Job applications suck, I know. They are time consuming, and if you are one of those nimble 21st century professionals who could be useful to at least 5 different types of roles (hint: you probably are), it feels like you have to reinvent yourself and all of your personal marketing materials each time you apply for something. And the agony of writing the perfect opening cover letter sentence? I know that pain. Set it aside and pour yourself a beverage, you have better options.
What do you have to offer?
First focus on what you have to offer. Be honest with yourself about what you're good at, and there is a solid list, I know it. If you're not sure, ask someone who knows you ("Hey, I'm trying to figure out this job thing. What do you think I'm good at?" is a good start). What compliments do you get? What does your boss say at your performance reviews? How about in your peer-review feedback for projects? Make a short list and add to it as you explore your options. This step will help you build the confidence you need to go generate your own opportunities, and will give you something to talk about when you:
Talk to People.
You can't avoid job applications AND avoid people, you have to get out there. Tell people you're interested in making a change or starting out on a professional path. Talk about what your skills are, and share some ideas for the kinds of roles you might want to do or that sound interesting to you. Be ready to answer questions about activities you've done that demonstrate your skills. Even if you don't have a lot of work experience, you do have experience interacting with other humans, solving problems, making a difference to others, or building things. Tell those stories, and ask lots of questions about what other people think you could do with those skills. I'm always surprised at the answer when I tell people about my experience and then ask, "Do any possible future roles come to mind when I talk about my experience?". Talk about your strengths, and ask lots of questions, and other people will likely start to get into thinking about options and possible roles with you.
Explore Alternatives to Traditional Jobs
One of the best ways to put your strengths to work is by putting them on the open marketplace. It has never been easier to sell your time, expertise, and capability to others, and there are a mind-boggling number of platforms online to do this if you want to get started fast. Freelancer, Guru, and Upwork are all great ones to use, and there are many more. So many!
Or, start a company. This is actually much easier than it sounds, especially if you start small and test things out by talking to lots of people and freelancing or hustling a bit first. Watch for problems and needs in your community. Think about things that seem harder than they should be, or don't work at all, or aren't there and should be. Those all hint at possible business ideas. A surprising number of businesses have been generated from people solving their own problems (from someone who made a cool wall hanging for the office, or built an app to search for xyz online while they sleep, and then discover that other people like that stuff too...), so think about things that you've done to improve your own life. Is that something that others would benefit from or appreciate?
So don't waste your time with applications if you hate them, go generate your own opportunity. There are a million ways you can apply your skills and, bonus, people will pay you to help make their lives better. Go get 'em!