Job Search

How To Pick Yourself Up After Hitting Rock Bottom In A Job Search


Most of my friends and clients know that I love hiking. The reward involves beautiful mountain vistas and breathtaking wildflowers. But with anything worth doing, there’s always a downside. Mine happens to be falling. A lot. And I’ll even reveal a secret: My nickname is “Stumblina” – bestowed upon me by my concerned but bemused husband as my falling down while outdoors happens so frequently.

So, one weekend, after successfully navigating a very deep (and steep canyon) enroute to our campsite on Mt. Hood here in Oregon, the return trip wasn’t as lucky.

After making it all the way back down to the bottom of this monster canyon, I saw some other backpackers looking very tentative about crossing this bridgeless river. They had spent the better part of at least 10 minutes walking back and forth trying to figure out a way across.

They hesitated, so our group passed them and crossed. The other three people in my party popped right across the water; it was now my turn. Feeling cocky, I got about three steps across when my left foot slid on a wobbly rock, and I had that sinking feeling that my balance had just evaporated. Falling, I crashed hard into the water and was quickly flopping around among rocks and ice-cold glacial water, totally soaked.

Completely embarrassed and utterly humiliated, I had now just wiped out in front of a number of other hikers. Not so cool now, eh?

So, what do you do when you’ve hit rock bottom?

You reach for the nearest tools to start getting out of the situation. In my case, these were my hiking poles, which were in danger of being swept away.

I got out of the river and assessed the situation. No injuries, fortunately. Just a very bruised ego and some minor scrapes and bumps. Then, I pulled myself together, and we continued our hike back to the car.

This situation is really not so different when you’ve hit rock bottom in a job search. You can feel embarrassed, out of control, and hurt.

And it’s ok to hit rock bottom once in awhile. It reminds us that we really are human after all. But like my situation, staying there in that rocky freezing river isn’t a place to linger, so the only way out is to pull yourself together, dust yourself off, and get moving again.

But even more importantly, how you look back over your shoulder and view how you hit rock bottom matters just as much. Do you shrink or recoil from the memory?

Or, do you do what I did: Cheerfully wave at the tentative hikers still on the other side, and yell, “C’mon in, the water’s great!”

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Dawn Rasmussen

Dawn Rasmussen is president of Portland, Oregon-based Pathfinder Writing and Career Services, which provides resume, cover letter, and job searching assistance.


  1. Sandeep, I like that: Getterupper! BTW: I just heard that I got the job. Getting up and carrying on will always win the day. Thanks everyone at this site for the great advice and encouragement along the way.

  2. This article is really encouraging. I have been searching for so long and the job search with no positive results can become very frustrating. You wonder what’s the next step to take, having the qualification and experience, yet no break through.

  3. Bravo, Stumblina! I must be Stumblina II. I am a queen of the slip and fall. There are at least two, major disasters of that type every year for me–I marvel that I usually seem to come away from them with minor bruises and a few aches and pains that last a few days at most. I have had occasion to fall flat on my face during a job interview session while traversing a college campus, and I completed the interview process with a VP covered in dirt, crooked glasses (thank God they didn’t break, as, how would I ever have driven home?), quite embarrassed! But it turned out just fine in the end. During the disquieting afternoon following that unfortunate turn of events, I came to new insight. It’s not the stumbling, the falling, or the momentary humiliation that matters. It’s how you pull yourself back up, put on your game face, and press onward! This is an apt metaphor for the discouragement that can accompany the ups and downs of a concerted job search. Stumbling, falling flat on your face, even, don’t matter. It’s staying with it, staying in the game that gets you through.

  4. It can be a tricky matter to tackle. But, like you said – you can’t dwell on the situation for long!

    Make a difference.

    – Mark Sadovnick

  5. Thank you for this great article! Your personal explanation of picking yourself up made some good points. Forward motion and an extreme drive are incredibly necessary through the entire job search process. It’s so easy to lose confidence and let the search get the best of you, especially after being turned down numerous times. I find that it’s beneficial for job seekers to take all of the energy and emotion during trying times and turn it into a positive forward movement that powers them through even more applications.

    • Hi Afifa,

      Thanks. It was a humiliating situation but eerily similar to a job search – but the key is picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and then keep going. :)

      – Dawn

      • Dawn:

        You are not Stumblina but a Getterupper. No matter what, you always get up and get going. Thank you for sharing your inspiring article.

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