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Tips on Job Hunting for the Socially Awkward and Desperate

Updated on June 19, 2013

Cynical person that I am, I know how to recognize the signs of utter failure. Today’s job market is on a journey down the toilet with the despairing hopefuls clinging to the rims. Not to say that it’s impossible to get a job; people do it all the time and make it seem like it’s no big deal. If you’re from a fussy household, it wouldn’t be unusual to hear “Get a job, you lazy bum! Join society!” Frankly, society is downright terrifying and saying something is so much easier than doing it. I know this very well: I’m a writer. There are thousands of scraps of paper containing story ideas floating around my house, never to be properly used, and doubtless my mother is using them to line my cat’s litter-box.

You could plan your method of attack all day and still have no job by the end of it. It doesn’t matter how smart or skilled you are when there’s just no one hiring. Sometimes there are jobs out there, but you aren’t qualified to get them. Practically every high paying job requires a college degree nowadays, and some of us weren’t preparing to enter the workforce since sixth grade. Planning means everything in our society and most of the time you’ll find that you should have been preparing years ago, only no one bothered to tell you. If you’re anything like me, you weren’t signing up for every volunteer work or club that you could find, or were social enough to know how to deal with any type of person. The majority of students in my school were the quiet, keep-your-heads-down-or-they’ll-be-punched-in types or the obnoxious popular types, and if you belonged to the former finding ways to assimilate with society becomes difficult when you’re so used to keeping your head down.

But have no fear, lost children, for I and my helpful team of associates have gone ahead and faced the terrors of the work force for you. Our prize is some pearls of wisdom and I’m happy to share them with those who are ripping their hair out as they stare down the long, dark tunnel of unemployment.

Tip #1: Flush your pride straight down the toilet

I don’t care how embarrassing you think flipping burgers or taking out the trash is. If there’s a job opening that you don’t feel entirely comfortable with, you need to suck it up and try for it anyway. A paycheck is the best soother for any stupidity you might face on the job. Worried about kids from school seeing you at some fast food place? Forget it; they’ll most likely be doing the same kind of thing once they’ve entered the work force, if they’re not doing it already. If you’re just starting out, you’re at the bottom rung and the only way to go is up. That means a lot of grunt work and the start of not caring what other people think when they see you working hard towards your paycheck or applying to whatever place that you can find.

Tip #2: Send your shyness straight to where your pride went

Introverts, I feel for you: I’m one of those whose terrors include answering the phone for any reason and would rather not be assertive. Unfortunately, the meek have not inherited a single bit of the earth and giving yourself a good kick in the pants is needed to jumpstart your career. Stuttering and fidgeting is not going to impress your possible employer or convince anyone that you can be a part of the work force. Learn to look people in the eye when you’re talking to them and hold your head high. You don’t need to be the coolest kid at the party to be a capable worker, just speak loudly and clearly so that your audience can hear you.

Tip #3: Apply everywhere

There are a lot of places that don’t bother with a “Help Wanted” or “Now Hiring” sign. After all, it would be too easy on us helpless, unemployed plebs to know whether a job opening is anywhere in this galaxy. Go straight up to whoever is at the desk and ask if there’s a job opening or an application that you could fill out. Collect applications like candy; you want all of the chances that you can get. Sure, you might get a call afterwards saying there’s an opening when you’ve already accepted another job, but don’t feel bad about turning it down. It’s best to have a variety of possibilities than waiting on the one job you really want to get. Take some advice that I’ve given a friend of mine who is job hunting and not receiving any calls: stop applying to places one at a time. You’ll be waiting around for ages on a call that’s not coming instead of getting out there and submitting applications to whoever might be hiring.

Tip #4: Appearance

Appearances aren’t everything, but it’d be a complete lie to say that they aren’t worth something. Human beings make judgments based on appearance within seconds of seeing a person. Don’t believe me? Wear a pair of hot pink crocs and walk into the nearest shopping center. I guarantee that more than half of the shoppers will be staring at your feet and judging the hell out of you. That doesn’t mean that you should put on your Sunday best just to submit an application to McDonald’s; just spruce up your appearance. Hygiene is a must; no one wants to work with someone who smells like they just rolled in toxic waste. The “just got out of bed” look may impress some people, but those people aren’t your potential employers. Get a shower, fix your hair, wear something recently washed without holes in it. The first impression exists in those beginning seconds, so make them good ones.

