While the job search process can be emotionally and mentally draining, pacing ourselves and setting milestones can help us in the run a longer distance.


The job search process can be daunting regardless of whether one is a fresh graduate or a mid-career professional. If you are in a situation where you have been spending days and months applying for a job, and no company has gotten back, it may seem as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel. One may feel as though we have failed those who believed in us, and we start questioning our capabilities. This thought process probably makes us perceive that all this job hunting is hopeless, and it is too competitive. So what can I do now? Stop applying for jobs? Take out my frustration on others? Take a break from sending out applications? Or, attend courses as I wait for replies?


Depending on what action or actions we choose to take, the situation above demonstrates what the cognitive triangle tells us – that our thoughts, feelings, behaviour (or actions) are all inter-related and therefore, affect one another. When we have thoughts that are unhelpful (“nothing is working out”), they elicit emotions that are unhelpful (“irritated with myself”) which in turn would result in you reacting in a way that is, likely to be unhelpful (“give up for good”). These three works incongruously and, before you know it, you find yourself trapped in a permanent state of unhelpfulness.


Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states that “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction” (Allain, 2013). Our behaviour is similar – there are 2 different systems controlling it and hence, everything that we do will elicit 2 completely different outcomes from us (Farnsworth, 2019), which could either be helpful or unhelpful to us. One way that you can determine if your behaviour was helpful or unhelpful would be to ask yourself “how did my behaviour help me in that situation?”, “how did slamming the laptop and deciding to stop job hunting help me in the situation of trying to get a job?” This behaviour is just a way of letting our emotions out and not actually helping us deal with the crux of the issue.


So, here are 3 ways that you can manage your behaviour so that they are helpful:


Give yourself a timeline

Searching for a job is a full-time job. In fact, experts estimate that unemployed job seekers should dedicate at least 30 hours a week on their job-search activities. To make the most of the time you have available for your job search it would be useful to set up a timeline (Augustine, 2018). It is also important to note that when it comes to sending out resumes, it is quality over quantity. So, although it may be a great idea to send out as many resumes as you can in a day, it is important to remember that it is not how many but rather the quality of the job hunt. Therefore, by giving yourself a timeline, it’ll also ensure that each time you send out a resume, they are of quality and that you have the relevant requirements and criteria of the job that you are applying for. By doing so, you will not end up wasting your time on unnecessary job applications.


Establish milestones in your job search – and reward yourself


We all know that job searching can be quite a long journey, full of ups and downs. So, to keep yourself motivated and your job search on track, break down your job goal into smaller, more digestible milestones (Augustine, 2018).


For instance, you may give yourself the goal of updating your resume and LinkedIn profile to support your new job goal before you begin applying for jobs. Once you achieve a milestone, reward yourself (Augustine, 2018). The reward doesn’t have to be extravagant, it could be as simple as watching a couple of episodes of a new series on Netflix, or a night out with friends.


Through this system of breaking down goals and rewarding yourself each time you take a step towards it, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed and discouraged. This stops the creation of a breeding groundfor unhelpful thoughts which would eventually lead to the unhealthy behaviour that we’re trying to avoid.


Come up with a backup plan


A backup plan in case things do not turn out the way you intend it. It would be good to keep an open mind and include jobs that you may not have considered previously in your back up plan or consider applying for jobs that may help you gain the necessary skills and experience for the job that you actually want. The truth is your first job doesn’t have to be the perfect job (Seybert, 2018) and it can actually be used as a stepping stone to that perfect job that you have been trying to get.


When we view the impact of our thoughts we can see that they strongly affect the entirety of our lives. They provoke our emotions, as well as our behavioural responses. Our views and perceptions alter how we will feel and thus how we will respond to a situation (Nicholas, 2017). Fortunately, we have control over our own thoughts, emotions and behaviour. In fact, more than control, we have the power to change it so that they are helpful to us. Just as every journey is made of many single steps each individual response makes up the life we build (Nicholas, 2017). So, our question to you is, how do you want to build up your life?


And, remember the next time when you react to a situation, ask yourself, does my behaviour help me in the situation that I am in?


Camellia Wong (MA), Demi Ng




Allain, R. (2013, March 10). A Closer Look at Newton’s Third Law. Retrieved from


Augustine, A. (2018, January 31). How to create an Effective Job-Search Plan. Retrieved from


Farnsworth, B. (2019, July 4). Human Behavior: The Complete Pocket Guide. Retrieved from


Nicholas, R. (2017, June 26). How Do My Thoughts impact My Life? Retrieved from,to%20make%20at%20that%20time.&text=So%20when%20we%20are%20contemplating,the%20entirety%20of%20our%20lives.


Seybert, Z. (2018, December 5). Your First Job Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect. Retrieved from


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