How to Stay Motivated During Your Job Search
Job Search Motivation 101
Some of you will have been fortunate enough to have moved swiftly and effortlessly between jobs, perhaps even headhunted, without any formal job search. For most of us though, at some point or other, we will be in active job-seeking mode, pursuing a progression, responding to redundancy, or simply seeking a change of scenery. This article explores how you can keep motivated during the job search process, remain resilient after setbacks, as well as protecting your precious mental wellbeing.
First up, fundamentally, you are going to need to manage your expectations, and that means setting sensible, realistic objectives from the outset. This doesn’t mean dumbing down your prospects; every job move offers the potential for career stretch in some shape or form, but it does require setting some boundaries. Start off mapping out what ‘ideal’ would look like – that is in terms of salary expectations, skills/experience stretch and geographical work base/flexibility. And then move on to setting a minimum threshold, i.e., what you would not go below in terms of salary, and the minimum you would find acceptable on stretch and job conditions. This will give you a framework to manage your expectations, and as you progress with your job search, you will be testing the efficacy of your ideal vision and can move it up or down depending on your experiential evidence of getting (or not getting) those coveted interviews/offers. Setting a minimum threshold is valuable for two reasons. Firstly, to keep you grounded in terms of not making a move just for the sake of it – it will remind you of the minimum that will still represent progress. Secondly, it will also help you come to terms with reality in the event of not hitting your ideal expectations. It represents a strong reminder that there can be a vast range from ideal to minimum – not getting that ideal is not ‘failure’ it still represents real, tangible career movement.
The other expectation to manage is timescale. Once you have made up your mind to move roles, its human nature to want to that decision to come to fruition sooner rather than later. To manage the risk of the knee-jerk move, set realistic timelines at the outset. That is where the framework above can help in terms of risk and better career decision strategy – for example, it could help you consciously focus on what you might be giving up by accepting an early offer that only just meets the minimum threshold. What is a realistic timeline, I hear you enquire? Well, how long is a piece of string! What I will say is that a few weeks is generally not a realistic timescale to properly understand the market and your options and make a fully informed move; 3-6 months on the other hand is a more comfortable prospect.
Flex your Mindset
Managing your personal expectations is key to keeping up your motivation by establishing a realistic mindset from the start, but what about maintaining that drive when your progress is stalling? It goes without saying that you might need to adjust your expectations more towards your minimum threshold, but what if you are failing to get any interviews or are finding it tough to adjust your reality? Broadly, there are two things that can really help. Start by getting some third-party help – a friend, colleague, mentor, or external coach – to look at your job-seeking approach and performance. Is your CV leveraging your strengths and achievements and aligning these with the jobs to which you are applying; how are your interview skills, do you maybe need to brush up on how you present yourself and/or articulate your responses? A third party may even be able to help you pinpoint crucial skills or experiences that are missing from your current resume – once you know what they are, you can make a plan to actively close the gap. The other vital ingredient for job-seeking resilience is to court a growth mindset that can help you put setbacks into perspective and turn them in learning opportunities. You can read more about this in our Resilient Auditor series, suffice to say, the antonym of a growth or open mindset is a fixed or closed one. If your mindset is closed then you are likely to believe that your strengths and weakness are fixed and beyond your control, your self-confidence may be delicate and rapidly decimated by job seeking rejection, which will spiral you into taking less stretch and writing off your abilities. Growth mindset thinking helps you reframe setbacks by focussing on the experience and the practise in the pursuit of new knowledge and understanding about yourself and the marketplace; it keeps you motivated and driving forward, albeit at perhaps a more realistic pace, and it will support your mental wellbeing by fostering a balanced view of your own abilities and the world around you.
And that brings me to your wellbeing, the most critical consideration of all. Job seeking can be stressful; it may feel like a roller coaster of exhilarating highs and disheartening lows. Whether you are researching and surreptitiously attending interviews from the position of a full-time role or panicking because your contract is finishing up and you fear unemployment, the pressure can really take its toll on your wellbeing.
We’ve extensively covered stress and wellbeing in our Resilient Auditor series, but I would add that as well as all the valuable suggestions therein, bear in mind that issues around changing jobs are right up there in the top 40 stressful life events. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale specifically cites job dismissal, variation in role and/or responsibilities, altered working hours/conditions and change in finances as among the highest stress incidents that can also go on to contribute to further illness. The scale builds on a cumulative basis, so if you already have additional stressful activities going on, role or job change can further exacerbate your stress levels. This is not to put you off (career stagnation is not helpful for your wellbeing either!) but I do encourage you to be vigilant in terms of how you are coping with burgeoning conflicts on your time, emotional ups and downs and a whole new foray into developing your professional identity. Keep grounded, be realistic, foster a growth mindset and be patient – in other words look after yourself, mind and body, job seeking is not for the faint-hearted!