What to do when your job search stalls

Did you begin your job hunt full of enthusiasm and optimism, only for it to slowly wane with every passing week that no offer or second interview materialises? If so, you’re not alone.

Over the years, Jane Jackson, career management coach, corporate trainer and author of Navigating Career Crossroads, has guided many clients through their job search, teaching them strategies to ensure successful results – especially when their job search stalls.

Job hunting is often a stressful time

If you’re finding your job hunt stressful, go easy on yourself. Anyone who has experienced a redundancy or a change in employment  knows what a difficult, uncertain time this can be.

Often people will launch their job search with a burst of energy and set goals, seek support and launch their actions plans. You probably updated your CV, registered with recruitment agencies, made a list of companies to target and started networking to gain referrals – all great ways to encourage the right results. But what if success doesn’t come right away?

Things may have gone well initially, and perhaps you even secured a few interviews. But then… nothing. People stop returning your calls, and second interviews are not forthcoming.

If this happens time and time again, insidiously doubt slithers into your mind and you start to question your ability to secure a new role.

Even most pro-active jobseeker may experience a dip in activity at some stage – it’s quite normal, especially once your initial list of contacts is exhausted. But if your lull continues for more than a couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to reassess your job search methods before you become too discouraged.

Avoid thinking the worst!

It’s all too easy to slip into catastrophic thinking when the momentum of your job search stalls, especially if the months start to slip by and finances get tighter when you have mouths to feed.

It doesn’t help if you were given the impression that finding a new position would only take a few weeks, or that the job search process is easy.

And it’s hard not to interpret the feedback you are receiving (calls that are not returned, lack of response from recruiters, positions that suddenly are placed ‘on hold’ or filled by internal applicants) as a measure of your marketability, or lack of it.

But try not to make negative emotional judgments on yourself that are not correct – such as questioning the very factors that made you a success in your previous career – as a dwindling confidence, however misplaced, will just make your job search even harder.

What to do when your job search stalls

Instead, you need to adopt a positive new strategy – and a state of mind. I’m going to share my seven-step strategy with you now. And the state of mind? You simply need to remember that if you give up, you will not succeed. So never, ever give up!

1) Be realistic

First of all, know that statistically a typical job search for a professional in middle management can take up to three to four months. More senior positions may take considerably longer.

When finding work is not as easy as it seemed after your initial enthusiastic start, don’t assume the worst – get the facts. Base your actions on facts and evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Ask yourself if you are being too narrow in your search or if there is a piece of the puzzle you are omitting in the search process.

Give yourself mini-breaks in your weekly routine to exercise, relax and enjoy the fresh air. Clear your head – learn how to meditate – it does help!

2) Maintain your support system (and don’t be afraid to ask for help)

Stress can make you withdraw from friends, associates and family. Most people really do want to help however you need to let them know HOW they can help you. Talk to a friend or mentor, join a support group, or engage the support of a career coach for professional guidance.

I’ve found that meetup.com is a very helpful site to find like-minded people who meet regularly to discuss their areas of interest or expertise (this is professional as well as social).

3) Set a clear plan and stick to it

Make sure that you keep your CV updated with your relevant accomplishments, identify your transferrable skills and identify your personal and career values.

Develop a marketing plan with realistic timeframes and realistic goals and objectives. If it doesn’t work, make adjustments, and discuss them with a trusted associate who understands your job market and someone who understands the industry you are targeting.

4) Take control of your work habits

Maintain regular work habits and full work weeks. Your job search is a FULL TIME JOB!

Implement task planning, keep up-to-date records and record results and follow up activities. Networking statistically has proven to be the most effective way to find a job. (Remember to have your personal ‘elevator pitch’ ready!)

Ensure you budget about 70-80% of your time meeting people in your relevant network and getting feedback on your strategy. Always try to gain referrals in order to obtain more advice and guidance.

How many people will you meet each week? In my coaching experience I’ve found that those who spend the most amount of time setting up networking meetings every week are the ones who generate the most opportunities, new ideas and support – and leads for jobs!

5) Consider alternatives

Consider what else you could do if your original goals don’t materialise. Should you consider short term or interim assignments where you can expand your experience without making a permanent commitment?

This is an excellent way to demonstrate what you have to offer and expand upon your professional network. With a little luck and determination, a temporary assignment may turn into something more long-term.

Think about alternative income streams too – do you have an area of expertise that would lend itself into a consulting role? Also think about expanding your skills – are you missing a key certification or qualification that could open more doors for you?

6) Target who you want to spend time with

Not everyone you meet will be a positive, helpful influence. So give negativity (and toxic people in general) a wide berth. Give yourself the chance to surround yourself with those who believe in you and are willing to share their experience and expertise.

Positive attitudes are contagious. Winners focus on possibilities and positive outcomes.

7) Maintain a realistic and optimistic outlook

Talk to others who have experienced an extended job search – you will learn a lot about resilience from them. They have hit low points, assessed the situation, asked for support and made conscious decisions to adapt and move on.

It may be difficult to believe it but things really do get better if you can take charge and keep at it. Remember that a winner never quits. Balance your time so that you are spending the right amount of time on the critical activities of each phase of your campaign. These are:

  • Self Assessments (skills, knowledge, transferrable skills, personal and career values).
  • Strengthening your CV with tangible accomplishments.
  • Using all the job search strategies (networking, target marketing, recruiters, advertised roles).
  • Devise a strong introductory statement so people know who you are and what you do.
  • Following up with everyone you are in contact with (send thank you notes or emails).
  • Get out to networking and industry events and have some fun while you are there.
  • Identify what went right during interviews and where are the areas for improvement.
  • Practice your negotiation skills.
  • Always maintain your network – even when you don’t need them! 

Positive action leads to positive outcome

Be brave enough to acknowledge that your job search campaign has stalled and then be creative to get it moving again. Remember that you do not have to do this alone. Enlist the support of your friends and family, close ex-colleagues and all of those you respect.

In order to experience positive action you have to take positive action. Maintain records of your activity – set your own KPIs!  If you still need more help, enlist the support of a career coach you feel comfortable with.

Motivational words of wisdom

I just want to leave you with one final thought. This motivational quote from yourdailymotivation.com may provide strength to carry on:

It’s possible to live your dreams. Your mind is your mental workshop. You can build anything you want in it.

 Visualise what you want in your mind. See it, feel it, taste it, and believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and then begin build.


First, think about what you want out of life. The beginning always takes place in your imagination. 

Then organise your thoughts into definitive plans. 

Next, it’s time to transform your thoughts into reality by taking some positive action. 

Visualise, and then actualise your success. 

Jane Jackson is a career management coach and author of Navigating Career Crossroads. Her book takes you through all the essential steps to not only survive but THRIVE when changing direction.