How to Stay Motivated While Job Hunting

By Kailey Walters on September 16, 2020

It always has been difficult to find a job, no matter what’s going on in the world. Searching for jobs in whatever industry you want to work will always be highly competitive. Many companies tend to hire internally before turning to external candidates, which means that many positions may not even be posted publicly. What’s more, in this new online work-from-home environment, it can be even more difficult than before to network and effectively make connections with others in your chosen industry.

With so many challenges inherent in finding a job, how can you stay motivated during the job hunt? Along with positive thinking, there are a number of strategies you can employ to keep up your momentum while searching for the right job.

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Set up a daily routine.

Having a regular routine is important for getting things done and maintaining a healthy balance in your everyday life. Set up a routine that will help you establish consistency, including what time you wake up and go to bed every day, when you eat your three meals (and other snacks), when you plan on working out, meditating, or doing anything else that helps you clear your mind and relax, and of course, when you will dive into your daily job search. Having a routine will help you designate specific times of day when you can accomplish particular goals — which should prevent you from spending hours upon hours in front of your computer screen applying to jobs. Ultimately, a routine will create balance in your daily life.

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Create a specific to-do list.

Once you’ve organized your day into some kind of schedule, it’s time to break down the specific tasks you want to accomplish into more manageable pieces. This is where to-do lists come in handy. However, you want to avoid writing lists full of super vague goals — after all, tasks such as “apply to jobs” and “network online” sound much too overwhelming to accomplish all in one sitting. Instead, think about the specific steps involved in reaching those goals.

For example, if you want to update your resume, make a note of what exactly you plan on changing. Maybe you want to add three more bullet points to each of the three different positions listed beneath “Relevant Work Experience,” or perhaps you plan to rewrite some of those bullet points to sound more accomplishment-driven.

Another example is if you want to network online, you can lay out the specific steps you need to take. Aim to make five new connections on LinkedIn in one day, or write five different personal messages that you can email to existing connections.

Whatever your goals are for the day, make sure to break them down into manageable, bite-sized pieces. That way, accomplishing things on your list might be a little easier.

Ask for help from supporters and professionals you know.

If you’ve been sending out applications left and right but haven’t heard back from most or any of the companies you’ve contacted, you’ll inevitably start to feel a little frustrated. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong — but perhaps you could benefit from some advice and support from professionals or mentors in your life who can help you improve.

Reach out to people you know who you think would be able to offer some valuable constructive criticism — former and current professors, former managers from past internships or jobs you’ve held, and even career advisers at your college career center. Identify in which area you need help; for example, if you think your cover letter could benefit from some constructive criticism, pay a visit to your college career center (or book an online appointment, if they offer it) to get some suggestions on how to improve. If you want to improve your speaking skills, seek out your professor from the public speaking class you took last semester and ask for extra guidance. Utilizing all of these different resources can prove to be very valuable for you and make a big difference in your job hunt.

Network online.

With many in-person conferences and networking events canceled or postponed due to the current pandemic, networking certainly looks a lot different than before. But that doesn’t mean it has to be more difficult or complicated; rather, there are many opportunities to network online that you can take advantage of. One way is to become active on LinkedIn, which is a great social media platform for connecting with professionals within your industry. Search for people who have job titles similar to what you want to pursue and send them personalized messages that show you’re curious about what they do and interested in connecting with them further.

It’s also a good idea to be on the lookout for digital conferences and networking events that pop up. Most likely, these will be free and open to the public. You may be able to find out about some through your university. If not, you can search online for upcoming events, and you’re sure to find something relevant that you can join.

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Brush up on the companies you are interested in.

While searching for various jobs, you may want to familiarize yourself further with a few companies in which you are particularly interested. Doing so can help you focus more on what these specific companies are about — what their mission is, what they’re doing on a regular basis to achieve their goals, and how they treat their employees, for example. Doing the research allows you to take a closer look at these companies and reevaluate what you like about them, why you want to work for them, and if their values match your own. What’s more, this sort of reflection will lead you to remember that your opinions and values matter, too, and help you figure out where your talents and strengths will be the best fit.

