Seeking out a new job? Even in a good market, job hunting takes a toll on everyone. It's time-consuming and energy-intensive, and submitting resume after resume into the abyss that is every online application form gets disheartening.
You can find yourself in a vicious cycle if you lose your enthusiasm halfway through your job search: you feel down about your prospects or simply exhausted from looking; you lack motivation to continue putting your best foot forward on resumes and applications; you don't hear anything back because you're not showcasing your skills to the best of your ability.
Keeping up your motivation while you look for a new job is key to avoid this kind of downward spiral. But how can you make sure you maintain that energy?
1. Create Productive To-Do Lists
It's easy to lose motivation if you feel like you don't have anything to do to help your job search. And there's plenty of "busywork" you can focus on to keep your mind occupied as you wait to hear back from recruiters, hiring managers, and HR departments -- but make sure you have a list of productive to-dos instead.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Make sure all your professional social media profiles are up to date and optimized for employers.
Knocking out these tasks will keep you energized, and you'll actually be making real progress on those things that will help you get (and excel at) any position.
2. Find a Community
Keep yourself motivated by seeking out others who are going through the same challenges and experiences as you. You might join targeted groups on LinkedIn, or find a private Facebook group of others in your industry. Seek out blogs covering relevant topics and join the conversation in the comment sections of posts. Connect with people on Twitter, and email leaders or experts in the field to ask for their recommendation on where you can go to get support and encouragement as you look for a new job.
Don't skip out on networking and connecting offline, too. Join networking groups, find local meetups, and engage in industry events when you get the chance to find a community of people who understand where you're at -- and can help you get to where you want to be.
Along those lines, make sure you don't spend time with people who are negative or who bring you down. You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so choose those relationships carefully (especially when you're going through a transition like this).
You should also consider developing a relationship with a mentor or role model if you don't already have one. They can help guide you in your job search, provide you with a sounding board when you're frustrated or uninspired, and keep you motivated to keep going when you feel like giving up.
3. Keep Things in Perspective
It's hard to keep your eye on the big picture when you're down in the trenches. You may feel like you've been searching forever, or like you'll never find a new job. Days of job searching can quickly stretch out to make you feel as if you've been at it for much longer.
Remember that your search is part of the process of developing your career. Maintain realistic goals and timelines, and avoid beating yourself up if you don't find the job you want -- or a job at all -- immediately.
4. Don't Wait for Permission
Remember that no one needs to give you permission in the form of a job offer for you to go to work and earn an income. Consider consulting, freelancing, or even starting your own side business. You don't need to hope you can convince an employer that you have what it takes to do good work -- you can go out on your own and prove it!
Self-employment, even part-time or for a short period, isn't for everyone. If the idea of doing a little freelancing doesn't appeal to you at all, at least consider volunteering for a cause you care about as a way to put your skills to work.
Either way, don't wait for anyone else to give you permission to do work you know you're good at. Freelancing or volunteering is a way to showcase what you can do, which will boost your self-confidence, increase your motivation, and give you more material to add to your resume or portfolio.
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Kali Hawlk, the author of this article for GoGirl Finance, is a financial writer and the marketing manage for XY Planning Network. She's passionate about helping others do more with their money, their careers, and their lives. You can find her on Twitter @KaliHawlk.