In a perfect world, the notion of being involuntarily “in-between jobs” wouldn’t exist. We’d all have our ideal dream jobs with the exact salaries, benefits, and responsibilities we wanted—and nothing would ever go wrong to threaten our positions throughout our professional journeys.

It’s a nice dream for sure, but we all know that it’s not a perfect world, which is especially true when it comes to today’s job market. It’s crowded, cutthroat, ultra-competitive, and often downright unfair out there, and can be pretty tough to navigate. Things get especially difficult when you’re in-between positions and on the job hunt—on top of the stress of being unemployed and the uncertainty surrounding when your next great opportunity will pop up, knowing how to cope with a crowded job market and its constantly shifting rules can be a real challenge. 

If you’re in this boat, don’t let the stress and anxiety of the situation overwhelm you. Instead, keep reading to pick up some valuable ideas for coping and making it through.

Prioritize your search

The truth is, conducting a proper, full-scale job hunt is not a part-time affair—it should be your primary focus if you really want to open up the doors to new opportunities. This includes crafting your job materials like cover letters and resumes until they’re just right, hunting high and low to unearth available openings in your industry and field, and continually tweaking and refining your approach as needed based on the feedback and results you receive. Here’s the bottom line: make sure you’re investing the right amount of time, energy, and effort to your search and, if possible, put off other things in life that aren’t as important until your job hunt starts to bear fruit.

Get flexible

Sure, most of us have a target position or ideal job in mind at the onset of our job searches, but for most of us hitting the bullseye right in the center doesn’t always happen. If you’re narrowing your search so much that you’re only looking at jobs that exactly match your dream scenario, you’re likely doing yourself a real disservice. Conducting a more flexible and expansive job search—which includes a wider swath of jobs that are related to your industry, background, and skill set—sets you up for a greater chance at success.

At the onset of your job search, invest some time in a purposeful brainstorming session with the goal of expanding your range of prospective positions. Trust us, thinking outside the box will be time well spent. You just might surprise yourself by landing an opportunity that turns out to be even better than you could’ve anticipated.

Use all of your resources

While most of us are now good at using public tools for job searching (like job posting sites and the career pages of companies we’re interested in), many of us still fail to use the full arsenal of tools at our disposal. Not using your professional network to help find a job can put you at a tremendous disadvantage when facing a crowded market. A comprehensive job hunt in today’s ultra-competitive field needs to include all of your available resources, which must include all of the personal and professional contacts you’ve acquired throughout your life. Sure, keeping up the hunt on the usual online channels is important, but these days, more and more opportunities arise through personal contacts—and what better way to get around the crowd then through people who already know you and can vouch for your abilities and strengths? You never know who amongst your network may be aware of an opening that’s just right for you, so be sure to leave no stone unturned.

Consider an alternate plan

It’s always admirable to be dedicated to a goal—and this is especially true when you’re on the job hunt. But sometimes having a backup plan is a wise strategy. If the job market in your field is especially competitive right now and opportunities are few, then consider an alternate route. This can include widening your search to include other positions in the same orbit as your target field or even trying something completely new until things get less crowded and intense. You may also want to journey down the entrepreneurial route and start your own business, leveraging your background or personal interests and being your own boss. Who knows—what may start out as a side project or short-term opportunity may turn into a lifelong pursuit.

Today’s job market is a tough one: Many fields are beyond competitive and crowded, with a ton of qualified candidates for every open position. If you’re facing this problem, then consider using the strategies and advice presented here to help you wade through the crowds to find your way to employment.