Ask Tami: How Do I Stay Motivated During a Tough Job Search?

Gabrielle asks: It can be hard to stay upbeat when you don’t get a job after many attempts and applications submitted. What can I do to stay motivated? 

Tami: Oh, wow! I wish I had an easy answer for this one. It is hard! So first of all, know that it’s hard. I think one problem people run into is hoping it will be easy which actually creates a bit of an expectation that maybe it will be easy. When it isn’t, the disappointment you feel at not meeting that expectation — no matter how unrealistic it was — can be really hard to overcome. 

Focus on the effort, not the outcome: Especially in the early stages you need to focus on measuring yourself by the effort you put in. Set goals around the different aspects of job searching — researching companies, networking, updating your resume, practicing answering interview questions. If your goal is “Get a job!” and you end the day having not gotten a job it’s hard to not feel as if you failed. Do that enough days in a row and you’ll want to throw in the towel, especially if you have children or other family members whining for your time and attention. If, instead, your goal for today is to reach out to 5 former colleagues or write out three “stories” you can use to answer common interview questions, you can end the day with a win. Do stuff like that enough days in a row and you will start to see momentum.

Once you’ve got a good routine down, and you’ve done a lot of the early work around networking, research and updating your resume, you can start to set some outcome-based goals that will indicate progress toward your ultimate goal of getting a job. Are you getting responses to your applications? Phone screening interview or requests to take a tech assessment? These indicate you are on the right track. You can then adjust your strategy accordingly. If you get a lot of screening calls but not second interviews that could mean your resume is working but something isn’t working for you on the phone screen. Keep advice from your network and keep going!

I also recommend that you don’t try to spend as much time as you possibly can job hunting, but instead make a consistent schedule and stick to it. This was the advice of Laura Vanderkam on our blog interview with her. It’s a smart way to make regular progress without burning yourself out. 

The truth is successful people hear “No” far more often than they hear “Yes.” There really is no substitute for persistence. My favorite story of persistence is Hagit Katznelson. She came to the very first Career Restart Seminar we ever held in San Francisco in January of 2017. She didn’t get a job at the event. She got into the PayPal Recharge Bootcamp but wasn’t chosen for their returnship. She kept coming back to our events. In the summer of 2018 she came to an event we held in Palo Alto and after that was chosen for the Walmart Returnship Program and after 16 weeks was hired as a full-time product manager. Stories like Hagit’s prove to me that perseverance pays off.  

Good luck (and remember to keep going!),

Returning to the paid workforce can be both an exciting and daunting challenge. My work as Executive Director of Path Forward has given me a unique perspective on both sides of the employment equation. I’ve answered questions for thousands of job seekers and I understand their worries. And I have gained insights from HR and talent executives at the more than 75 companies we’ve partnered with. I’m eager to help you leverage this insider advice to help you get back to a fulfilling career. If you’ve got a burning question you’d like me to answer in an upcoming edition of “Ask Tami”, you can ask it using this form.