Tip #5: Seasonal work

No one likes to work the holiday shifts. Absolutely no one. I thought I was going to go insane after too many repeats of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. But job openings are abundant during the holidays, even if it’s only for a short while. It provides experience, money, and the possibility of keeping the job once the holidays are over. Another friend of mine worked the holiday shift at a clothing store and hoped for the same thing. She’s not actively working there at the moment, but she’s on standby for orders and shipping. It’s something.

Tip #6: Use your social network

The majority of Americans own a Facebook, and the odds are that you probably do, too. Utilize it. Make a status about your job hunt, and ask if anyone knows if there’s anywhere that’s hiring. To be honest, you’ll probably get a bunch of useless “Oh, that’s too bad”, “Hope your job search goes well”, or “lol me, too, everything sucks” responses, but there might be a pearl in that clutter of sand. Ask your friends if they know of any job openings, particularly the ones you know that have jobs already. There may be a chance that their employer is looking for a new person, and your friend could even give you a recommendation. Tip #3 could come into play here with any jobs that they turned down and possibly might still be hiring. Ask the friends of your friends, acquaintances. Scream it into the distance if you have to. The most important thing is that you’re actively looking, and using every resource that you have.

Tip #7: Prepare for a lot of walking

The job offers won’t automatically flock to you. You need to get out there and see it for yourself. That means a good deal of walking, as one single job hunt can take a few hours without a car. Get to a busy place with a lot of people. The more people, the more stores, and the more jobs that need to be filled. Keep a water bottle on hand so that you don’t sound out of breath when you ask for a job. Eat beforehand, and don’t take your entire wallet with you: you’re there to be employed, not to shop.

Tip #8: Don’t get distracted

This goes hand-in-hand with Tip #7. You’re in a place where the employers are trying to sell you something, and you may be tempted to shop. Remember, you’re unemployed: frittering away your cash isn’t something that you can afford to do. Stop into a store to talk to the employees and get warm, but don’t stick around to browse. If there’s no job there for you, move on to the next one. Job hunting is exhausting already, and you don’t need to make it worse. Keep your focus and stay on target.

Tip #9: Skills

This isn’t completely necessary, but it helps to have something that you’re good at when you’re in need of a job. If you don’t have skills or previous experience, don’t sweat it: your future work place can teach you. If you’re willing to learn and you work at what you have, then all sorts of possibilities can open up for you. You don’t need to be a Jack-of-all-trades; learn what you can and get the basic knowledge of what to do. Be prepared.

Tip #10: DON’T GIVE UP

I cannot stress this enough. Nothing will happen unless you go out there and make it happen. Waiting around does nothing, and if you’ve been unemployed for a while you don’t have any time left to lose. Maybe you’re lazy, maybe the jobs out there don’t seem too appealing to you. Well, it’s time to grow up, because the world is full of boring, unpleasant things that no one wants to do, but they get them done anyway. Your dream job is not going to fall right into your lap, and if you have a dream job then work for it. Believe in yourself, make goals, and accomplish those goals even if you have to drag yourself across the finish line. So many of my friends and acquaintances have whined and given up on getting jobs when the situation looks bleak, and can you guess how successful they were when they were in that mindset?

The job market is pretty bleak right now, but there's no point in giving up before you've even started. Keep telling yourself that you can do it, that you have self worth, that you can get a job, and there's practically no end to the amount that you can accomplish. Remember that everything starts off small. Be nice, be courteous, be healthy, be happy, and seriously, take care of your hygiene, I beg of you.

Good luck to all of you job hunters, and may success come to us all.

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      FIRST 12 months ago

      Thank you for this. I'm currently unemployed for half a year (I was depressed and took some time to recover but I still feel like I'm losing my little self-esteem here.) I'm a college grad applying for a marketing position and I have zero work experience, which makes me nervous for the interviews. I am socially awkward as hell, but I know I have to suck it up and start facing my fears for me to grow. Wish me luck!

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