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5 Actionable Ways to Stay Motivated When Job Searching

5 Actionable Ways to Stay Motivated When Job Searching

It can feel like there’s nothing more de-motivating than a frustrating job search—especially if it’s been a while and/or you’ve already received some rejections. In fact, Hired’s research uncovered the perceived stress of looking for a job is worse than the perceived stress for that of most all other notoriously stressful activities. This includes moving, planning a wedding, getting a root canal, and being trapped in an elevator. So how do you stay motivated when job searching for your next role?

Try these tips! They can help you get back in the game, and stay motivated when job searching for your next role. 

1. Set small, actionable goals

There’s no getting around it: “Get a new job” is a huge, daunting goal. Rather than getting frustrated by feeling you’re not making progress towards it, set smaller, measurable goals. This gives a sense of achievement throughout the job search. Goals might include things like:

  • Reach out to X people in relevant roles/companies/industries per day
  • Go to one relevant event every two weeks 
  • Apply for X jobs per week
  • Get CV feedback from X friends/colleagues/mentors
  • Practice X interview questions per day
  • Do face-to-face interview practice with X different people

Your goals should be specific to you and the type of job you’re looking for, so don’t take this to be an exhaustive list. And remember that many of these activities can help to expand your network and benefit your career in the long-term, so you can think of the work you do towards them as a career exercise, rather than just something that benefits your immediate job search.

2. Give yourself a break

Just as you can burn out on a job if you don’t give yourself room to breathe, the same applies to a job search. Whether you take an hour, a day, or a week off, figure out what works best to reset and recharge your job hunting batteries. Be sure to give yourself this periodic time allowance. 

One of the main risks of burning out on the job search is that you’ll waste your time and effort applying and interviewing for jobs you don’t actually want. This is a waste of your time and creates the potential of burning bridges with the companies you interview with. 

Taking some time off to think critically about what you want. Think about the sort of company culture and role is best for you. It keeps you focused on your main goals, and will likely increase your productivity as well. 

3. Seek advice

Reaching out to people who have the job(s) you want helps expand your network, and helps you to stay motivated when job searching. After a few rejections, it’s easy to get into a negative spiral of thinking you don’t have the skills, pedigree, etc. to get your dream job. Concerned about how to handle an employment gap? Lots of people have been through it. Let go of the stigma, if you’re worried about it.

A fresh perspective on your resume and portfolio often gives a confidence boost. Even if it’s not 100% positive, practice receiving constructive criticism. It can also be eye-opening to hear other people’s career journeys, particularly if they have a job you aspire to. 

Start by asking around your network to see if your friends and colleagues can recommend anyone great in your career field. But don’t feel limited by your immediate connections—reach out cold to people you’d love to have a conversation with, as many people are happy to take 30 minutes to provide advice and guidance. 

4. Tell yourself nice things

It can feel a bit phony, but there’s value in re-affirming your strengths and valuable qualities. Keep a list of your favorite things about yourself, particularly in the work context, as a reminder of where you shine. Review your list when you’re feeling down or unmotivated for a quick boost. 

In addition to pulling you out of a slump, having confidence in your strengths can help in interviews. Every candidate has weaknesses. Focus on demonstrating how your positive qualities outweigh them. Being confident in your positive qualities and articulating them means the hiring team won’t have to guess. This puts you in a stronger position to discuss why you’d be great for the job—rather than feeling you’re always defending your weaknesses. 

5. Set aside time for self-care and volunteering

It’s a stressful time, especially if it feels like you’re trying your hardest and continue to struggle. Find some ways to release the stress, whether through self-care, like a hobby, that has nothing to do with work. Gardening provides a creative outlet and an opportunity to witness growth and progress. Some people find projects like puzzles or legos satisfy a craving for order. These activities methodically move through steps to a finished product.

Some people choose to meditate or do yoga. Ever said “I’ll get in shape someday?” Today is someday. They say it takes 21 days to establish a habit. Regardless of what you choose, physical activity helps in multiple ways.

Volunteering is an excellent way to spend your time and stay motivated when job searching. Use your skills to help a community organization or nonprofit progress on projects or support a fundraiser with your time. It helps to disconnect from your job search to focus on others, even temporarily. It also provides perspective, which helps when you’re feeling discouraged.

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Originally published October 2019, updated April 2023.