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The first month or so of unemployment can be a busy time as a job searcher explores opportunities, connects with contacts, and energetically throws applications into promising-looking rings. As phones remain silent and leads get scarcer, however, enthusiasm can wane. The drudgery of scouting through more job ads or sending out résumés that you aren’t even sure are being read can be discouraging for even the most determined candidates.
But for the sake of your career and your sanity, staying motivated is vital. You can’t let being unemployed bring you down. A broken spirit is not going to attract hirers, so renew your vigor by trying these strategies.
Establish a Schedule
Lounging around the house in pajamas sets a tone that there’s no rush to get things done. Get up, get showered, and make a game plan to keep the day from slipping away. Not only will you be more productive, you’re bound to feel better.
“Humans like a certain amount of routine to their life,” says career coach Dorothy Tannahill-Moran. “Allocate a specific time slot where that will be your time to work on your job search.” To keep from filling up hours with activities but not actually accomplishing much, she suggests making goals and keeping track of the progress by monitoring things that matter to your job search, such as the number of applications sent, contacts made, and informational interviews scheduled. Concrete evidence of work completed leads to a feeling of accomplishment.
Get out of the House
With your job-search hours set, start looking for opportunities to do something (anything!) the remainder of the day besides moping around or endlessly checking messages. Engaging in activities will keep your mind active and make you much more interesting to yourself and others.
So often when we’re unemployed, we sit at home with little to no money for social activities, which is when informal networking and new connections happen,” says Shannon Mouton, founder of Topaz Consulting, a Washington, D.C.- based marketing consultancy. During a period of unemployment lasting over a year, Mouton made a point of attending whatever events she could find. “This was the best way for me to keep my synapses firing and spirit motivated. I found free lectures, symposiums, conferences, book talks, etc. all over the city; you name it and I was there. I was able to learn, network, and most importantly, get out of my house and use my time in a constructive way.”
Find Outlets for Your Talents
Unemployed people can feel like nobody values their skills. Finding ways to validate one’s capabilities can help shed those feelings of worthlessness.
“Make a list called ‘What I am Good/Great At’ and tape it someplace where you will see it several times a day,” says Julie Bauke, a career strategist and president of The Bauke Group which helps people take charge of their careers. “Then, find ways to do it. For example, if you are constantly getting compliments on the beauty of your yard, volunteer to give your less-gifted neighbors some tips and ideas. The longer one is out of work, the less he or she believes in his or her value. And value does not just come from paid work.”
Indeed, many unemployed people have benefited from doing regular volunteer work – not only enjoying having the time to contribute to a cause but also learning new skills and meeting different people. Helping a candidate get elected, organizing a food drive, or creating a web site for a nonprofit can take your mind off your own problems as well as demonstrate your abilities.
Or how about contributing to a blog or teaching a class in your area of expertise? You’ll realize you have plenty to share as you receive feedback from others. Another possibility is to write an article about something you know and find a print or online publication to publish it. Others will benefit from your knowledge, and you’ll have something impressive to show hirers during interviews.
Seek a Support System
With so many people out of work, it is not hard to find others who share your situation and frustration. Make a point of seeking out fellow job seekers – either individuals you know or a group that meets regularly.
“As with many things that we frequently lose motivation with — such as athletic training and dieting — unemployed job seekers should take advantage of the buddy system,” says Rachel Dotson, content manager for ZipRecruiter.com. “By pairing up with one or more friends or family members and creating shared goals, job seekers can help keep each other on track. Your teammates will also be there when you need someone to vent to, receive praise from, or proofread your latest cover letter.”
Be Kind to Yourself
Finally, remember that the circumstance you are in is challenging. Exercise, eat right, get a good night’s sleep, and keep telling yourself that the great job you deserve will come. And perhaps most importantly, give yourself a break.
“In working with clients in times of struggle, I often suggest that regular personal rewards will keep them motivated to continue forward,” says professional organizer and motivation coach Jennifer Ryan of Create New Order. “For those who are unemployed, job interviews and creating contacts can seem difficult and overwhelming. Each step forward should bring a free time activity to reduce this anxiety and enjoy as a reward. So when leaving that interview, head right to a local landmark and absorb the view, take a tour of the historical society’s newest unveiling, or drop by the library to pick up a book for pure pleasure.”