Job search exercises are always a challenge. There are many variables involved that you do not have control over, for example, the state of the job market, competition from other job seekers, personal chemistry between you and the interviewer, and so on.

Thus, it is always wise to begin with the end in mind — what would your ideal role look like? What are the top three factors that ideally must be present in your next job?

Preparation is the key. It not only allows you to respond professionally to interview questions but equally important, it gives you confidence. If you are able to project confidence during the interview, you cannot but perform at your best.

However, despite preparing, having confidence and adopting a positive mindset, you may still not be able to experience success in your job search. What should you do then?  Giving up is not an option, as you need the income to put food on the table, pay your mortgage or support your children. Here are five suggestions:

Mindset

Easier said than done in most cases, but it is imperative for you to continue adopting a positive mindset. Perhaps that elusive next job is not in hand because of one or several of the variable factors I highlighted above. If companies are not hiring or the economic situation is poor, there is nothing you can do about it.

Instead, continue focusing on activities that are within your control. Go on submitting job applications and continue doing your networking.

Resist the tendency to dwell on negative thoughts. Instead, continue doing things that make you feel good, that give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

If you like jogging, try to better yourself in terms of timing and/or distance covered. If you golf, try to reduce your handicap. Small and seemingly inconsequential accomplishments can go a long way towards maintaining a positive mindset.

Volunteer

There is always something you can do to make a difference in someone’s life. There is at least one soup kitchen in Singapore. My niece spent one Sunday cutting vegetables to feed the needy.

Not your cup of tea? How about spending some quality time chatting with a senior citizen at a home? Don’t fancy that too? Well, how about being a volunteer at an after-school centre?

My wife volunteers her time coaching children who remain behind in school as their parents are working. She finds it fulfilling even though the students don’t exactly welcome her warmly. Their usual greeting is: “Huh, you again?”

Learn

Learning is a lifelong journey, not a destination. You are spoilt for choice — you can learn something useful to your career, or something fun. Learn to make ice-cream or bake, paint, write poetry — the list is endless.

The key thing is the psychological positiveness of learning. No learning can be useless or bad even if it is just for the sake of acquiring knowledge and you may not be able to apply it.

One of the key strategies of effective networking is arming yourself with knowledge. You don’t need to be an expert; just know enough to contribute intelligently to cocktail conversations.

Read

I have had many people tell me they do not have time to read. How sad. Knowledge is power — in a good sense.

There are many options — the library, the bookshops, the Internet. If you already have the habit of reading, read more.

If you “do not have the time”, I challenge you to make some.

Read stuff that appeals to you, on subjects that you always wanted to know a little more about.

Keep reading materials conveniently nearby — in the living room, by the bedside, and even in the car.

That way you will always have something to read when you grab a cup of coffee in between appointments.

Relax

Most of us work hard, sometimes too hard. We travel on company business and, in the process, spend time away from the family and loved ones. When you are in career transition mode, try to learn to appreciate the break.

In between time spent on your job search, catch up with friends, your spouse and children. Watch a movie in the afternoon, enjoy a leisurely lunch or even spend the day at the beach.

Tell yourself that you will enjoy this period of leisure and that you will no longer be able to do this when you resume work.

A contact of mine so enjoyed the car conversations with his children while ferrying them to and from school that he almost did not want to return to work.

Such experiences will become treasured memories when you start your new career.

Article by Paul Heng, a career coach with NeXT Career Consulting Group, Asia. For more information, call 6323-6626 or visit www.nextcareer.net and www.arboraglobal.com