Two Reasons to Quit Your Job Search – For Now

Palm Trees
The conventional wisdom says that if you really, really want a job you’re supposed to keep searching no matter what. No matter the circumstances. Persistence will overcome everything. Never quit.

Well, I think there are some good reasons to stop looking for a job and do something different, despite all the advice. And they are…

Sometimes, You Need to Take a Vacation From Your Search

When you are working, you take a vacation to get away from it all. Recreation is really re-creation. If you follow all the rules, searching for a job is a full-time occupation. I get that. But if you are doing a full-time job looking for work, then you also need to have some time off to get away from it all.

Take my personal example. In 2001 I was laid off from my company in June, right at the tech bust. I was a good soldier: I looked for work every single day. Then I got a phone call to turn on the television because some plane had slammed into the twin towers. When I saw the towers fall, I prayed that all were safe. But the little voice inside my head said, “You’ll never find a job until at least the beginning of the year — there is too much uncertainty now.”

So I stopped looking. Instead, because I had enough money saved, I took September through December off. I spent three weeks 800 miles away helping a friend with a project. I drove another 700 miles and visited my Mom over Christmas. I helped others. I took care of myself. I got away from it all.

I came back to the job search refreshed and wanting to find work on my terms.

You need to Pause to Determine the Job You Want to Have

There are a lot of us who, by chance of where we got our first job and the opportunities presented to us, found ourselves in the wrong job. Seriously, how many people yearned in college to become an insurance underwriter?

Or, where we’re working now gives us heartburn, frustration or even depression because the work we do isn’t the work that we like to do. All the pundits tell us to talk about our results and tell our stories of how we helped the business — all to get another job that’s exactly like jobs we had and hated.

You’ve looked and looked, but your heart isn’t in it. It’s time to quit your job search.

It’s time to get away and decide what type of work gets you excited. Or decide if it’s really time to do something different and start your own business. Take time to find what types of people you like to work with. The type of management that brings out the best in you.

You see, we get so close to ourselves we miss all that. We get pressure from society, pundits, our family and our sense of responsibility to find another job — even if it’s a job we hate.

I was at a party once and most of the people in my little circle bemoaned their jobs. When I asked why they stayed, the answer was: “It’s a paycheck.”

I get the need for a paycheck. Believe me. But if we hate what we do, we don’t really commit ourselves to finding that same job, because that just puts us through the pain all over again.

Every once in a while, we have to pause and find out what we want to do and who we want to work with. Then, after a couple of weeks of soul-searching, thought and discussions, we come back and re-boot the job search.

Look, job searching is tough. If you really need a job and anything will do to get that paycheck, I get it. But too often we beat ourselves up over not having work when getting a little perspective from being away would help us find what we need in other ways. If you purposefully quit for a specific period of time, you can get away from the guilt trips and relentless feelings of failure you get from a long search. It helps you rediscover who you are and helps you get your sense of worth back.

Yes, we need persistence. We need to search like it was a full-time job. We need to follow the good advice out there about what needs doing to land that job.

But sometimes, we need to quit the job search — for a while.

27 Responses to “Two Reasons to Quit Your Job Search – For Now”

  1. Ben hammer

    The exact ” fit” requirement coupled with the precision of the Internet on top of a scary business climate precludes hiring a candidate from. “outside of the box” and this is a major factor in the loss of our edge as an economic power.

    The safe choice is usually mediocre, inbred in outlook and limited in upside. Many of my best hires would have been ruled out using a pinheaded matrix developed by insecure managers terrified of making a mistake.

  2. Nandini Subramanya

    I cannot thank you enough for this article. It was so refreshing and almost life-alterting for me the moment I read it. I have been looking for any job endlessly just because my current job sucks. Little do I know what I am looking for. What kind of a job is going to make me happy. I am going to take your advise and take a step back and truly reflect on things I need clarity on. I cannot thank you enough for sharing this with everyone. Thank you.

    • Nandini, when I saw the Twin Towers fall on 9/11 and that little voice told me I wasn’t going to find a job until the beginning of the year, it was a great choice moment: take some time to re-evaluate and heal, or continue working the job market. All I saw was more rejection and frustration to try and find something in the midst of national anger and sorrow. That lesson has carried over to ensure we care for ourselves and know what we want out of work so we can purposefully pursue a job.

      I’m glad this helped you and thanks for leaving the comment. It’s really appreciated.

  3. LadyTee

    Thank you Scot!! For some reason I feel like I was suppose to read your article today. I have been out of work for YEARS and as time went by without a reply, a call, or a referral, I became a drone, back at it the next day only to be disappointed over and over again. Societal pressure is awful but the pressure I put on myself is worse. I do need a break to “re-create” myself. I’m going to get my sense of worth back!

