Job Search Survival – 3 Tips For Maintaining Motivation

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.”  Confucius

I try to teach this to my children when they are learning to skate or running on the soccer field.  It is not easy to get up and get back at it especially when your ego and your knees are bruised and scraped; but, if you want to succeed, that is exactly what you need to do.  The same applies in a job search, particularly these days when the economy is in tough shape.

The people I admire most are those that have the determination and resilience to keep going even when times are tough.  Often I find that those who are most deserving of success are the ones that complain the least when things do go wrong.  They are not the students that are in begging for leniency, but instead, are the ones that are rallying themselves, using resources to get things together and then moving forward.

Our ability to do this stems from our capacity to set goals, look at things from a positive perspective, and find the motivation to move on.  Overall, having a positive outlook and approach to life will help to carry us through difficult times.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a researcher at the University of California, has conducted studies that illustrate that although a percentage of our happiness and resilience is determined by genetics and circumstance a significant portion, about 40%, is within our direct control.  Furthermore, in their book Positive Psychology Coaching, Robert Biswas-Diener and Ben Dean assert “you can manifest your own happiness by making smart choices.  Time and again goals, relationships and positive thinking have been shown to be important contributors to individual fulfillment and a life well lived.” (61)

When you are on the job market, faced with putting yourself out there and facing rejection time and again, you will need to stay focussed on what matters to you, set smaller attainable goals, and find internal motivators that are sustainable.  If you are going to have the ability to pick yourself up, you will need to manage the 40% of your propensity for happiness and resilience that is within your control.

To do this, focus on 3 main strategies that will help build the stamina you need to keep going.

1)Set Modest Goals:  Rather than striving for a potentially unattainable dream job, set your sights on something that is within your grasp and see it as a stepping stone rather than a final destination.  Also set goals that relate directly to the search and not just the final outcome.  This way, even if you don’t get a particular job you can still feel a sense of accomplishment in making it to the interview stage, or making a new contact, for example.  You need to give yourself some credit for the effort if you have any hope of sustaining yourself throughout the process.  Set the goal of making 5 new contacts this week, or conducting 3 informational interviews.  Developing those relationships will help to build your confidence and broaden your network.

2) Focus on Intrinsic Rather than Extrinsic Motivators:  Think about what makes you feel satisfied, interested and rewarded (intrinsic factors) and set your sites on those jobs.  Because those sorts of goals are based on your values and things that you care about you are going to find that it is easier to motivate yourself to work towards them.  If you are looking for a job that is going to impress others or make you the most money (extrinsic factors) then you are less likely to be genuinely motivated to achieve those goals and may burn out sooner.

3) Frame Your Goals Positively: Rather than striving to avoid something negative like unemployment or being dissatisfied at work, (“avoidance goals”) think of yourself as moving toward something positive such as finding a fulfilling job (“approach goals”).  As Biswas-Diener and Dean explain, “There is a preponderance of research evidence linking avoidance goals to increased distress and anxiety, decreased levels of happiness, lower levels of social satisfaction, and poorer perceptions of health.”(66)  By focussing on moving toward something positive rather than avoiding something negative you will find that you have more energy to focus on action and you’re using less energy on worrying.

No matter how you approach it, searching for a job is hard and potentially disheartening work.  You need to do all that you can to look after yourself and find the motivation to keep going.  As hard as it is, try not to take the rejection as a sign of your failings.  Many times, there may already be someone in mind for the position or there just may be really stiff competition.  Do, however, ask for feedback so that you can improve with every attempt and bring yourself closer to getting that job.

For more on this topic check out:

How to Survive Looking For a New Job:

How to Survive if You Cannot Find a Job:

Sonja Lyubomirsky

Positive Psychology Coaching:


Published by lessstressedstudents

Clare Tattersall is the Manager of Undergraduate Services for the Faculty of Engineering at The University of Western Ontario.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: