When to give up

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As well as being a time for personal indulgence, family disputes and selfless generosity, this time of year also lends itself to reflection on the past 12 (currently 11) months. So, if you've spent most of 2009 trying to find a new job without success, when should you accept that it just isn't going to happen - or at least not in the way that you want it to?

1) When you've driven everyone you know round the bend

Only give up when you've exhausted all your contacts and all your contacts' contacts, says Roby Yeung, a careers psychologist and director at leadership consultancy firm Talentspace.

"Don't rely on recruitment consultants to find you a new job," Yeung advises. "At the end of the day, they're paid to find people who fit their clients' needs. If you don't fit the profile perfectly, they

won't put you forward."

2) When you keep coming up against the same euphemistic excuses

If you're aged over 40 and are applying for a new role, the chances are that you keep being told that you're "too senior." Even though age discrimination is illegal, this is a well worn euphemism for you're "too old," says Peter Harrison at Harrison Careers.

Barring a successful court case, organisations trotting out this excuse are unlikely to suddenly decide that you're not "too senior" after all.

3) When you've been trying for three solid months and have got nowhere

If you are out of work and have been working with professional career consultants, you will probably be aware of the three month watershed. At this stage, it's not so much about giving up as re-evaluating.

"After three months of someone trying, we'll usually sit down and organise a brain storm," says Linda Jackson, MD of the City practice at career transition specialist Fairplace.

"If they're getting no interviews it's usually because there's something wrong with the way they're targeting their CV," says Jackson. "If they're getting a first interview, but not a second they will need to work on their interview skills."

4) When you redo your CV and still get nowhere

This is saying something. "If you've worked in a particular market for a while and you know there's movement but you're not getting any interviews, it's a telling sign," says Ray Baptiste, of CV and interview training company, Interview Master. "If there's nothing wrong with your CV, it might be that people know you in the market" [and don't rate you], he adds.

5) When you really can't be bothered with all the hassle

Getting a new job is hard work. It usually involves networking. If you can't be bothered to network yourself to death in your area of choice, maybe you should go for an easier option.

"If you don't have the motivation to do all the job search stuff, it's better to face it early on," says Peter Harrison. "You start by contacting recruitment agents and writing speculative applications. When these methods fail, you try networking. "After all", you figure, "everyone says it works!" However networking takes lots of time and energy, and if you don't have this in abundance, then you may as well give up on it."

"It's like trying to lose weight," Harrison adds. "You know that if you keep at it, it will happen, but you need the motivation."

6) When everyone you know who worked in your area is also out of work

Needless to say, it's pointless hammering at a dead market. Think leveraged finance.

7) When you run out of money

Unsurprisingly, Jackson says this is usually the biggest determinant of people's strategy for finding a new job. If you can afford to spend the next year looking for a job in your chosen area, a few setbacks are fine. If you can only afford a few months, they're not; you'll need to adapt.

And after you've given up....?

Needless to say, few people have the luxury of giving up altogether. In this context, giving up means relinquishing the notion that you'll find a particular role in a particular sector. Once you've done this, you'll need to think about...

· Transferable skills Where else can you put your knowledge to work (This is easiest for people from marketing/HR/IT, says Jackson, although front office people can occasionally move into the back and middle office)?

· Lowering your expectations: Think tier two, tier three, totally unheard of trading houses, or consulting.

· Retraining: Not an easy option, but long term growth sectors do exist. PriceWaterhouseCoopers is planning to hire 2,000 consultants, many of them with a green focus over the next four years. The UK government (admittedly not best known for the accuracy of its predictions) is positing 400,000 new 'green jobs' by 2017.

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