Aspiration & Struggle

Still Can’t Find a Job? Try These 6 Tips

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Amy O’Connor has been trying to find a job since November 2014. She has plenty of experience as a legal secretary and she’s made it to the phone-interview stage with several companies, but she hasn’t received an offer. And it’s starting to get to her.

“Searching for work while being unemployed is just as stressful, if not more stressful, than having an actual job,” Amy says. “It may as well be considered an unrewarding internship; you’re constantly applying for work, filling out applications, and creating more accounts on job posting sites than you can count on both hands.”

“You try to remain as self-sufficient as long as possible,” she adds, “but there’s only so much you can sell on eBay and Craigslist.”

Amy’s situation is one many people can relate to. While unemployment rates are on the decline, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the length of time people spend unemployed is still greater than it was a mere decade ago. The BLS reports that, as of May 2015, the average unemployment period was 30.7 weeks. That length of time can leave job seekers feeling stressed out, frustrated, and depressed.

If you’re one of the more than 8.6 million unemployed workers in the U.S. today, here are some tips to help you stay motivated and finally find a job:

1. Network, Network, Network

You never know who in your contact list may “know someone who knows someone” at a company that’s hiring for your skill set. Don’t be shy about reaching out to family, friends, and former colleagues.

2. Focus on Quality Over Quantity

Rather than sending out a zillion canned applications, take the time to customize them. Research each company by reading through its website, social media posts, and news mentions to get a feel for its culture and current business needs. Then use your cover letter to demonstrate why you’re precisely the right person for the job.

3. Find Positive Ways to Stay Busy

When you’re not sending resumes or scouring job boards, work to stay inspired and energetic. Visit friends, catch up on your reading list, or start running in the park. Volunteering and taking free courses to polish your skills are great ways to keep busy and boost your appeal to potential employers.

4. Remember: There’s Nothing Wrong With You

Being unemployed for an extended time isn’t unusual, and it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you as a candidate—or as a person. If a potential employer asks about your long employment gap, keep your response positive. Describe how diligently you’ve been searching, share any projects or professional development programs you’ve been pursuing, and direct the conversation back to how much you can contribute.

5. Find Alternative Ways to Bring in Cash

If you have a hobby or talent such as photography or knitting scarves, find ways to make it earn money for you. Amy turned her hobby of altering punk and goth clothing into an Etsy store, Optic Lithium, which has provided side income while she hunts for a full-time job.

6. Consider Relocating

While moving sounds like a drastic step, you may need to pack your boxes. Certain cities and states simply have more job opportunities than others. North Dakota, Nebraska, and Utah, for example, have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, and southwest Florida is seeing impressive job growth.

If you’re struggling to make enough money where you live after implementing the first five steps above, it might be time to consider moving to a place that has more opportunities as well as a lower cost of living.

Paula Pant is the founder of award-winning website and a journalist and blogger specializing in personal finance, real estate and lifestyle design. She has been featured more than three dozen publications, including Forbes, DailyFinance, Marketplace Money, Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, and many more.