What to do when jobseeker fatigue sets in

Photo by Arndt Nollau

I have noticed one of the most frequent search terms for people who end up at this blog is “what to write in the JobCentre book”.

I do empathise.

If you are “signed on” with the JobCentre, you will be familiar with the huge pressure that finding the fortnightly six entries to go into your jobseeker’s “book” can place you under.

With a raging recession out there, eating jobs away like a hungry monster, you are lucky if you  find two relevant vacancies to apply for every couple of weeks.

I have, in the past, applied for jobs I wasn’t really interested in, or knew I didn’t qualify for, just so I wouldn’t be penalised by the JobCentre. We all know it is not quantity but quality of applications that count; but JobCentres have quotas to meet, money to save, and they have been known to jump on the opportunity to stop jobseekers’ benefits as soon as there is a valid excuse, as reported here by the Guardian.

Sometimes a bit of creativity helps. Remember: not all six entries have to  be job applications. A call/visit/email to a friend/family member/recruitment agent asking about vacancies counts as one action, so use your imagination.

The problem is what to do when jobseeker fatigue sets in and the very thought of writing yet another application makes you feel violently ill.

There are only so many different ways in which you can re-word your skills and achievements on a piece of paper without inducing yourself into a mental coma. And how many of those letters are actually going to lead to an interview, let alone a job offer?

I am not a pessimist, but more often than not, it is pain without gain.

Job hunting IS a job in itself. You perform the same old going-through-the-motions day after day after day, as if you were an assembly line worker, except with no payment, often without any feedback, as many companies don’t even bother to acknowledge receipt of  applications.

Where does one find the motivation to keep going?

Below are some of the tactics I use to combat fatigue:

1. Give it a few days’ break and do anything but apply for jobs. If you have just spent days perfecting a particularly difficult application letter, chances are you are drained and need time to recover. It is difficult to be creative when you feel fed up.

2. Go to a library or bookshop,  or surf the Net, and look up tips for attractive CV layouts. Give your tired-looking CV a makeover: perhaps your current one is not making you stand out in the crowd. A new, eye-catching CV may make you feel more confident when the next job comes up.

3. In fact, while you are at it, refresh your cover letter as well (though this is best done when you are applying for a specific job, not during the rest period in-between). The nausea may not go away but it will make you feel a little less repulsed by the idea of sending out your 50th cover letter.

4. Learn something new and fun, maybe a skill you always wanted to learn but never had time for because you were working. This will give you a concrete target to work towards and targets keep people motivated. I have been teaching myself shorthand since I became unemployed and loving the challenge of eventually achieving the speed of 100wpm. Look for something that excites you, whatever that might be: card making, knitting, photography, painting, meditation…

5. Find and attend free or low-priced events and gatherings in your local area, where you’re likely to meet interesting people. One of these people may even lead you to a job, you never know. Make new friends and keep yourself intellectually stimulated. One of the worst aspects of unemployment, I find, is the social isolation and mental apathy you can easily fall into. Unless I have an event or meeting to look forward to, I can spend entire weeks with no motivation to step out of the house.

6. Stories about people finding work through Twitter are not uncommon. It can be an excellent place to cast your net wider and find unexpected work in a very sociable way. I have landed a handful of odd jobs through Twitter myself, and people I have never even personally met have been incredibly kind in pointing me towards any relevant work opportunities they hear about. Of course this is more effective if you have been using Twitter for a while and have some presence among your followers, but it is never too late to start.

Even after implementing some or all of the above, you may still be feeling like the bear in the photo above: no energy to even get out of bed. Sometimes no amount of positive thinking or positive actions can bring you relief and “sleeping it offis the only way to cope.

Finally, don’t feel bad about feeling bad. Accept that this is how you feel today but be aware it is only a temporary state of mind (‘I feel miserable’ instead of ‘I am miserable”). Tomorrow will always be a new day.

I will share with you a motivational video about an Australian man who was born without arms or legs (ignore the Korean subtitles), which never fails to remind me that, whatever problems you have in life, there is always something to be grateful for.

What worked for you when you couldn’t take any more?



