Avoiding the Application Black Hole

Perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of applying for jobs is putting lots of time into an application and never hearing anything back. At least with a rejection you have a straightforward answer and can stop holding out hope that an organization is going to call you back. When you're not hearing anything back, it can feel like you're just wasting your time completing applications, throwing them into a black hole of nothingness.

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to the "application black hole." The first is that there will likely always be some organizations that you never hear back from, through no fault of your own. They're disorganized, or they end up not having funding for the position after all, or they just receive such an overwhelming number of applications that they have to cut people any way they can and only follow up with those they want to interview. Accept that you're not going to hear back from everyone, and don't get hung up on any one place that hasn't responded.

However, if you've sent out a dozen applications and haven't gotten any sort of response, remember that silence is a form of feedback. There's something you need to be doing differently. Spend more time getting feedback on your application materials before you submit them, either from a coach or from someone whose advice you trust.

I would also challenge the idea that you're spending "lots of time" on an application that's getting you no response. Of course it sucks to spend an hour or two on an application and never get any response; it probably seems like it would be even more of a waste of time to spend an entire day or two polishing an application. However, it's exactly that extra hard work that is going to reap the rewards you want -- maybe not on every application, but with a higher likelihood of positive returns over time than spending only a few hours on each application.

There is one step that takes harder work than probably anything else, but reaps the largest rewards. That's why I've devoted a month to talking about informational interviews. By carefully and thoughtfully investing time in expanding your network, you build direct connections to the places you're applying. This means not only will you have the opportunity to find out about jobs before they're even posted, but you'll have someone specific looking out for your application who isn't going to leave you hanging.

Want to avoid the application black hole? Reframe your expectations, and then dig in and put in the maximum effort you possibly can.