5 Tips to Stay Motivated During a Lengthy Job Search

Hunting for a job can be difficult, especially when the search drags on for weeks, months or even years. Here are five tips that will help you remain positive as you look for the position that will be just the right fit.

Posted in , Jul 13, 2016

A woman sits with a human resources employee during a job interview

A job search is a swirl of resume preparation, networking, research, and interviews. But when it stretches from weeks to months, it can be hard to stay fresh, sharp, and motivated. “Looking for a job is hard,” says Karen Burns, author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. “The longer it takes, the harder it feels.”

It’s normal to have periods of discouragement during your search. Read on for five strategies to bolster yourself as you search for your dream job.

1. Be Your Own Project Manager
Paul Bernard, a New York City-based career coach and recruiter, has his clients treat a job search like the professional project it is. Picture it as a three-legged stool—the first leg is the overall strategy, the second are the “marketing materials” like your resume and cover letter, and the third leg is how you distribute your most precious resource, your time.

One way to reenergize a long job search, he says, is to revisit one of the legs, recasting your strategy or reexamining your networking calendar. “You have to design it,” he says, “Where do I want to be, and what do I want to do?”

2. Write a Mission Statement
Jocelyn, a mother in her 40s, is a philanthropy professional who has been looking for work for several months. She created a personal mission statement that has given her job search focus and inspiration. Using prompts from several career strategy books, she developed a statement that articulates her life’s next steps, including how her work can balance meaningfully with the other parts of her life.

The process left her with a clear, concise elevator pitch, not to mention confidence in the direction she’s taking her search. “I was feeling the need to reorient,” she says. “My personal statement is helping me stay true to what I want.”

3. Ditch the Guilt
Toxic self-talk is the stuff of discouragement and depression, says Melissa Maher, a San Francisco-based life and mindfulness coach. Feeling guilty for having lost a job, saying no to a sub-par offer, or taking an afternoon off is classic negative thinking. “We think we need self-critical self-talk, we use it thinking it’s going to motivate us,” she says.


Instead, she advises policing your internal monologue. “Focus on what’s going well, not just what’s not happening yet,” she says. Setting realistic expectations will put things in perspective. Consider this math: Bernard says it takes between 75 and 90 face-to-face conversations to get six to eight interviews-- that includes everyone from colleagues you meet at a networking event to the Human Resources representative who welcomes you to an interview. Two of those six to eight interviews will become job offers. “Every ‘no’ should be a message that I’m one step closer to a ‘yes,’” he says.

4. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is a muscle that gets stronger with regular use. Keeping yours in shape is good for your career as well as your soul. “Make a gratitude list with three things on it every day,” says Maher. “That puts the mind into a more spacious, possibility-oriented mindset.”


Jocelyn has found this practice beneficial, not only in boosting her confidence in interviews, but also in appreciating the pleasures that come with her in-between time. “It’s helped me define an appreciation of the small gifts of the day,” she says, “I try to enjoy the little things, because I know that later, I’ll be busy again.”

5. Take a Step Back
If your job search is too intense for too long, your physical and emotional health both might start to suffer. Watch for signs like upset stomachs, headaches, anxiety, or low energy, and take them as signals to step back and take care of yourself. “Self care doesn’t mean you’re slacking off,” says Burns. “It’s a way to bring your best self to achieving your goal.”

Maher advises making a “joy list” of things—small or large—that bring pleasure into your day. On any given day, at least one item from the joy list, like a walk with a friend, an extra few minutes of sleep, or a leisurely bubble bath, should show up on your “to do” list, right next to “follow up on interview” and “review resume.”

Holly Lebowitz Rossi is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Massachusetts. She is coauthor of Yoga for a Healthy Lower Back: A Practical Guide for Developing Strength and Relieving Pain.

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