Surviving unemployment

Staying upbeat can be hard when you’re unemployed – especially if your job applications keep getting rejected. Here’s how to cope when you can’t get a job.

Boy upset about being unemployed

Can't. Watch. Anymore. Loose. Women.

Is this your life: wake up; job application; dribble some Weetabix into your mouth; do a job application; get eight rejection letters; cry; do a job application; work out if you can afford to eat lunch; do a job application; get another rejection; smash fist into wall; do another job application?

Depressed? Of course you are! Psychologist and career coach Denise Taylor has some advice.

I keep getting rejected for every job I apply for

So you’ve applied for dozens of jobs – maybe even hundreds – but the ‘no’ letters keep slamming into your inbox. That is, if the employer can even be bothered to reject you.

Yes, the economy is crap. And to some intent and purposes, this isn’t your fault and you can blame the job market. But it could be your sending-to-anyone-about-any-job approach that’s causing the problem. Job applications are very much about quality, not quantity.

“If you’re applying for loads of jobs in a short period of time then you’re not doing it properly,” says Denise. “Rather than 10 a day, maybe try four really well-researched and thought-through applications a week?”

Is it your CV or your interview technique that’s the problem?

If you’re not getting any job interviews then you need to look at your CV and covering letter. Read our CV checklist and cover letter articles to see where you may be going wrong.

If you’re getting through to interview but can’t seem to make the job yours, read our job interview tips and body language at interview articles to brush up on your technique.

I’m getting so depressed doing nothing every day

It’s important to have a structure to your workless life. Not just for your mental health, but for showing potential employers that you’re not a couch potato too.

“The worst thing you can do is stay in bed ’til noon, watch TV all day, and then go to bed at 4am,” says Denise. “Are you really looking for a job then? Employers want to know you’re capable of getting up in the morning and that you have a good work ethic.”

Start incorporating a routine into your daily life. Get up at the same (reasonable) hour, dedicate a certain amount of time to working on job applications, then go for a walk, and maybe volunteer with your spare time too.

“Doing voluntary work, especially helping people less fortunate than you, can really help put things in perspective,” says Denise. “It gets you out the house and it’s also something to talk about at interview.”

I’m bored of being constantly broke

A combination of a) being young, and b) having a lot of spare time, could actually provide ample opportunity to line your pockets while you job search.

Look around your local community. What service could you provide to others to stop you going stir-crazy and to earn some cash? Maybe dogwalking? Or babysitting? All will look good on your CV.

Or if you fancy being really entrepreneurial, use that YOUTH inside your brain to make cash. Basically, you grew up with the internet and using it comes instinctively to you. But lots of older people are scared stiff of modern technology – despite the world moving to an almost utterly-digital age.

Why not ask local businesses if you can create them a Facebook page or Twitter account? Maybe charge no fee for the first one you do in exchange for a good recommendation, and then hit another local business. Or even ask your neighbours if they want tutorials in simple things – like how to buy groceries online, or how to use Facebook.

You never know, things might start to take off then you can look into getting a loan to expand your mini-business.

I’m actually just really depressed and I don’t want to do anything

Endless unemployment is totally crap. And it can be hard to be all Annie about it day after day. In fact, Denise recommends bumming out occasionally as part of the process.

“You should try to keep active but sometimes you should just give up for, say, a week,” she says. “Say to yourself ‘I don’t care, I’m not going to apply for anything for a week’, and then start again a fresh. Sometimes it’s better to give yourself a break.”

If you’re feeling constantly down, lethargic, and helpless though, it may be worth speaking to your GP to make sure you’re not getting depressed.

Next Steps

  • Young Women’s Trust Grants Service provides financial support, up to £500, to young women aged 18-30 who have limited financial resources, to help them overcome practical barriers to work.
  • Looking for a mentor to help boost your knowledge and skills? Find a youth zone close to you.
  • Reveal your skills with Define Me and find the right words to tell employers.
  • Download Motimator - an app that helps you get the career you want - by giving you a gentle kick up the ass each day when motivation is running low.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Bourne

Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of depressed boy by Shutterstock.