How to get unstuck in your job search


How many times have you said, “I need a new job” and then done nothing about it? Or have you embarked on a new job search full of optimism only to have it stall out?

There’s only one word to describe what’s happening: Stuck.

That’s right, stuck. We’ve all been there. So how do you get unstuck?

First up, you have to figure out how — and where — you’re held up. Are you unable to start your job search? Or are you not getting any interviews or offers?

“There could be somebody who’s sending in 400 applications and they could say they feel stuck, and there’s somebody who’s on the other end of the spectrum saying, ‘I haven’t sent anything in because I don’t know what I want and I don’t know what to do and I don’t know what to write and I just feel like if I take a step it might be wrong and I’m scared to take any steps,’” said career coach Natalie Fisher.

Regardless, it’s easy to get discouraged and start circling the drain of self-doubt and hopelessness.

Great news! None of that is necessary. (Or helpful, really.) There are definitely ways to get unstuck.

If you’re having trouble achieving liftoff, getting your job search started, Fisher recommends asking yourself a few questions:

  • What are you avoiding?
  • What are you scared of?
  • What is really the problem?
  • What’s the worst that can happen if you send that application?
“Probably … you’ll be in the same situation you are now, so probably nothing big is going to happen,” Fisher said. “But we don’t really walk ourselves through that so we’re like, ‘Agh! What If I get rejected? What if I get judged? What if I have a typo on my resume and I lose the opportunity forever?’”

It seems like a lot of times we get in our own way. Maybe we are perfectionists. Or we have a fear of rejection. So we feel paralyzed and don’t take any action.

If you are actively on the hunt but not getting anywhere, Gorick Ng, a Harvard career advisor and author of “The Unspoken Rules,” breaks it down into three key categories where you may be stuck:


  1. Figuring out which jobs to pursue
  2. Securing an interview
  3. Getting past the interview to a job offer



“It’s easy to get into a downward spiral” in your job search, Ng explains. You start feeling bad about what you’re not doing, then you feel bad about feeling bad. But really, you’re just stuck.

So, how do you get unstuck?

“First, you need to find a general direction. If you don’t have a direction, you can’t tailor your resume; you also can’t speak with conviction in an interview; and you definitely can’t stay motivated,” Ng said. “This is why so many people spend hours aimlessly clicking ‘submit’ with no results to show.”

If you’re stuck at No. 1, unsure of what jobs to pursue, Ng said you should ask yourself these four questions:


  • “Where do I actually want to work?”
  • “What do I actually want to do?”
  • “Where do I want to be long term — and what next role would best put me on the path toward what I want to do long term?”
  • “Where do I have the best odds?”



“A successful job search is all about navigating your way to the intersection of what you want and where you have the best odds of landing a position,” Ng said.

We all have dreams when we head off to college of what we want to do. But that is such an important reality gap to bridge — figuring out how to actually land the position you want.

That comes down to a combination of where you have experience that would apply to this role, where you know someone on a team who likes you and/or who can get you an introduction to someone who is in a hiring position, Ng said.

When deciding which jobs to apply for, Ng suggests asking yourself this following set of questions — and then focusing your job search on roles based on those answers:


  • “What have I done that I’d like to do more of?”
  • “Where do I know someone?”
  • “Where can I get an introduction from someone?”



When it comes to the networking part, Ng says, work to identify those relationships and rekindle them.

If you’re blasting off a whole bunch of resumes but not getting anywhere, maybe you’re just not getting them to the right people, Fisher says. So instead of just applying through a website, do some digging on LinkedIn or elsewhere and see if you know anyone at the company or can find someone. Reach out to them and have a conversation.

“The more chats you have with human beings, the more likely you are to open doors,” Fisher says.

“Mostly people are stuck in one approach,” Fisher says. They think they need to send more applications when what it may be is they need to try a new tack. Maybe instead of just sending applications through a website, find a person and connect with them. Try “totally different things.”

“Take a step back and look at what’s not working in your current one and don’t put energy in what’s not working anymore,” Fisher says.

View Count 141