10 stages of a nightmare job search

It's tough to keep your spirits up when you've been job hunting for an eternity. But Steve Tobak has been there, and his perspective may help you get through the ordeal.

This is the worst job market I've ever seen, and I've been around a long time. It's tough out there. Really tough. Having been a job seeker for six months during a recession myself, I can tell you, it wasn't any fun. In fact, it was downright scary.

Still, besides having blind faith that things would eventually work out, the one thing that kept me going was a sense of humor. Really. So if you're out there looking or know somebody who is, I hope this helps.

Note: This article originally appeared as an entry in BNET's The Corner Office blog. It's also available as a PDF download.

1: Determination

Determined to find a job come hell or high water, whatever that means, you tell your wife, "I'm going to bring you a paycheck or die trying." Your wife gives you a big hug and says, "I know you will, sweetheart." The next day she takes out a life insurance policy on you.

2: Optimism

Enamored with a universe of possibilities, you go wild networking with everyone and anyone, tweeting, signing up on job search sites, filling out online employment applications, and linking on LinkedIn. You think, this might not be so hard after all.

3: Disappointment

When all that effort turns up a big round donut, you just can't understand what went wrong. Now, with a little time on your hands, you begin to get just how bad things are out there. Reality sets in. This is going to be a long haul. Better make a pitcher of margaritas.

4: Fear

Weeks go by and not much has changed, except what you thought was enough runway money isn't lasting as long as you'd hoped. You actually get an interview where they blow all kinds of smoke up your butt but, in the end, there's no call-back. Not even to say thanks but no thanks. The bastards.

5: Jealousy

A friend calls you up screaming on the phone because he landed a job. You act all happy for him, but while he's going on and on about the pay and the perks, you realize you're grinding your teeth. Later, you can't stop thinking why him and not me?

6: Depression

Two hundred and fifty-seven applications and three interviews with no call-backs later, it happens. You start going to bed early, getting up late, and shuffling around the house all day in your bathrobe. Your favorite food tastes like cardboard. Sex is exhausting. You give in to the void.

7: Hope

Just before the cash runs out, one of the eighty-three thousand people you contacted emails you out of the blue about a job that's right up your alley. Heading to the bathroom for your first shower in a week, you pass by the mirror and wonder what that weird thing on your face is. It's a smile.

8: Celebration

They run you through the mill and just when you think there can't possibly be anyone left at the company for you to interview with, the boss calls you with an offer. You got the job! You run around the house screaming like a little girl. The neighbors think you've finally lost it.

9: Elation

You can't sleep. Who needs sleep; you've got a job. You feel like a man again. Work starts at 9. You're there at 7. You've got this amphetamine-like buzz that won't quit ... and you didn't even take anything. You smile at everybody. Everybody thinks you're wacko. But it's all good. You're getting a paycheck again.

10: Resignation

Eventually, the halo wears off. You cross swords with all the usual back-stabbers, ass-kissers, and whiners. Then your boss comes down on you hard for something you didn't even do. So you shuffle through the parking lot, get in your car, and drive home with all the other rush-hour lemmings. That's when it hits you. I've got to go to work every day again. Crap.

Last word

You'll get through this and live to hate your job again. Kidding. You're not alone. You'll survive. Everything will be fine. Really.