Another day, another click to “connect” on LinkedIn. Your motivation bottoms out after searching for the latest variation of the same job with a different name. After checking—yet again—your stagnant inbox, you close your laptop in defeat.
It’s easy to get stuck in this draining cycle. My experience in the job search taught me that one of the biggest challenges is just maintaining the motivation to continue, especially when you're 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.
Climb out of your motivational slump with these five tips.
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? Rework your to-do list to include smaller, more specific tasks.
For example, when I was job searching, I made it a goal to reach out to two direct contacts one day and two referrals the next for informational interviews. Both were easy to-dos that, over time, helped me reach my broader goal of expanding my network (and, as a bonus, do so without feeling like I was “networking).
In addition, when it came to actively applying, instead of telling myself I had to find more jobs in general, I gave myself a weekly quota of two to three jobs. This was a realistic goal that allowed me to focus my attention on crafting the best job applications each week (and saved me from writing hundreds of 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’s hard to remember the truth about career paths: They’re 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, hop over to 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 (for example, I once interviewed with a former journalist and screenwriter turned vice president of marketing).
Better yet, reach out to a few of these people. 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, professor 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.
Identify where you’re struggling, whether it is with resume formatting or interviewing, and ask for advice from the appropriate people (that former professor who pushed you to do your best public speaking, for example). Based on their knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses, they can give specialized, honest advice (that you’ll be much more motivated to put into practice than the generic tips you’re reading everywhere).
One of my professors, for example, encouraged perfecting the elevator pitch, so I sat down with him to learn how to pitch myself in 30 seconds. He had me pitch over and over to him, making me restart every time he found a fault—and he told me exactly what I was doing wrong. It was frustrating, but it kept me going—and soon, I was able to deliver an effective pitch that I later used when I met potential contacts.
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. From winning industry awards to landing a C-suite positions to starting your own company, each goal, no matter how random, can shed light on a new opportunity. You may even find ways to widen your search (like linking your interest in writing and food to discover restaurant PR).
5. Take Days Off
At one point, I was doing something job-search related every day, from going on informational interviews to searching Indeed for every type of entry-level communications position imaginable. I was burned out. And I found myself losing sight of my main objectives and looking for jobs just to find a job, even if they were not right for me.
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 job-search 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.
I stumbled a few times during the job search, and, along the way, learned the importance of making the search about me—not just the job. I gave myself manageable goals, time to regroup, and countless, countless lists, which all helped me to power through and land my current job in the marketing department of a magazine.
The job search doesn’t have to be a daunting task every time you open your laptop. These tips worked for me, and they can for you, too.