know it as an AA program saying. Whoever wrote it was on to something.

    Loosing a job is hard. It isn’t only the loss of income. It isn’t only a loss of part of our identity. There is a strong social element. I work with people i care about. Even though I only see them at work, I see these people more than I do most in my life. I would mourn not seeing my work friends.

    There is an unpaid job benefit.

  • 9. Heidi Hooper  |  April 6, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    My pastor said, “A rut is a grave with 2 open ends”


  • 10. Daniel Goldberg  |  April 28, 2010 at 9:34 am

    That quoted is attributed to Einstein, but he is not documented as its source. But it’s a great intro to some valuable advice. Probably the three hardest elements of a job search are organizing your time, battling feelings of isolation and keeping up your enthusiasm as your efforts are constantly rejected or ignored.

    • 11. Michael Spiro  |  April 28, 2010 at 9:40 am

      Check the link at the bottom of this article (where is says: “The Answer”) for the true documented author of the quote. It’s not Einstein!
      And, I agree 100% with your comments. All 3 of the elements you mentioned are topics of my other blog articles!

  • 12. Jenifer Norfolk  |  July 7, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    Hi Michael,
    I found your tips on job hunting, etc. very useful. Like many these days I find myself stuck in a rut looking for jobs since July 2009. I want to extend my appreciation for your hard work with your site to help people like myself. I would like to learn more about new tips or articles you may add.
    Thank you,
    Jenifer Norfolk


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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Jefferson Wells, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on

 "Why Did You Leave Your
         Last Job?"

 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Video Interview Tips
         in the Pandemic World

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Unemployment Statistics

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn

 The Power of a Positive

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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