When you’re looking for work, these words are unavoidable. They come at you over the phone and in texts. They come via email. They come in conversation, live, where you can’t even react the way you want to by shaking your fist at the sky or banging your head against the wall. They come, relentlessly.
Sometimes I think this is the worst part of job hunting, the fact that people keep asking you how it’s going. Here’s what I always want to say in response:
“Great! I love sending out resumes and not hearing back from anybody!”
“Terrific. I applied for three jobs I was qualified for eight years ago.”
“I’m starting to appreciate auto-rejection letters because at least I’m getting a response.”
“Relaxing. I couldn’t find anything worth applying for today at all, so I’m binge-watching Gilmore Girls.”
Job hunting sucks, and it sucks even more when you’re in your 40s. During a recent phase of unemployment, in between applying for jobs and combing LinkedIn for connections who worked at companies I was interested in, I spent a lot of time reading about how to improve resumes (please stop telling me about typos), cover letters (please stop telling me about typos), and interview performance (please stop telling me not to ask about vacation time). Now that I’m working again, these types of articles keep popping up in my Facebook feed, and I still click on most of them. A habit is hard to break.
When I read this piece in The Muse about how to respond to people who keep asking you how the search is going, I thought it would be fun, but it wasn’t. The only takeaway I found in there was to say, “I’ll let you know when something changes,” which is essentially saying, “Please stop reminding me that I can’t find a job every time we talk.”
The other advice presumes that the people who are asking are professionals who can advise you, versus well-meaning family and friends who don’t really understand your field. So in honor of them, here are five ways to make it sound like your job search is going better than it is.
“I have a line on something pretty good.”
This just means you saw an interesting ad on a job board and sent your resume into the void in the hope of a response.
“I seem to be overqualified for a lot of jobs these days.”
This makes you seem very professional and important, despite your state of unemployment.
“I’ve been busy!”
I decided one day that three cover letters, plus three slightly revised resumes, plus one LinkedIn outreach, equals busy. It’s a formula!
“I got a call today that might lead to something.”
You spoke to somebody you used to work with, even if it was just chit-chatting about your kids. It might lead to something…like a playdate.
“I’m hoping to set up some interviews in the next few weeks.”
Save your dreary, pessimistic or sarcastic opinions for the friends who can handle them, and shoot out rainbows and sunshine to everybody else. And when the job comes, as it always does eventually, you’ll have a real answer instead of a fake one.