Follow up on previous applications.

If you’ve sent out dozens of applications recently but haven’t been hearing back, perhaps it would be helpful to follow up. This may not be possible for all applications, especially if you applied through a general job portal on the company’s website. However, if you happen to have the name and contact for a specific person in charge (e.g., the HR manager or the job poster), you can send a brief and polite email noting that you are following up on your application and look forward to hearing from them soon. An appropriate time to do so would be a week after you’ve applied, as you want to give the manager enough time to review other job applications as well and don’t want to come across as pushy.

If you didn’t get the job, ask for feedback respectfully.

If you’ve had several interviews but ended up not getting the position, you can turn that rejection into an opportunity to improve by asking for feedback. In the thank you note or email that you send to the interviewer, make it known in a respectful and clear way that you would like feedback on how to improve. Perhaps you won’t get a response every time, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Some interviewers may be very kind and willing to help, so they may offer some valuable insight that you could possibly use in the future.

Turn to your career role models for inspiration.

If the job search process has gotten you feeling a little discouraged, look to your role models for a bit of inspiration. Think about leaders in your industry who stand out for their leadership, initiative, and accomplishments. Then, look into their backgrounds and their stories of how they made their way to the top — do some research online or even read a biography about them. Most often, you’ll find that they didn’t follow a linear path to get to where they are today. They most likely went through a number of trials and errors, setbacks, and disappointments before they saw success. Their stories can serve as inspiration and motivation for you so that you don’t get discouraged so quickly. Use their journeys to remind yourself that you may not have a linear path to success either; rather, the path you are on, with all its twists and turns, may prove to be even more valuable because of the lessons you’ve learned and the unique experiences you’ve had.

You can also turn to media that inspires you — books, blogs, magazines, podcasts, and even movies and TV shows that will help keep you motivated during the job search. The uplifting, positive messages in these different types of media may help remind you that the world is full of opportunities.

List out your career goals.

Listing out your professional goals will help remind you of all that you hope to accomplish and your motivations for wanting to do so. Write your goals down on paper and read them back to yourself. (You may even want to read them out loud for this exercise to be more impactful.) While some of these goals may be more related to the big picture, it certainly helps to have a vision for what you want to do and where you want to go.

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Focus on the things within your control.

As frustrating as the job search process can be sometimes, remember that there are simply some things you can’t control. After all, you can’t control how competitive the industry is or how many applicants there are for a specific position. You can’t control how much experience other job candidates bring to the table. You can only control what you do and who you are. That means you shouldn’t be wasting any energy worrying about what other people are doing or dwelling on the rejections you’ve received. Of course, it’s good to learn from other people’s mistakes and examples that they set, but you ultimately want to use that information in a productive way to help yourself improve.

Take a break.

One thing that may or may not have occurred to you is to simply take a break! No one can keep doing the same thing day in and day out without a break in between — so if you’ve been overworking yourself by constantly applying to jobs every day, it’s time to take a step back and breathe. If you’ve been applying to jobs for a week straight and have only been getting more and more frustrated and discouraged, you should take some time for yourself. Get away from your computer screen and temporarily unplug from everything related to the job search that is causing you stress. Some things you might want to do instead include meditating, getting some exercise, spending time outdoors, listening to music, reading a good book, cooking, baking, or anything else you enjoy that will help you relax for at least a little while.

For how long you take your break is up to you, depending on how much time it takes for you to feel well-rested and refreshed.

Remind yourself that your job does not define you.

At the end of the day, a job is simply a job. Yes, a career can bring you satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment, but it still does not completely define you. Likewise, do not let your state of unemployment define you, either — otherwise, you may suffer a significant loss of motivation to continue in your job search. Staying positive about your prospects and holding your head up high will serve you well in the long run, not only in your job hunt but in general; what’s more, optimism and perseverance look good to potential employers. Remember that this difficult season of unemployment will pass. But most of all, remember who you are apart from the job you want because you are a full, valuable person who has much to offer the world no matter what.

The job hunt can be long and difficult, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. Be strategic with your time and energy, stay optimistic, and persevere. Your hard work will pay off in the long run.

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