Filed under Unemployment

6 responses to “What to do when jobseeker fatigue sets in

  1. Brilliant article. The dynamics of the job markets are that employers don’t choose a universal day to advertise their vacancies. Mondays would be perfect. Where I am there is a job paper on a Friday afternoon – so unless you get in fast (many employers close early on Fridays) you have to wait until the following week.

    Sometimes its the “early bird catches the worm” other times its not.

    My personal advice is, nominate just ONE day to seek work a week. Choose this to be your signing on day – obviously for most people its only every 2 weeks but keep it to the same day for the week you aren’t signing on. This is the day you use your BRAIN to take action! Other days just collate job adverts ready for that day…. Applications and CVs only on that day.

    Jobcentre Plus doesn’t want you to have a social life – but you need one (or the best you can get even if its just indoors with friends or family).


    • Thanks for the compliments. *blush, blush*
      I do agree that structuring your week so that on some days you focus on job hunting and on others you don’t is quite productive.

      I find, however, that because of the recession, there are hundreds of people going for each vacancy that comes up, so you need to apply to as many as you think are even marginally relevant to your skill set, to increase your chances of landing a job faster.

      I don’t send the same cover letters to all employers. My job application method is very thorough:
      a) I check the company’s websites, their products, their policies, etc
      b) I check the background of the person I would be reporting into.
      c) I invest time re-editing my cover letter template to suit the job. description for the job.
      d) I show the draft of the letter to my husband for a second opinion. Often I have to re-write it several times after that.
      e) I make small adjustments to the CV as well.
      This means that in one day I can complete one application, if I’m lucky. But my chances of getting an interview on that one application could be 1/100, so I will always try to send out at least one or two more in the same week, on the rare occasions when multiple relevant openings come up.

      It can leave very little room for a social life, sadly. As I said in the blog, job hunting is a very full-time job. But we all need a break. Today was my break day and I wrote two blog posts! 🙂


      • I cant believe you are unemployed – and thats coming from someone educated enough to know that unemployed people aren’t necessary unskilled unemployable wasters (completely the opposite in most cases).

        This is what angers me with Jobcentre Plus and its providers. Its quality not quantity. The advised… rush an application form once as a test, then do it again in neat and the basic covering letters that don’t sell yourself (basically “hi, my cv is enclosed..” as a summary) aren’t helping people.

        The more effort spent means the more chance of an interview which obviously means more chance of a job (even if you mess up the interview)…

        I am exactly the same. Research is a must. I never apply for a job addressed to a job title – must find out the persons name for that personal touch. its always a good idea to do different version of CV for different jobs.

        I could do with someone like you posting content on my blog! Mine has a very bad QC problem lol


  2. Great article and good to know I am not alone in struggling to find things to write in my jobcentre book. I’m new to signing on(only started about a month ago) so wasn’t sure what they would accept as jobsearch activities but I’ve interpreted it quite widely (e.g. attending networking events, following-up old contacts to arrange to meet to discuss possible work etc) as well as straightforward job applications and so far that seems to have been accepted.

    I think your advice about keeping positive is spot on too. Although jobhunting is incredibly time-consuming we need time for other things to keep ourselves sane and healthy. I am making a point of trying to have at least one thing each day which gets me out of the house for an hour or so even if that’s only a walk in the park (luckily the weather has been great since I’ve been out of work) and at least one day a week when I do something completely different. One thing I’m doing regularly is conservation volunteering (http://www2.btcv.org.uk/display/volunteer) and I’m also making the most of all the great free activities there are in London now that I have more time to explore them.


    • Hi Ruby,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. What you are doing is just right. Talking to people about possible work opportunities IS accepted by the JobCentre as a jobseeking action. It isn’t every week you’re going to find relevant jobs to apply for so a little imagination goes a long way…

      You sound like a very positive person, which is fantastic – a great asset. Volunteering is one of the great ways of keeping busy while unemployed (so well done!), with the added benefit that it makes you feel useful to society. In turn, that helps keep your confidence and your self-esteem up, which can easily be eroded by long-term unemployment. Also, you never know who you are going to meet by widening up your social circle. Someone you met unexpectedly through your volunteering may lead you to a dream job!

      Thanks for your contribution and very good luck to you! Come and visit this blog again soon. 🙂


  3. Pingback: Writing Prompt: Starved « bardicblogger

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