Resetting wrong expectations for your job search

Jul 17, 2021

Having the wrong expectations can be detrimental to overcoming hard things. The passive influence of social media and its catchy titles like "Three easy steps to finding your dream job" can give you an unrealistic expectations for what your job search will look like.

I started job searching at the end of July and accepted an offer in December. That's six months. Attempting to cram 6 months of work into a weekend sprint is a strategy for burnout - not success, but early on it was easy to get swept away by hacks and shortcuts online.

This post contains the correction I wish I had received early on, and I hope it gives you a chance to reset some of your own expectations in job searching.

You can't do it in a weekend

So what's the alternative? Break it down into multi-hour, focused chunks. I call this "Making it a part-time job." It is going to get worse before it gets better, but breaking it down means you can face each small challenge one at a time.

In a recent podcast, Cal Newport describes intellectually hard work as thought repetitions. Doing a little each day. His goal is writing a couple of pages, where as your goal should be submitting a couple of applications. You don't have to do any all-nighters or crazy Leetcode binges. Consistent effort is key because it

  • allows you to adapt your process based on real experience rather than just intuition


  • gives you more chances at finding your Cool Job.

My personal cadence was 5 - 8 am and when I was jobless an additional chunk of time from 9 - 12 pm.

You can't keep it all in your head

You might have heard phrases like "if you don't track it, it won't improve." The same is true for job searching. You need a running record of what's working and what isn't. Something you can use to improve your process and be strategic.

It's sweet to look back and see that Glassdoor was my best means of getting initial interviews.

Or when I wonder what took so long I can remember that Bright Cellars decided that they actually needed a senior FE engineer after I had invested 15 hours into their process. Not applying there again 😛

Organized information means easier decision-making in the swirl of events during a job search. For me google sheets filled this role well!

You can't do it alone

Humans are communal creatures and even loners like me need other people.

Read books

Books can inspire you when you are down, and open your mind to dream of something better. Additionally, they are long enough that they can carry you through multiple weeks. I am confident I would have settled for less if I hadn't read these books last fall.

  • Linchpin changed my perspective on the industry and empowered me to apply valiantly despite the pressure there is to conform to how everyone else is doing it.
  • The Dip helped me decide when to settle vs when to keep going.
  • Ecclesiastes (a sub-book in the bible) kept me centered on what is most important, and helped me fight the urge to be consumed. It is an Israelite king’s introspection on the different things he has pursued in life and what he found to be ultimately meaningful. Here is a great place to start if you are interested.

These are the books that helped me. Find yours!!

Invest in relationships

I tend to get consumed by problems I face, which suffocates relationship. When I ultimately started to go hermit mode during my job search, I was lucky enough to have people that would track me to down and hang out. I don't have a lot on this one. Just be intentional about maintain relationships. We need each other.

I could give a lot more advice on this last point, but it might turn into lifestyle blog material. 😬 To sum up, don’t start cutting off things that make you ... you, and put boundaries on the time that you think about job searching. Companies want to hire real people, not job searching zombies.

Thanks for reading 🤗

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