I recently read the story of a young professional (let’s call him John) who had just completed his degree from a top university in the UK. He had completed his degree with flying colours and expected to get a job without any delays. He thought employers would be flocking around him with job offers, and he would ultimately have to choose the best or the juiciest offer from the table. He added that he had paid the price; therefore, luck should shine on him – a belief many recent graduates and millennials hold.

Six months after he graduated from the university and after applying for about 140 jobs, he got no response, and neither was he shortlisted for any interviews. John started becoming worried. John attended some networking events to meet potential employers; however, the magic did not happen as quickly as he anticipated. John was beginning to lose hope and even wondered why he would commit many resources to his graduate degree if there were no jobs for him after college.

John continued to network and improve his portfolio, and after nine months, John began to get shortlisted for interviews. His persistence in getting what he wanted began to pay off. It was as if all the interviews deliberately hid from him for nine months and decided to show up all in one go. John was delighted with the phase change, and his hopes were restored as his confidence improved. After about three successive interviews, John landed two job offers. John finally got the job he desired 12 months after he graduated from college. He applied to over 200 companies within this period before he finally got three job interviews, which led to two job offers. Indeed, all the disappointments he faced during his job search did not matter anymore; what mattered was that he had two job offers waiting for him to choose from. To him, 2 was more significant than 200 indeed! Why? Because what mattered were the two job offers on his table!

Focus on the positive outcomes will ultimately outweigh the negative events

Here are three key activities that helped John to overcome his challenging period:

  • Keep improving: John continued to improve his portfolio and application as time progressed. He was not dismayed by the disappointments and the periods of no-shows from his job applications. This is important for graduate students who can’t land job offers right after college. Let the quiet period be the time you continually improve yourself and enhance your portfolio. Use the time you have under your belt to add value to yourself. Continue to improve your skills, resume, and cover letter, and use the feedback received from the failed job applications to enhance your portfolio. Continuous learning and improvement are crucial as you progress. Sharpen your interviewing skills, read on negotiating salaries, networking, persuasion, public speaking, sales, marketing, and any other skills you need to improve your chances of getting a job. Read and keep on top of industry news or subjects that you will need for the job. Develop areas that will be necessary when you eventually land an interview. Use the time to fill up any skills gap you may have. Pay it forward by giving yourself the best preparation you ever need to ace your next job interview. Use the quiet time to prepare ace your next job interview and learn the skills you need to succeed in your next role

Pay it forward by giving yourself the best preparation you ever need to ace your next job interview

  • Stay motivated: it can be challenging when things are not panning out the way you want. It’s easier to be motivated when things are working out well for you. In John’s case, motivation might be difficult for him after he had applied to several jobs without hearing back from the employers. It is disheartening when all the emails received are unsuccessful responses. Indeed, the motivation and persistence that you develop during this phase will see us through the journey. It would be best if you stayed motivated to recognise opportunities when they finally come your way. Train your subconscious mind to stay motivated and positive in the midst of all the failed attempts. Keep developing your skills, ask for feedback and improve on them daily. Set daily goals, and these will add up over a period of time to give you what you want. See the bigger picture. Do not be dismayed by your current situation.

Staying motivated helps to recognise opportunities when they finally come your way

  • Make a list of your goals and maintain a daily routine – it is essential that you set goals and have a daily routine that points to this goal. A daily routine will guide you and keep you going. When you feel lost, return to your set routines for directions – it is there to guide you. A routine can also be helpful when you don’t have much time – it will help you focus on the most important aspect of your goals. Prepare for the next day’s goals or activities today. Make a plan for the next day before you go to bed the night before. This will keep you in check for your ultimate goal and ensure you are on track. Set your priorities, as these will keep you focussed on the things that matter. Set realistic goals and avoid taking on too much. Learn to say no when and where you have to. Focus is key.

Setting priorities will help you focus on the things that matter

  • Keep moving: John kept moving in the midst of all negatives. He imagined the future when he would get hold of what he wanted. He envisioned a light at the end of the tunnel. He saw peace at the end of an ending war of job applications and rejections. Despite these challenges, John kept moving and progressing his goals by maintaining a daily routine. He never gave up on his end goal.

Do John’s challenges reflect your current situation? Don’t give up! Keep dreaming! Keep working! Keep hoping, and you will get the results you desire. You are not in this alone. Be quick to forgive yourself when you don’t hit the milestones or attain the goals you desire. Do not dwell on past failures. It’s the reason it is called “past”. The future is brighter than the past if you don’t give up and make better use of today. Today matters! It is unlikely that you will attain success without some setbacks or failures along the way. Do not let this deter you. Don’t be swayed into giving up! Stay focussed. Stay on track! Keep applying, keep knocking, keep believing, and the results will soon come knocking. See Austin Kleon’s Keep Going book to help you stay motivated and creative in good and bad times. I also recommend checking out Show your work and Steal like an artist to help you understand how and why you need to develop and showcase your work to your audience.

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