Another day, another click to “connect” on LinkedIn. After checking—yet again—your stagnant inbox, you close your laptop in defeat. Another call from a recruiter telling you your CV was not shortlisted or your interview was unsuccessful. Your motivation graph drops after searching and applying for so many jobs.
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It’s easy to get stuck in this draining cycle. My experience in dealing with people in a job search has taught me that one of the biggest challenges is just maintaining the motivation to continue, especially when you are dealing with rejection and radio silence. But I also know that you can revive your motivation by making simple changes to your job-search approach, focusing less on all those resumes and cover letters, and more on you and what you want.
You must climb out of your motivational slump.
1. Get Specific With Your To-Do List
When your motivation is low, general job-searching tasks like “network” and “redo resume” can be overwhelming. A great way to instantly make your search seem more manageable is to rework your to-do list to include smaller, more specific tasks.
For example, a friend planned out a goal to reach out to three direct contacts one day and three referrals the next for informational interviews. Both were easy to-dos that, over time, helped him reach his broader goal of expanding his network.
In addition, when it came to actively apply, instead of telling himself he had to find more jobs in general, he gave himself a weekly target of four to five jobs. This was a realistic goal that allowed him to focus his attention on crafting the best job applications each week (and saved him time from writing a hundred cover letters).
2. Look Up Your Career Role Models
When you’re job searching, reading description after description requiring “five to seven years of experience” in a certain field, it is hard to remember the truth about career paths: They are rarely linear. In fact, most successful people made loops, jumps, and a few skids to get to where they are today.
So, step away from the job boards, jump onto Linkedin, and search for people who have your dream jobs or who work at companies you are interested in. Looking at the various ways people have gotten to where they are now will likely remind you that there is no straight path to success.
Asking people to share a bit about how they got to where they are and some advice for your own search can be incredibly helpful—and motivating.
3. Seek Constructive Criticism from Your Supporters
Your biggest fans can also be your most helpful critics—if you ask them to be. That supportive former co-worker, who believed in you, and friend who just gets you, all know your full potential and how you could improve. So, if you’re feeling like you’re trying everything but still getting nowhere, try asking them for some constructive criticism and be open to it rather than defending yourself.
Identify where you are struggling, whether it is with resume formatting or interviewing, and ask for advice from the appropriate people. Based on their knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses, they can give specialized, honest advice (that will be motivating and realistic to put into practice than the generic tips you’re reading everywhere).
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4. Put Your Career Goals on Paper
“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” is a question we all try to avoid. But right now, when you’re in a slump, is exactly the right time to answer it.
Take some time to make a list of all of your dreams, big and small. Actually putting them on paper will force you to think about what you want to achieve and—better yet—motivate you to see at least one goal (if not all of them) through. Think of it kind of like a to-do list for your career: Seeing things on paper will get you excited to check things off.
As an added bonus, seeing your dreams in writing may give you some ideas on how to tie them together. A few days ago I spoke to a family member who has a passion for teaching and is a Communication Manager (now looking for a job). I suggested that she could contact colleges and universities to look for a part-time position as a teacher/trainer of Corporate Communications and even create her own online training material and videos.
5. Take Days Off
At one point, I was doing something business development related every day, from going on informational articles to searching for companies who are hiring. I was feeling burned out. And I found myself losing sight of my main objectives and looking for prospective clients, even if they were not right for my business.
What I realized is that the best way to deal with a motivational slump of any sort is to take a few days off. Pre-determined free days—where you get some time off from thinking about resumes, cover letters, and interview questions—can alleviate all those frustrations and help restore your drive. By taking a few days off here and there, I found that I was able to refocus and better tackle the search when I was ready.
You will stumble a few times during this process, and, along the way, learn the importance of making the search about you—not just the job. Give yourself manageable goals, time to regroup, and countless, countless lists, which all helped me to power through and now lead a recruitment company.
The job search doesn’t have to be a daunting task every time you open your laptop. These tips can work for you.