When it comes to job hunting, you should probably know it’s not the searching that’s hard.
Sure, searching takes time and effort, but the search itself is not why you’re in a bad mood. The search itself is not the reason you’re doubting your abilities. The search itself is not the reason your period of unemployment is dragging on for so long.
Think about it this way: You don’t usually find a job by actively searching, stumbling across an ad, and sending in a cold application. Instead, it’s much more likely you found your last job because your uncle had a tip, or your boss recruited you directly, or you met someone at a conference who happened to be hiring. When you land a job through networking and referrals, the process is quick and relatively painless. The job just lands in your lap.
When you actively search for a job, however, the process is very different. In fact, it’s almost as invasive and uncomfortable as a bad doctor’s visit. You spend hours and hours searching for jobs and filling out applications online. Potential employers poke and prod, asking about your past salary history and your previous work experience. They scour your social media posts to make sure they are in line with the company’s values. They require you to work through personality tests and IQ tests — sometimes even before you’ve talked to a single real person at the company!
When you do finally get in touch with real people, the process can get even worse. Hiring managers aren’t always very considerate interviewers. They might show up late or reschedule with no notice. They may talk down to you, disrespect you, or ask illegal interview questions.
If you don’t get the job, you might not even know the process is over and you’ve been declined. It’s not uncommon for the employer to simply stop responding to your messages. If you do hear back, it will most likely come in the form of an automated email rejection with no details.
In some lucky scenarios, you get a chance to speak with a real human about your rejection. Those conversations are genuinely helpful sometimes — but other times, the person on the other end of the phone behaves as if they are not talking to another human being. They speak as if giving feedback on a car they test drove. They are quick to judge, rattling off all the ways you fail to qualify. You come from the wrong industry. You don’t have enough experience. You don’t have the right skills.
What makes this even worse is that the feedback employers give you is rarely 100 percent accurate. Their judgments may be based on misunderstandings or miscommunications. You may not have done a perfect job of articulating your strengths. Or maybe the company is just concocting an excuse to hire someone else. As a job seeker, however, you may never know the truth. As a result, you may doubt yourself.
The most difficult part of the job search isn’t the search — it’s the waiting and the wondering. It’s going through the wringer just to be turned down unceremoniously. It’s waiting weeks or even months to hear from a company that has seemingly ghosted you.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a job search, remember what really makes it such a difficult journey. Cut yourself or your friend some slack.
A version of this article originally appeared on Copeland Coaching.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at Copeland Coaching.