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How to Create Realistic Expectations During Your Job Search

Your job search needs to be dynamic, but based on realistic expectations. We envy those who make it look easy. I liken it to getting and staying married. When I met my wife, it wasn't "love at first sight."


Are you ready for an emotional ride of sorts? Are you willing to employ grit and grind? That's what it will take in 2017 and beyond. There is a lot of waiting, too. This is only one part of the job search because smart and savvy job seekers understand it's a combination of their network, timing, and a strong personal brand in concert. A big part of it is your understanding of what an employer needs. Perhaps they need you at this time. You won't know until you're willing to be a little bold (which is a realistic expectation).


Looking at how easily other job seekers get jobs can hurt your mindset. I remember watching other couples, I wanted to be them, but with the right girl. It was going to take time—so will your job search.


Is your job search network friendly? Are you prepared for incremental gains? Will you be persistent and resilient enough to remain the focus for a possible 6-9 month job search? The Bureau of Labor and Statistics says unemployment is below 5%, but people are more transient in their careers. Yes, baby boomers will work until they are 75 years old, but many people are advancing their careers by changing jobs. Right now, there are active and underemployed job seekers on the market, taking advantage of their employability by remaining employed while looking.


There won't be an easy way to do it either. Today's job search requires 100% engagement and a wide variety of approaches. The "click and submit" method is not nearly sufficient. I've heard other career professionals quote (and I have done so in the past) 80% of all jobs are not posted on job boards, but I don't think it's true. This article from the Wall Street Journal cites it too from 2013. I do think there's a chunk of jobs not posted, and more existing because the employer hasn't met you. Yet.


Realistic expectations don't come naturally. You must insert them inside your strategy. I met my wife through her best friend, who I was dating at the time. As I mentioned, it wasn't "love at first sight" for that reason. But her best friend and I didn't work out, yet, I wasn’t focused on pursuing my future wife. Similarly, your focus determines your next moves, and the right focus creates progress then the prize.


Along the way your perspective will be challenged in many ways:

Downtime will challenge realistic expectations.

Dating is best when you have options. So is your job search. More people are searching for new opportunities, and if your job search is your “second job,” you won't have much downtime. It does say you need to create some, and it's challenging. Conversely, if you are unemployed, you have too much time and should create a schedule, a to-do list, and employ a multi-level approach. This means to create long-term career plans, not just to get the job now.

Accountability sets realistic expectations.

Expanding and cultivating your network powers your job search. It is the tool to make your efforts meaningful and holistic. Invite people who are unabashedly truthful but empathetic as part of your team. Ask them to be truthful and reward them for it.

Informational interviews (business conversations) set realistic expectations.

Interviews with hiring managers fill in the blanks if you're asking the right questions about the industry, the position, and the skills. When I became interested in my wife (a year removed from dating her best friend), I asked a lot of questions of our common friends. I didn't want to come off desperate and knew they would report everything. If you go to an employer in a desperate state and ask for a job (that may not exist), you're in the wrong mental space. Done right, it could enhance future conversations and interactions with other hiring managers, your resume, and your value. It's intel for future conversations and real interviews unless they invite you to the party.

Continued learning will heighten realistic expectations.

Successful job candidates are perpetual learners. They find ways to add to his or her career arsenal and apply it their work, side hustles, or content. If you're changing careers, standing out by teaching what you learned is a way to catch the eyes of recruiters or hiring managers since most people refuse to do everything that it takes. I think that was the turning point of my relationship, both of us learning and believing we'll do what it takes.

Your spouse or partner will set realistic expectations in proper perspective.

Nothing sets reality in like the encouragement or discouragement from someone who intimately knows and depends on you. The beauty of having trust is embedded in your lives together even if they don't understand completely what you do and how you do it. They will look at your life together and try to envision how it will look. I know many people find this the hardest, but it's part of the part of the fabric.


Again, realistic expectations don't happen on their own. There are pieces of the puzzle that must fit together for you to find the right employer, position, and life. After 27 years, I can tell you there is a constant reset of realistic expectations. We evolve and change as life brings us our next challenges. Your job search similarly will bring you a steady flow of caveats. You can't do it alone. Plan to reset often.

Last Updated: July 18, 2017
About the author

Mark Anthony Dyson

Mark Anthony Dyson is a career consultant, job seeker advocate, career writer, and founder of The Voice of Job Seekers. He helps the employed, unemployed, underemployed, and under-appreciated find jobs. Mark has published more than 400 articles on his blog as well as some of the largest career sites such as Recruiter.com, YouTern, and Come Recommended.