If you are in the midst of a job search, then nothing I am about to tell you will come as a surprise.

Looking for a new job is guaranteed to take a toll on one’s motivation. It is, in fact, almost completely discouraging and guaranteed to destroy one’s optimism and motivation to take the actions necessary to get that job.

Why is this? It happens because of very understandable reasons that have to do with our ordinary, every-day human nature. It’s the way our brains are wired (to coin a phrase).

What happens in a job search is that one is confronted by constant, daily, and even hourly inattention, rejection, failure, and loss of control. This is inevitable in any job search. In fact, the first time one hears a “yes, we’re interested in you,” the job search is over. But until then, one experiences endless rejections.

What happens to any human being who experiences constant rejection, especially in such an important situation as a job search? What happens is a natural reaction: feelings of discouragement, pessimism, hopelessness, inadequacy, lack of appreciation by others, emotional rejection, and an almost exclusive focus on one’s weaknesses (rather than one’s strengths).

And what do these feelings lead to? DE-MOTIVATION. One’s motivation takes a serious “hit,” and as a result there is very little inner drive to take action – to do something. In short, one becomes inactive, or takes only those actions that are easy and involve little risk of rejection (such as spending 95% of one’s time on the computer, sending out resumes rather than networking, and sitting back and waiting for something to happen).

So, how to strengthen one’s motivation in this situation? It requires some re-thinking and changing one’s focus, so as not to let discouragement become the “driver” of one’s motivation. Consider these six steps:

  1. Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Consider that you succeed in life because of your strengths, not your weaknesses. Save the self-improvement for the day you get that new job and can afford the time and energy to perfect yourself.
  2. Focus on your bottom-line value to a company. What difference to you want to make on the job, in your career, in your work? That’s why a company would want to hire you anyway, and that’s what they’ll be interested in hearing about (and not just what you’re “good at”). And view yourself as a “consultant” rather than as an “applicant.” As a consultant, your focus would be on the goals and problems that an organization is having, and on how you can help them. That’s why they’d want to hire you, and that’s how you’ll feel useful. Thinking that way will help your own motivation (and in fact your networking and interviewing success).
  3. Attack your own excuses. We all make excuses, put things off for another day, and find reasons to avoid doing the things we know we should be doing. This especially can happen in a difficult situation such as a job search. Don’t give in to your own excuses. Do the things you need to do.
  4. Follow-up. If there is one characteristic of the typical job seeker, it is the failure to follow-up sending that resume, making that initial networking contact, leaving that job interview. More often than not, it is taking the action of following up that lands the job.
  5. Do a little bit EVERY DAY, even if only for a few minutes. Most of us procrastinate – put things off – because we feel think we need to spend hours each day working on a difficult task such as looking for a job.
  6. And, perhaps most important of all, NEVER GIVE UP. Never, never, never give up. Never.

By Sander I. Marcus, Ph.D., CPRW
Career Development Consultant, Illinois Tech Career Services
3241 S. Federal (Hermann Hall), Suite 113, Chicago, IL 60616
312-567-3358, marcus@iit.edu

6 Steps to Stay Motivated In a Job Search
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