How to stay motivated while you’re looking for work

If you’re out of work in the UK today, it may take months to find a job. And if you find yourself watching the job market from the sidelines for any extended length of time, you may feel like your best efforts are getting you nowhere.

Unfortunately, recruiters and employers can sniff out a lack of motivation a mile off, so it’s important to try to keep as much of a positive outlook as you can, even (and particularly) if your going through a dispiritingly long and drawn-out search for work. Try these practical tips to help you maintain a steady sense of purpose for as long as it takes.

Treat your search like a job

Finding a job is often a full-time job in its own right (just annoyingly without pay). So wake up and start your day at the same time as you would if you were heading out to work.

Make yourself presentable – you don’t have to put on a tie, but it’s easier to take yourself and what you have to do seriously if you are dressed as if for work than it is if you are still in your slippers and jim-jams.

Now go to the ‘office’. This can be as simple as a space at home with a table, phone, computer and anything else you’ll need to look for work. It’s good to have a base where you can be free of distractions. You can always take the odd trip to a coffee shop for a change of scene. If you are reasonably flush, you could even rent space in a local co-working office.

Set goals and daily tasks

How are you going to make use of your day? Send off a CV and covering letter to a couple of companies you’re interested in working with? Call your recruitment consultant? Network with an ex-colleague over lunch? Schedule in enough to last a normal working day – you don’t need to fill your day so full that you’re stressed, but neither do you want to potter about for a few hours then slope off to watch daytime telly. Set yourself mini targets daily and reward yourself with a stroll, some cake or a catch-up with a friend once you’ve done what you set out to do.

You also need to have overall goals to give you a positive long-term plan and outlook, and ensure that the daily tasks you set yourself are the most important ones to focus on for this stage of your jobsearch.

Support and be supported by other jobseekers

Networking is a great habit for anyone looking for work to develop, and can help you tap in to opportunities and jobs that you won’t find anywhere else. They are also a good source of moral support and human contact (job hunting can be a lonely occupation). Organise to meet up regularly with fellow jobseekers to share experiences, concerns and advice.

Keep fit and healthy

"A healthy mind in a healthy body" and all that... given how stressful looking for work can be, it’s a good idea to eat well and exercise to keep your energy levels high and release some of those lovely endorphins.

Keep a good jobseeking-life balance

It’s easy to let job hunting take over your life, particularly if you have financial worries and are desperate to get paid work as soon as possible. But it’s important to manage your job hunting workload so that you leave something for your personal life. Social and family life, hobbies and other non-work pastimes are all vital to keep your stress levels manageable.

Treat it as a learning experience

At risk of sounding trite, in amongst all the soul-sapping rejections there is motivational gold.  Granted it’s not easy to see it that way, but it is possible to examine the reasons you fell short at any stage in the application process, from your application form to the interview. Ask a friend or colleague: why do they think your CV didn’t hit the mark? Does your application form make complete sense? Post-interview feedback from employers is particularly valuable. Were your skills or experience not right? Does your interview style need some attention? Knowing what needs changing puts you in charge and can tip the scales in your favour next time.

Be realistic

Most people get temporarily discouraged at some point in their job hunt. But some experience more frustration than others simply because they have unrealistic expectations. They may be aiming for a salary higher than someone with their skills and experience is likely to get; they may not fully understand the current level of competition in their chosen field; or they may have assumed they’ll get a job within a few weeks or applications. If some part of your job hunt isn’t panning out the way you thought it would, ask around amongst colleagues or do a bit of online research to see if you need to reset your expectations.

Keep on keeping on

No one is saying that job hunting is easy. It requires persistence and the ability to pick yourself up and dust yourself off when things don’t go so well. But the more applications you make, the more leads you chase and the more calls you make, the better your odds of finding a great job.

For more job hunting tips, information and advice, visit workSMART’s Finding a Job section.