This is “Strategies for Motivating at Will”, section 9.2 from the book Job Searching in Six Steps (v. 1.0).
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For a successful job search, you need to be able to harness both short-term motivation and long-term motivation at will. The best way to do this is to have a plan and structure in place to deliberately motivate yourself. You cannot rely on sheer willpower or inspiration because that is exhausting and unreliable.
Champion athletes and performing artists are good examples of people who use deliberate motivation. They have well-defined routines for the day of big events and for the long-term preparation leading up to the big events.
A good example of deliberate long-term motivation: One piano teacher at a leading conservatory gave his students very specific pacing for learning the concerto selected for the school’s annual soloist competition. It included finishing the piece several months before the actual competition so that his students could stop playing it entirely for several weeks, and then pick it up again refreshed. A break of several weeks was deliberately built in to give students a tactic for staying refreshed, energized, and motivated on the piece.
A good example of deliberate short-term motivation: A commercial and TV acting teacher gave his students a specific routine and set of guidelines for the days they had auditions. One of the rules was no watching or reading news or dramas the night before and morning of the audition. This was a deliberate choice to keep the students upbeat in the hours leading up to the audition. He also coached his students to focus on one good thing that happened to them in the previous three days—another deliberate tactic to maintain positive energy.
Similarly, you will need a deliberate routine before job interviews and other high-stakes job search events. You will also need deliberate routines built in over your job search to stay refreshed, energized, and motivated. Deliberate motivation-at-will strategies will enable you to stick to your job search, regardless of nervousness, fatigue, or even forgetfulness.
Following are some suggestions for motivational routines to follow prior to a job interview, beginning the night before the interview:
The morning of the interview, certain actions can ensure a successful outcome:
On the way to the interview, you can continue to maintain your motivation:
These same suggestions can also work for the other job search events that require short-term motivation, such as networking meetings, career fairs, professional mixers, and offer negotiations. For the high-intensity, time-sensitive job search situations, such as sending that thank-you letter on time, consider designating a job search buddy on whom you can call for support. This person doesn’t have to be a fellow job seeker, though that’s one popular approach as you can support each other. Just make sure you pick someone who is encouraging and focuses on action.
Try different things as you go through your job search, and keep a log of what works for you:
Also keep a log of what to avoid:
For long-term motivation, recognize in advance that your search will take several months, so you need to plan for regular breaks throughout each day, during the week, and at various points during your overall search.
High-focus, ongoing activities, such as research or corresponding with networking leads, require breaks that give you refreshment but also don’t derail your train of thought:
Each week, you also need a longer break, where you can unplug from the intense concentration a proactive job search requires. Plan for a half-day of a personal-interest activity:
Job seekers who tend to their personal interests are more relaxed and more interesting to prospective employers. Candidates who engage in outside interests tend to have a personality, unique point of view, and balanced approach that will serve them well during crunch times. Taking breaks enhances your search and is an investment in the success of your search.
Use these longer breaks to engage in a hobby or deep interest that might add to your networking. This is not just about meeting people during the times you might be volunteering or participating in an extracurricular class (though this may happen, too). Having genuine outside interests that you actively pursue is also a great conversation enhancer. In networking situations, such as a conference or industry mixer, it’s tiring to just hear about work or the job search.
A good example of staying motivated and contributing to his job search is Daniel K. He was working full time, including lots of overtimeWork above and beyond the typical full-time work week. For most companies, overtime is considered anything above forty hours per week, but some companies count overtime after thirty-five hours per week., at a job he didn’t enjoy, so he was having a tough time staying upbeat and energized during his search. One of his longtime goals was to watch all of the American Film Institute top-one hundred movies. Not only did watching one or two movies during his weekly breaks energize him, but he also had natural conversation starters (the movies) for when he met with people. He noticed a huge difference in his demeanor and the way he approached his job search and was able to identify his next career step (in his case, graduate school).