    • One’s ability to maintain a sense of self-worth is just really key. It’s difficult to do with the constant rejection, rejection, no answer, no answer, no return phone call…it is just really hard.

      Whatever you can do to help maintain and increase that sense of self-worth is really worth doing. Some do it through volunteer work, some do it through social activities, some do it through their place of worship, others do it through who they have coffee with in the morning.

      YOU have worth, regardless of what the job market says. You have to start with that or you won’t be able to progress past submitting resumes and hoping something will happen. Others call this your “attitude,” but your attitude is really your level of self-worth and how you relate that to others. Get your mojo back and good luck.

  4. James P

    I had a similar experience with the author, having been laid off in early July of that same year. I looked faithfully every day and was still at it on that fateful day of September 11th. After that, I continued to look, but decided to enjoy the process. I did some substitute teaching at a technical college and the local public schools. I traveled to different cities for job interviews, met new people, and enjoyed myself. When it was all said and done I had found a job and began just after Thanksgiving, which helped me to enjoy the holidays better. It’s always nice to have a paycheck for the holidays.

    • James — this is another good option. Instead of completely abandoning the job search, you set up a simple routine to minimize the time spent while still engaging in the search process. In retrospect, I could have found a job a bit earlier than I did if I had followed your approach.

      A great addition to the conversation here; thanks for sharing it.

  5. Mike Smith

    Great article. My current job is great but sadly it (the contract) has moved 250 miles from its original location and I am in no position to follow it. I am beating my self into the ground trying to find an IT job that I enjoy near where I live. I have 22 years of military experience (none of it IT) and only 2.5 years of Sys Admin experience. I know I’m not getting picked up purely because I lack experience. Maybe its time to step back, take a break, perhaps take some college courses, and refocus my thoughts. Thanks for the refreshing look Scot.

    • Mike, one of the keys for you is to translate that military experience into how it applies to the workplace. 2.5 years experience in Sys Admin is nothing to sneeze at; it shows you can do the work.

      What the military experience can prove is leadership, ability to work in a team by delivering what your part of the team needed, and the soft skills needed to resolve conflicts (I should note that showing you can resolve conflicts with an M-16 is probably not the best answer to an interview question…).

      I had a former step-son, a Navy Seal who was killed in Afghanistan several years ago (on a rescue mission, just like the recent incident), who had tremendous leadership skills, ability to produce results and the ability to work with a variety of different people. Those “soft” skills are what is needed in the work place in every job.

      So don’t shy away from your military experience — show how it helps you in the workplace and that will help offset any perception of “not enough experience” on the Sys Admin side.

      And I’ll save commentary about how we say we support the troops and then don’t once they come home…

      • One more thought here: you want to connect the soft skills you learned in the military (like leadership, or teamwork, or accountability) with specific instances from your work as an Sys Admin. You want to show there is no wall between what you did in the military and what you did as a Sys Admin; the skills are the same and were applied.

        Thus, you create a bright line between what you learned in the military to what you did as a Sys Admin. That then shows the person interviewing you that you can adapt to differing situations by grabbing the right experience from your past to solve today’s problems.

        And make sure you’re listing soft skills on the resume — they count towards answering the question of if you have the right job skills to do the job. Soft skills are job skills.

        Okay…off my soapbox now…

  6. C. Macintosh

    Thank you for this refreshing article. I had the same experience recently as I began re-evaluating my own career path. I haven’t been able to take it to quite the extreme, but I have been cutting back on submitting applications while re-evaluating and broadening my exposure to the parts of the industry that really interest me using some of the various social media. I have found that it has let me refine what I am interested in and lets me better utilize what little time I do get to spend on the applications I find most interesting. Glad to see others doing/encouraging the same.

    • One of the most common pieces of advice from pundits is to focus on specific job opportunities and don’t “shotgun” one’s job applications. Well, the only way to focus is to know what you want and what kinds of environments help you do your best work.

      One may end up making fewer applications, but with the better focus, it helps get the resume better, helps tell better results-type stories during an interview and gets you much better prepared.

      Good for you in thinking this stuff through.

