How to stay motivated when the job search gets you down

how to stay motivated

Need a boost of positive energy? Here are some ideas for how to stay motivated when the job search gets you down.

The job search can be long and rough and it can be difficult to maintain motivation.

If you’ve been looking for a job for a while and are starting to lose steam, that’s a totally normal development. We start things off all raring to go and, when we falter or things take longer than we had hoped, we lose some of that mojo.

Here are four tips for how to stat motivated when the job search gets you down.

Set smaller, short-term goals

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research demonstrated that longer deadlines can lead workers to think an assignment is harder than it actually is, which increases how much they procrastinate and the likelihood of quitting.

Set short-term goals and divide bigger projects into smaller tasks. That way you get a feeling of satisfaction more regularly and can celebrate with cocktails or pie every time you complete a goal, which gives you something to look forward to.

Eric Barker, author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree, writes, “By breaking the problem down into smaller chunks — even ones that require only one minute of activity — you prove to yourself the task isn’t insurmountable,” and suggests working in short bursts of focused activity, even as short as one minute.

This sort of goal setting works like a domino effect. As you complete smaller, shorter-term goals, your confidence to pursue larger and longer-term goals increases and momentum builds.

Also, try setting your deadlines in days rather than weeks or months. So, instead of saying you’ll land a job in a month, say you will land it in 30 days. Research suggests that this makes it easier for us to connect our future selves to our present selves, which inspires us to move forward.

Manage your mood

You’re more likely to procrastinate when you’re grouchy. So, take stock of your mood throughout the day and, if you feel it sinking, do something to lift it. Eat something (when a toddler is fussy, we feed them. Try this on yourself. Maybe all is lost, or maybe you just need an apple). Look at pictures of kittens, call a friend, and go for a walk or run – exercise is one of the most powerful mood enhancers there is. Meditate.

Go for the gratitude. Write down some things you’re grateful for. According to the Harvard Business Review, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

This isn’t always easy but it’s worth a try since the other option is often sinking further into despair and frustration.

Get out into nature. It’s been found that exposure to nature, like plants and water, improves mood and motivation.

Be nice to yourself

Research suggests that people who are self-compassionate and who practice active self-soothing are more motivated to reach their goals in life. These people “tend to have a learning and growth mindset which includes recognizing that our mistakes, imperfections, pain and struggles are a very normal part of being human.”

Researcher Kristin Neff has reportedly found that self-compassion increases motivation to learn, change for the better, and to avoid repeating past mistakes.  

“Self-compassion increases people’s capacity for creativity and curiosity. In addition, self-compassionate people tend to have high personal standards and are more likely to take risks. They have less fear of failure and show greater confidence in their abilities to reach their goals. And if they don’t meet those goals, they’re not as upset about these inevitable aspects of work and life. People who practice self-compassion also tend to have more intrinsic motivation and don’t need as many external rewards in order to move toward their goals.”

Self-compassion isn’t the same thing as going easy on yourself. It means recognizing your own suffering and being kind to yourself while working towards improvement, not giving yourself a free pass not to do anything.

Be kind to yourself the same way you would to a loved one who needs support.  If you had a friend or child who needed help getting a job or improving their grades, you wouldn’t berate them or dismiss it as impossible or unimportant, you would offer thoughtful guidance and try hard to help. Do the same for yourself.

Trick yourself

This is a weird one, but John Perry, author of “The Art of Procrastination,” reportedly recommends putting some scary, daunting tasks that sound important, but really aren’t, and that seem to have deadlines, but really don’t, at the top of your to-do list. Below these, list your doable tasks that do actually matter.

“Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list,” Perry writes.

It’s worth a shot.

We hope these ideas for motivating yourself when the job search gets tough are helpful!

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