What to Do When Your Job Hunt Runs Out of Steam

March 16, 2009

During a long job hunt your search for employment can run out of steam. It may seem like you have contacted every conceivable employer. You can become increasingly frustrated and bored. If you’ve been in the job market for several months, it is time to analyze your job hunt to see how you can energize your search. Questions to consider are:

  • Are you targeting organizations currently hiring chemists?
  • Are your skills and experience a good fit for the type of employers and jobs you are targeting? Do you need to broaden the types of organizations and jobs you target?
  • Do your résumé and cover letter accurately describe your skills and accomplishments?

To deal with these questions, create multiple résumés each targeting a different industry that can use your skills. To discover which industries are most appropriate to target, talk to knowledgeable colleagues in these industries or contact an ACS career consultant (www.acs.org/careers). In particular, consider industries that are still hiring. For example, currently the oil industry appears likely to maintain R&D spending according to a December “Wall Street Journal” report. Read C&EN and business publications to learn about employment trends in various industries. Also, customize your résumé and cover letter for specific job openings with specific companies as you become aware of them.

As you prepare these new résumés, discuss them with ACS career consultants and knowledgeable colleagues to be sure you are using terminology appropriate to each industry and highlighting appropriate skills and aspects of your experience. Some of these contacts can advise you on specific industries and companies to target.

Armed with your new résumés, check out employment opportunities on the Internet. Most companies have career sections on their websites where they post employment opportunities. Check the websites of your target companies frequently. In addition to specialized job boards such as ACS Careers Jobs Database (www.acs.org/careers), check general job boards such as Monster.com and Yahoo! hotjobs. Focus on recently posted job openings because old job posts are usually already filled.

Another question to ask yourself is: Are you networking effectively to identify employment opportunities? Inform former coworkers and college and graduate school friends about your job hunt. Attend ACS local section meetings and other local professional society meetings to make new contacts.

Research new companies potentially coming to your area. Cities often offer companies incentives to move into an area hit by job losses and facility closures. For example, MPI Research, a privately held preclinical drug-testing company in Mattawan, Michigan, has announced plans to create 3,300 jobs over the next five years and move into laboratory and office space once used by Pfizer.

A long job hunt can take a psychological toll. Don’t become isolated from your family, friends or peers. Participate in inexpensive family and professional activities. Even a walk in a park at lunch time can recharge your psychological batteries. With your cell phone you can stay ready to take that employer’s phone call.

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Full-time science writer John Borchardt is an ACS Career Consultant and certified Workshop Presenter. As an industrial chemist he holds 30 U.S. patents and written more than 130 peer-reviewed technical articles.


Lost Your Job? Shed Your Anger before Seeking Another

March 9, 2009

Whether you’re laid off or fired, losing a job can generate strong emotions—from a sense of new opportunity to financial fears and anger.

The most threatening to landing a new job is anger.

“If you go into an interview with an angry attitude or you bad-mouth your past employer, that’s a red flag for interviewers,” says psychologist Tony Fiore, Ph.D., co-author of Anger Management for the Twenty-First Century. “The thought is: you were disgruntled in your past job and you might cause trouble in your new one.”

You don’t have to express your anger overtly by yelling or shouting. Passive-aggressive anger can prove just as fatal to your job hopes.

“People should avoid indirect expressions of anger that the interviewer will pick up, such as pouting, sarcasm about their last job, or presenting oneself as being victimized by their employer,” says Dr. Fiore, program director of Dr. Fiore & Associates, a Southern California-based company that specializes in anger and stress management (drtony@angercoach.com).

So it’s best to resolve your anger before you begin interviewing for a new job. The first step, Dr. Fiore suggests, involves learning to think like an optimist.

“Optimists tell themselves the match with the job wasn’t right; their job loss is temporary and won’t last forever; and it won’t ruin their whole life,” he says. “Whereas pessimists are convinced it will last forever and it’s going to affect all areas of their life.”

Dr. Fiore advises working on developing optimistic thinking skills that will enable you to explain your job loss to yourself in ways that don’t make you angry.

That can be easier said than done. The key step lies in examining and reinterpreting why you lost your job, and not taking the loss personally. Did you really mesh well with the company? Did the plummeting economy cause your dismissal? Did your boss want her own choice in the job?

And don’t look at yourself as inadequate or prone to foul-up. “It’s like a marriage or a relationship. Sometimes the fit just isn’t right, or it’s not your fault. So it’s not something intrinsically wrong with you,” Dr. Fiore noted.

Sometimes, however, people get fired for cause. Then it’s time to assess your deficits, decide what professional or interpersonal skills you need to succeed in the workplace, and begin acquiring them.

Some other techniques for resolving job-loss anger:

  • Write about your dismissal. It’s a proven therapeutic technique to deal with trauma called journaling. Write down the problems you encountered at work, your emotional hurt when being terminated, and all the things you wished you’d said to your boss. Keep listing each new detail as you remember it.
  • Talk about your emotions with friends who have lost jobs. Empathy can be a powerful boost. But use these talks to build your self-confidence and move forward. If these chats reinforce your negative feelings, stop them.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise releases endorphins, chemicals in the brain that produce feelings of well-being. Running or swimming three or four times a week, for example, can help maintain an upbeat attitude. But start slow and work up as you body becomes used to the exertion.
  • Seek professional help. If your anger continues unchecked, consider consulting a mental health professional or anger management specialist, for the good of yourself and your family.

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Freelance writer Patrick Young is a former editor of Science News and a winner of the American Chemical Society’s Grady-Stack Award, which recognizes outstanding reporting that promotes the public’s understanding of chemistry and chemical engineering.