  7. Rick Espinoza

    I have been out of a job around four to five months now. I did take a break a couple of weeks ago, for just a week, and really got this exact point in my head. It is tough right now for someone like me, one who has excelled in different parts of their industry, started at the bottom and advanced their way up, or even had opportunities to even advance higher in that career field. After 10 years of the same thing over and over and over, the redundancy bored me, the people bore me, the customers irritated me. I do not want to go back into that type of career, ever. But now knowing what I want to do is far fetched and the little experience in the field I wish to go into, it is making it harder to land that job.
    What really connected me to your article is this line: “If you purposefully quit for a specific period of time, you can get away from the guilt trips and relentless feelings of failure you get from a long search.” In the previous months of looking for -any- jobs in my field, I had two call backs for interviews. Both for someone I did not want to work for, had no interest in attending the interview, and knew it was a waste of both parties time. I became the trooper and went to those interviews anyway. I wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment attending an interview but the depression always set in thinking, “This is what my life has come to, this mediocre job I never wanted.” I landed those interviews by a recruiter, not myself. Yes, I could have taken one of the jobs but I passed, I knew I would be horrible there and last them only a month if they were lucky. That is a waste of both parties times so I respectfully declined. Taking the time off, like suggested, really takes a load off your shoulders and puts yourself into perspective. What to do, where to go, where am I happy, what can I fully concentrate on doing the best job possible.

    • And note, Rick, that you may still end up in a less than desirable job in the end for whatever the reasons. The good thing, though, is you thought through what it is that gets you excited about work, what about the work that helps you stay engaged. Even if you end up in a not as ideal position as you would like, you’ll clearly understand the differences between what you have and what would be ideal.

      Then continue to build your skills, produce results on the job — and then start looking for something that fits closer to your ideal. If you can’t figure out what you want, you won’t get there no matter how hard you try. Once you do — even if what you thought you wanted you ended up not liking — you have a baseline to compare to and then work.

  8. I could not agree more! I was riffed in June and had this overwhelming desire to start looking immediately, but the world had changed a lot since the last time I looked for a job. So I forced myself to take time to understand what I wanted to do now – and adapt to a web2.0 world of job hunting. I am so glad I did.

    • A good use of the time off! I think it’s worth taking a week, at the most two, off after getting laid off. People don’t realize how much a layoff, even an expected one, can take out of you emotionally. One needs time to process those emotions and get to a better place in the grieving process (yes, we grieve when we lose a job…) so that you can start looking for new work with a fresh start.

      Good for you.

    • Karen Sarcone

      The world has definitely changed! I was riffed in April and took much of the summer off to make a job hunt plan and to spend some time with my family. I’ve been in technology sales (software, telecommunications, managed networks, etc.) for a number of years. My job hunt experience thus far, has been vastly different that it was 3.5 years ago. There are certain issues in the market today that don’t make sense to me.

      I am interested in getting feedback from others as to their observations about the following:

      I do understand the impact that the current economic situations has on adding headcount. What I don’t understand includes: 1. The number of positions posted that are not true openings. 2. Why are multiple internal and 3rd party recruiters working on the same openings (real or otherwise). In some cases, I’ve had multiple recruiters ask me to complete assessments for the same position. That is crazy!

      The labor market and world of recruiting appears to be in a flux. It’s a people, process, and system train wreck – nobody is winning. The internet and technology are designed to enable, not encumber. Every challenge presents an opportunity so I’m confident with time, matters will stabilize. However today, the world is clearly struggling with managing the staffing process – job posting tools, position aggregators, talent management solutions, face book, linkedin, etc, etc.

      In the meantime, I’m doing my best to adapt to these challenges and work towards securing a new position.

      Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts!

  9. daviddws

    I would love to take some time off .. but like many others I have two small children to think about. After recently finishing my MBA in MIS I was hopefull, but now I am being told I took too much time off to complete it. Overqualified, Underqualified, too much experience, not enough. I tell you its a really tough time to be out of work. These are my prime working years lol..

    • For those unemployed, it is a serious issue. The key here is to take time that YOU need to 1) get clear about what you want to do in an “ideal” position, regardless of the need for a paycheck, and, 2) ensure you take some time so you are not burned out, just like on a regular job. That should help you stay fresher and have more confidence in the job search.

      It is a serious heartbreak for me to hear stories of the long unemployment bouts. It kills one’s confidence and feeling of self-worth. So look for the children and the paycheck, but don’t forget to take care of yourself because you are the engine that makes it all go.

  10. Maria O. Panameno-Bailey

    The title of your article caught my attention because I thought about doing just that. In the end, I decided not to do it . I felt it was irresponsible and I felt guilty for even thinking about it. I am now dipping into my retirement savings and rather than thinking about a vacation, I was thinking “suvival.”

