5 Ways to Jump Start a Stalled Job Search

job search tipsJob searching is a multi-step process that takes patience

So you’ve written your resume and applied to a few jobs, but still haven’t had any luck. You feel like your applications are disappearing into the black hole of cyberspace.So you’ve written your resume and applied to a few jobs, but still haven’t had any luck. You feel like your applications are disappearing into the black hole of cyberspace. You are getting discouraged. You feel like you will never find a job.

If you are feeling this way, remember, you are not alone! Job searching is hard for everyone. Don’t give up hope! It can take many, many job applications before you get an interview. Here are five tips for jump-starting your job search.

1. Talk with your Career Services department
If you haven’t already done this, going to your Career Services department should be your first step. Many schools offer career services not only to their current students but also to their recent graduates. Career Services can:

  • Review your resume and cover letter and make suggestions for improvement
  • Help you practice your interview skills in mock interviews
  • Tell you about job openings at companies or organizations in your area
  • Provide you with a job reference when needed
  • Suggest organizations where you might set up informational interviews
  • Suggest volunteer possibilities

2. Step up your networking game
In general, people find that networking is more effective than submitting “cold” job applications online. These days, with large job aggregator sites like Simply Hired or Indeed, you may be competing against hundreds of other people for the same job. To help your resume rise to the top of the competition, it’s time to think about networking. For example:

  • If you know people in your career field, talk to them about the fact that you are looking for a job, and ask them to alert you if an opening becomes available at their workplace.
  • Tell your friends and neighbors that you are looking for work, and ask them to be on the lookout.
  • Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, and take the time to endorse your colleagues or reach out to them with an interesting article or information.

People love to help when they can, and you never know who might lead you to your new job. For more extensive tips on networking, read 10 Tips for Job Networking.

3. Make your resume computer-friendly
When you submit your resume online, are you making it scanner-friendly? Since so many organizations use applicant tracker systems, your resume might be disqualified by a computer before it even gets to a human being. Here are some tips:

  • Keep it simple. Use a simple font and almost no formatting. You don’t want the scanner to get confused by your fancy fonts and graphics.
  • Use standard headings. Stick with simple headings like Skills, Education, and Experience, so the computer doesn’t get confused.
  • No PDFs! Attach your resume as a Word doc. PDFs can be difficult for the computer system to read.
  • Use keywords. Read the job advertisement for your industry’s buzz words and keywords, and be sure to use the same phrasing in your resume. Don’t “overstuff” these keywords by repeating them over and over. Just use them 2-3 times on your resume when it sounds natural.

4. Target your job search
You can spend hours and hours online look at job postings on CareerBuilder or Monster or any of the other major career sites. It may help to spend some time focusing your job search more narrowly. Here are some suggestions on ways to narrow down your efforts.

  • Research a list of organizations where you are hoping to work. Check their websites directly for job listings, rather than waiting for a listing on an aggregate job site.
  • Don’t apply for any jobs where you don’t have direct experience or direct training/education. If employers say they want someone with experience in a particular field, they mean it. They probably will not want to take a chance on someone who isn’t directly experienced or trained in the job.
  • At the same time as you are narrowing your focus, you might want to expand your geographic range and other preferences. In a tight job market, you may need to travel farther than you originally hoped, or to work a schedule that you didn’t originally want to work. It may be worth giving up some of your preferences in order to get started in your career.

5. Join a job search support network in your community
Job search support networks are made up of other people who are searching for jobs, and are often facilitated by someone who is experienced in helping people find jobs. They sometimes hold guest workshops on job-search topics. There are One-Stop Career Centers in most states, and you may be able to find other job-seeker groups in your community. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of these resources.

We hope these tips are helpful as you continue your job search. Remember, don’t let the job search get you down. Keep your head up and keep on trying!


This article is part of the Harris School of Business’s weekly News and Views Blog. Visit our school to find out more about our career-focused training programs.