You’re in the waiting room, way past the point of enjoying cell phone games, YouTube, or social media. People watching, thumbing through dusty magazines, pretending to be interested in the talk show playing in the background—they’ve all become stale distractions too.
You’ve agonized about going up to the secretary to see how much longer you’ll be stuck here. But you don’t want to be that person. So you wait and wait and wait. Finally, you don’t care anymore. You become that person. The secretary offers a tight smile and assures you that it’ll just be a few more minutes. You sit down. You wait. Nothing. You sigh, take a deep breath, uncross your arms. And then you wait some more . . . till you feel like kicking and screaming like the two-year-old who left an hour ago!
That pretty much sums up my latest season of job hunting. While much of my time was spent being impatient and restless, I realized a few things along the way:
1. Job hunting takes time . . . lots of it!
Job hunting is practically its own full-time job. While various job search sites can help you cut corners by saving your information, there’s still a lot of tedious work involved with updating your resume, gathering references, filling out applications, and writing cover letters. Being aware of this, if nothing else, can help you avoid the nasty surprise of discovering that you just spent an hour on one application!
2. Guard against unhealthy side effects.
If job searching only demanded your time, that would be taxing enough. But then there’s the whole gamut of emotions that accompany it: anxiety, frustration, discouragement, depression, excitement, and impatience, to name a few.
Be aware of how you tend to handle stress, so you can stay on the lookout for unhealthy behavior. For me, that was being so fixated on finding a good job that I let other important things—like quality time with God, seeing friends, and resting—get pushed to the side.
3. Brace yourself for bouts of silence and busyness.
Too often after pouring so much time and effort into an application, I’d hit the Apply button and then . . . nothing. One friend told me that he was just getting follow-up emails now several months after applying, and another friend with HR experience let me know that hiring tends to happen in seasons (spring is prime time). All that to say, waiting is a huge part of the job hunt. As I was often restlessly, impatiently waiting, Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD,” reminded me that waiting for God’s timing isn’t always easy. It often requires strength and courage.
Conversely, I also experienced a few random bursts of activity throughout this job hunt. After about two and a half months with no solid job leads, I had four within 24 hours! I was ecstatic, encouraged, and thanking God, who knew my patience reserve was just about tapped out. Emails were sent, interviews were scheduled, and references were given. Then, as quickly as it had happened, I was back in waiting mode. “Be strong and take heart” became a necessary reminder once again.
4. Seeking God’s will takes time and trust.
A lot of my prayers during my job hunt went something like this: God, I haven’t heard back about any jobs yet. So does that mean I need to keep churning out more applications, even for jobs I don’t want? Or should I wait for a better job to come through? How can I be sure it will be a good fit?
And honestly, a lot of the time, God seemed silent. If anything, it felt like he was telling me to trust that he was at work and would open the right doors at the right time, even when it didn’t seem like it in the moment.
5. “No” can be a hidden blessing.
Rejection—does anyone enjoy it? Each time I got a rejection email, it was disappointing. But after taking time to calm down and start thinking more clearly, I started to realize that God had been answering my prayers. Those jobs obviously weren’t the right fit. For one job in particular, after hearing more about some people’s experiences working there, I recognized that this rejection email was likely God’s grace at work sparing me from a lot of stress and struggle.
6. Networking has limits.
“It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” Most of us have probably heard this job-networking cliché a time or two. In many cases, it seems like good advice. That said, sometimes you really, truly don’t know anyone who could put in a good word for you at a company. Or your only contact is a best friend of a second cousin, whom you only heard about an hour ago.
Instead of leveraging your network for all its worth—at the expense of much awkwardness and stretching relational connections—it’s probably best to just apply and leave it at that. I’ve gotten several jobs without any direct tie to the company. If you’re supposed to get the job, you will. It comes down to having faith in the Lord once again.
7. Narrowing down job opportunities can be tricky.
Five months later, I still vividly remember this moment:
I reread the job description—a perfect fit, exactly what I’d been doing for the past year and a half and with a great organization that my family and I have loved for years! The only catch was that it would require a cross-country move. For a Midwest-born-and-raised homebody who hates change, that was an obvious deal breaker.
“Oh really, tell me more about that,” God seemed to say just a few minutes later.
“Well, I mean, I could never move that far from home. I’m sure there’s something closer,” I answered silently.
No response other than a friendly reminder that God called Abraham to leave everything he knew for a new country.
I wrestled with that one for a day. Okay, Lord, if this is where you’re calling, I’ll go, I finally said before sending in my application.
In many ways, limiting the job search based on skill set and geography makes sense. But God in his wisdom sometimes challenges us to step out beyond our predetermined limits and embrace an opportunity we’d never consider on our own.
I never heard back from that job. In the moment, I was so sure that Jesus was leading me to that role, but in hindsight, maybe it could have been something else, a little bit like how God worked in the lives of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22, to see if I’d be willing to step out of my comfort zone if he asked me to.
8. Make the most of the present.
In Romans 8:28, Paul reminds us that God’s at work in every situation. This helped me move from just passively waiting for a job to come through (or wondering why it hadn’t happened already) to starting to consider questions like “How does the Lord want to equip me to serve others?” and “How can I be growing right now?”
I realized that this experience would likely help me better encourage and relate to other people wrestling through job searches (hopefully, that includes this post!). Also, I had a fresh opportunity to deepen my faith that God would once again provide a job for me as he’s done so faithfully in the past. And he did!
I encourage you to reflect on how Jesus may be calling you to make the most of the season of life you find yourself in.
9. Remember what’s certain and what’s not.
“The key to a happy life is to accept you are never actually in control,” said one character from Jurassic World.
When I heard this, it seemed like a pretty good reminder, though from an unusual source. Many things in life are uncertain and out of our control. We ultimately know that God reigns supreme. But whether a particular job lead pans out, whether we end up feeling happy and satisfied in a new role, that’s not so certain. At times, this fact stressed me out like no other. But when I accept that it’s the Lord who’s in control, not me, I experience peace and hope. He is a good Father, faithful and true.
To paraphrase a chaplain’s words to me here at InterVarsity’s National Service Center, job hunting doesn’t have to be a necessary evil or an awful season of life. It can be exciting, refreshing, and encouraging as we wait for the Lord to begin the next chapter in our lives. Trust in him. Rest in the truth that he is for us and with us.
Nathan Peterson is a writer on InterVarsity's Communications Team in Madison, Wisconsin. He formerly was the Urbana 18 writer. When he’s not at work, you can find him working on his book, at the gym, or watching movies at home.