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10 Ways to Stay Motivated in a Long Job Search

At some point, many of us find ourselves in a job search that’s taking longer than  we expected. It might be due to our age, a gap in employment, a change in our industry – or simply that the luck of “happening to know someone” that got us into a past job isn’t turning up right now. And since employers want to hire motivated people, problems with job search motivation can create a vicious cycle.

Just as you work on other aspects of your search, you may need to work on your own state of mind – your enthusiasm, your energy, your gumption. In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, author Robert Pirsig wrote, “An adequate supply of gumption is the first and most important tool.”

Here are some gumption-building tactics that have worked for others. 

1. Collect kudos. If you don’t already have several good recommendations in your LinkedIn profile, request recommendations now from past bosses, direct reports, business partners and other business contacts, or from professors or instructors if you’re a recent graduate. Receiving a recommendation will build your confidence, in addition to providing social proof of your value to employers. Also, gather up any customer kudos, positive parts of performance evaluations, and other encouraging messages you’ve received and keep them in a file to review when you need a boost.

2. Exercise. Ample research has shown that exercise improves mood. It’s also likely to improve your energy level and appearance, all of which can make you more attractive to employers.  It doesn’t need to be a big deal. Start with a walk or a few minutes of exercising to music. Build up gradually. Appreciate your efforts.

3. Break big tasks into manageable chunks. “Revamp LinkedIn profile” sounds daunting, but items like “Rough-draft new summary and show to Bob for suggestions” or “Send 10 connection requests to recruiters” may feel much more do-able. 

4. Reward yourself. Give yourself little rewards as you complete tasks. This may sound silly but it works. Simple, healthy rewards might include listening to a song, petting your cat or dog, texting a friend, or enjoying a piece of fruit or a cup of tea.

5. Get out of the house and volunteer. Helping a good cause can lift your mood, not to mention expanding your network and possibly building relevant current experience through skills-based volunteering.

6. Do some free-lancing. Make some money, make connections, gain experience and keep yourself active. Your mood will improve and your job search motivation along with it.

7. Find social support. Unemployment can be isolating and depressing, and meeting regularly with other job seekers not only breaks that ice but is a source of helpful information and leads. You can find job clubs via your local or state employment office (for example, Experience Unlimited), adult schools, community colleges, places of worship, the Chamber of Commerce, and more. Try more than one group and continue with the one you like best.

8. Schedule a day off and do something fun. If your budget is tight, that doesn’t have to be an obstacle. Visit art galleries or go thrift shopping. Do something outdoors. Spend time with a friend. Whatever energizes you.

9. If you aren’t networking, consider starting. People who hate networking – and that’s about half of us – generally are people who don’t know how to network effectively – and that’s most of us.

10. Stop asking your network about job openings. When you ask people if they’ve heard of any openings, it’s a short, sad conversation: “No, I haven’t, I’m sorry. But I’ll keep you in mind if I do.” That can be demotivating as well as ineffective.

Instead, ask them for their thoughts about companies, industries or trends. If the rapport is good, ask for names of other people you could do informational interviews with. Don’t expect a job out of any conversation; expect to get to know someone and learn something new. This approach will not only fend off discouragement, it’s likely to shorten your job search as well, because you’ll be developing the kind of friendly “grapevine” that leads to opportunities.

Got other ideas?

What advice would you give to someone in your shoes? If you know something you could do to help you stay motivated in your job search, get out there and do it.

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