    When I first lost my job (it has been two yeas now), I felt it was a blessing in disguise and took three months off thinking it would only take me six months to find a job. I looked for a job relentlessly for six months but nothing happened. Then I opted for taking a year off, (I was receiving unemployment) to reevaluate the direction of my life. I did some deep soul searching and chose to use a year to volunteer in 8 different non-profit organizations. I always had that nagging feeling that I needed to find a way to give back. I am so glad I did. When a couple of job opportunities within these organizations came up and they were given to their friends even though they knew how badly I needed a job, I figured I needed to do something else. I don’t regret the volunteering but It was a wake up call to learn non-profits are not so cumbaya as I had imagined.

    Then I decided to go back to school, enrolled in a project management certification program at Cal State Hayward and then studied for three months to pass my PMP exam. I passed my exam on July 12. This victory re-invigorated me and validated me. I think that academia is the only place where I have actually feel validated. I put in the hard work and I get As and the accolades that go with it. I would continue to pursue academia if someone else paid for it but we all know how expensive education can be.

    I am now back to looking for a job 24/7 and sometimes I feel so exhausted of going at it day in and day out but I am one of the most resilient, persistent and determined people I know. I will not give up EVER! Interestingly enough, a friend told me yesterday to forget it that people over fifty should just FORGET IT. Boy, hearing him said that only fuel me spirit of determination even more!

    Don’t take being unemployed personally. These are difficult times for millions of people. You are valuable, significant and an imporant member of this society and there is a role for you to play in it. It is our destiny and we are the creators of this destinity so let’s shift the paradygn and remain positive and network like crazy into your next job.

    I have a saying posted to my wall that says::

    When you come to the edge of all the light you know and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown (I am there now)

    Faith is knowing one of two things will happen: THERE WILL BE SOMETHING SOLID TO STAND ON… OR YOU WILL BE TAUGH HOW TO FLY! I believe I am being taught how to fly and soar!! It is just a matter of time for me. I know it and I believe it!

    So, while a vacation sounds marvellous, it will be hard to enjoy myself knowing that I am using the last of my savings to do it.

    But we are all in different stages of this job search process so if you have the money, I would say Go for it!

  11. Mark M.

    I am looking for an advice. In this tough market, I do have a stable job, to some extent fulfilling, and challenging. I am a professional engineer with a very stable fortune company.
    I am not sure that I need to look for a job or I should just stay at my current job. Of course, I am not going to quit the one I have.
    There are very positive aspects of the current job; it pays well, and great benefits. I just don’t find myself happy and feel like I am stuck, cannot see career advancement. I have very marketable set of skills coupled with education and experience with top notch companies but don’t have any management experience.
    Part of me says stick around, the other part says, well better hurry up, you are not getting any younger, no one will hire you after hitting 50.

  12. Excellent advice.

    Times are tough and quite often during a job search all you hear is “no” or nothing at all. That’s not good for your self esteem.

    There comes a time when you have to take time out of a job search for yourself – for your piece of mind and to rest and to re-energize – otherwise you get a bit “loopy”. After you’ve rested, then you can re-activate your job search with the energy and enthusiasm that hiring managers actually like.

  13. I have been out of work for 20 months now. I have 28 years biomedical equipment repair experience,
    have been to about 7 job interviews, but no offers. I possess 20 years laboratory management skills, all the critical soft skills that are imperative to handling/working and solving problems in the workplace. In working with job recruiters, I have been told that they are looking for experienced personnel with these critical soft skilled talents. I also possess a BA in Biology and possess other repair knowledge in plumbing, carpentry, electrical, and computer processing skills. I understand that employers are not supposed to discriminate on the basis of age, but I feel as though I am being singled out as an “oldie”, in a market looking for “nubies”. I feel as though employers don’t want to take a risk hiring me, feeling that I will get bored easily with a position, as well as having to spend extra investments on a pension plan, 401K, medical and dental benefits and vacation PTO bank. If they can hire a “nubie” with less experience, they can pay him/her less, and not worry so much about preparing an attractive incentive package. I have been extremely dedicated to all four jobs that I have held in my 28 year working career, being a laboratory medical device processing supervisor one for twenty years, then having the lab closed due to improved technology. I have expressed that I will be willing to take less money and can easily fit in and learn any/all job requirements providing that I am just given the opportunity. I am currently collecting unemployment benefits but they will cease in December 2011. I am a creative, highly motivated, energetic individual that pays an extreme attention to detail, making sure that all tasks are carried out with extreme precision and quality care, have an impeccable track record with excellent references, diligently searching, applying for jobs, following up on possible leads and effectively networking, but can’t seem to crack back into the work field. I am keeping my head held high, knowing that I possess solid skills and work experience but not receiving any job offers. Hopefully, the right job will come along for me someday, as I am extremely versatile and adaptable , able to learn just about any job that there is, Any other suggestions ?