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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

How to Stop Procrastinating and (Finally) Start Looking for a Job

You know it’s time to move on. You don’t feel challenged in your current position, you dread coming to work every day, you’re ready for more responsibility, and you’ve read a thousand “Should You Quit Your Job?” articles—and the answer is always a resounding “yes.”

And yet, you stay.

Sure, you’d love a new job—but that means dusting off the resume you haven’t looked at in three years, writing a cover letter from scratch, and sacrificing your hard-earned evenings to job hunt, rather than relax with some Netflix.

Maybe tomorrow.

But we all know how that goes: Tomorrow turns into the next day, and then the next and the next—and all of a sudden, it’s four months later and you’re still in a job you hate.

So how can you finally muster up the determination to start looking for a new job? Try these tips.

Commit to a Little at a Time

Part of the reason it’s so hard to get motivated to job search is because it seems like such a massive undertaking. You have to take the time to search for appealing positions, revamp your resume, write multiple attention-grabbing cover letters, and up your networking game—in person and online.

And that’s all on top of working full days at your current job.

To lower the intimidation factor, break your tasks into smaller chunks that won’t take up your entire evening. Maybe one day you commit to researching dream companies for an hour. The next, you’ll update one section of your resume.

Knowing that you won’t be spending your entire evening job searching will help you push past the task at hand. It may be slow progress, but it’s progress—and little by little, you'll get closer to your goal.

Remind Yourself of Your Misery—and Your Desired Outcome

When you’re in a job you hate, you’ll often hear optimistic advice: Make the most of it! Stay positive! You’ll be stronger in the end!

And by the time you’re relaxing at home with a glass of wine in hand after a long day at work, it’s easy to think, “You know, my job isn’t really that bad.”

You really want to get motivated? Remind yourself of all the reasons why you want that new job: Your boss is a jerk. You’ve been doing the same work since you started. You haven’t received a raise in three years.

I know—it’s downer way to think. But it will help you clearly envision your end goal: landing a job you love, where you’ll be satisfied, well-paid, and valued. Being able to really visualize how great you’ll feel at that point can be the simplest way to kick your procrastination habit.

The First Step’s a Doozy—So Get it Over With

Considering how miserable you are in your current role, you definitely want your next job to be a great one. And the good news is, with just a little bit of searching, you can probably find a job listing that sounds absolutely perfect for you.

But that’s where procrastination can really rear its ugly head. That job listing may be so perfect that you want to make this application absolutely flawless. So you hem and haw about how you’re going to show you’re the perfect fit for the role, what you could possibly include on your resume to convince the hiring manager you’re the one, and mentally re-write your cover letter’s opening line a million times—without actually taking any of those steps.

A month later, you still haven’t turned in your resume—and the job listing has been removed from the company website.

To get the ball rolling, it can help to apply for something else first—maybe not your dream job, but something close to it. By getting that first application out of the way, you’ll feel less pressure, shake out some nerves, and get all those terrible, cliché cover letter lines out of your system.

Once you submit an application or two, you’ll feel like you’re back in the job-searching game—which can give you the motivation you need to rock that application for your dream role.

Find Some Accountability

Chances are, you probably know someone else who’s job searching—and he or she is probably encountering the same temptation to put it off day after day.

So, join forces. Meet up to outline your short-term goals (e.g., update your resume, write two cover letters, or draw up a list of dream companies you want to work for). Then, commit to checking in with each other once a week to make sure you’re both on track with your search. Knowing you’ll have to own up to your activities for the week will give you a boost of motivation.

It’s also important to figure out exactly what motivates you most. Do you thrive on rewards for a job well done? Buy yourself an incentive (say, a Starbucks gift card or a new book)—but give it to your accountability buddy with firm instructions not to release it to you until you’ve completed certain tasks.

Or, maybe you just need someone to encourage you. Ask a friend or family member to call or text you at 6 PM each day—precisely when you’ll be fighting the temptation to cozy up to the TV—and give you some encouragement to take a step toward a new job.

Whatever will push you to get things done, find a way to get that push.

Job searching certainly isn’t the most enjoyable process—but for the sake of advancing your career and finding a job you truly love, it’ll all be worth it. Don’t wait until tomorrow—start today.

Photo of message on bulletin board courtesy of Shutterstock.