Staying Motivated During Your Job Search

Staying motivated during your job search is probably one of the most difficult things to do.  Sending out countless resumes without any response (or very little response) can really take a toll on you and make you start to doubt yourself and your abilities.

1. Daily affirmation – It may sound a little corny but I used to start my day off with a reminder of an accomplishment I achieved or an area where I excelled.  Sometimes I needed that reminder so as not to fall in the slump of self-doubt.  Sometimes you may need a quote to get you going.  Either look for your own inspirational saying or go to a site like this that does it for you

2. Keep a work schedule.  Initially when you’re out of work you can easily fall into the slump of staying up late and sleeping in.  At first it kind of feels like a vacation but after a few weeks the days start to blend together and you just start feeling down. Don’t fall into this trap.  Keep a work schedule.  Wake up before 9am and go to bed at a decent hour.

3. Pick up a hobby (an inexpensive one) and a library card.  Remember when you were slaving away working 60 hours a week and didn’t have time to knit or where too tired to read that book?  Do it now!  If you don’t have a library card, get one (it’s free).

4. Work your networks.  If you graduated from college or grad school there are probably free listserves and alumni groups in your area.  Talk to your friends!  Do not be afraid to tell them what you’re looking for.  You never know who they might now or what positions may be available.

5. Check out free (or low cost)  webinars, workshops, and events in your field of interest.  These events are a great opportunity to remain aware of new developments in your field and can also serve as gap fillers if it’s been a while since you’ve been employed.  Employers understand that sometimes it takes a while to find something but they want to know what you’ve done during that off time that relates to what you’re interested in.

6. Volunteer!  Preferably in your field of interest but if that’s not possible try and find something that can create the opportunity to acquire transferable skills.  Is there a church or community group looking for better organization? Help them create an online filing structure or database.  Something that won’t take up a lot of your time but can still add value to resume.  You never know, you might be able to spin your work into a paid short-term position.

7. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back from employers. Many positions that are posted are already filled by internal candidates so the posting you see is basically just protocol. It sucks but it doesn’t mean that you should stop applying.   Increase your minimum number of applications per week to make up for the duds.

8. Most importantly, don’t give up and don’t let your job search define you.  If you’re taking the time to research tips and job search strategies, you’re definitely doing something right.  Things will turn around eventually.  Stay positive and keep up the great work!


Know Your Audience When You Market Yourself

With any piece of writing that will ultimately be seen and scrutinized by another individual, it’s imperative to make sure that you know your audience and market yourself accordingly.  Some positions want to see your creative side.  Others want to see a mature professional.

I posted for an Associate Executive Director position.  Below is an excerpt (unedited) from a resume I received:


• Hustler

• Confident

• Innovative

• Personable

• Self Driving

• Heavy Scheduling   


• Creating One Liners

• Learning Languages 

• Talking In Accents

• Photography

• Traveling

Offer me a job because … I ran out of milk … so I made cereal with coffee mate … holla at me Martha Stewart.

There might be a position out there where a sense of humor and the ability to generate one-liners is paramount as a job function, but for my position this wasn’t  the case.  Figure out the culture of the work environment before you interject one liners that reference coffee mate and Martha Stewart.


“I’m Interested in Any Position That’s Open…”

This might very well be the truth but the employer doesn’t need to know that.  With each application that you send you’re trying to convince the employer that you’re the best candidate for that position.  Out of the hundreds of resumes that they’ve received, they should contact you because you will do the best job in that particular role.  How can you convince them that your specific mix of skills and qualifications make you a good fit for that position if you tell them that you’re interested in any position that they have open?

Whenever I see this blurb in an intro email or even worse an actual cover letter, I hit delete.  In some rare instances, I will actually reach out to the candidate and ask them to review the positions listed then get back to me with an updated cover letter for the position of interest.  I usually tell them that positions vary so much and listing “any” doesn’t give me a good sense of their skill set or interest.

As a jobseeker many years ago I made the same mistake.  Either there were multiple positions that I was interested in from that particular organization or I wanted them to know that I was flexible in case the position I was applying for was already filled.  What I didn’t realize was that internally, good candidates get passed around regardless of what position they’ve indicated on their application.

You do want your employer to know that you’re flexible but you always want them to know that you have purpose and drive.  Sending a generic cover letter and resume with an intro email that basically says that you’re interested in any position that’s open will convey to them that you’re lazy.  Take the extra time to review positions, assess your skill set, and apply to the one that best fits you.

Your cover letter is important

I’ve heard people time and time again doubt the importance of the cover letter.  Why do most positions require a resume and a cover letter?  Won’t a short introductory email suffice?

Most companies require the cover letter to see how well you write.  Writing for a resume is different than everyday correspondence.  These companies want to see if you can string together a cohesive thought that actually makes sense and isn’t just an array of important sounding words.  Bullet points are easy, paragraphs are hard.

Other companies want specific examples of why you’re a great fit.  The job posting says candidates must have excellent project management and entrepreneurial skills; your cover letter should give at least one concrete example of your project management and entrepreneurial skills while on the job. Anyone can state that they have an entrepreneurial mindset but only those that have exhibited this mindset throughout their professional career can back it up.  

Lastly the company wants to know that you can follow directions.  It may seem silly but many employers are turned off when candidates blatantly disregard a specific request on a job posting.  If you can’t follow simple directions requesting a tailored cover letter, how will follow directions while on the job.  Will you dismiss anything that you deem not important?

Always submit a customized cover letter for each position.

Please add the year you graduated

You’re not fooling anyone.

There are two reasons people omit the year they graduated: it happened a long time ago, or they didn’t graduate.

To address the first point: You really aren’t fooling anyone when you leave that year off of your resume.  The first thing an employer says is, “this person must be older,”  which kind of goes against what you were trying to avoid in the first place.  Embrace your graduation date and wear it proudly.  I can’t speak for every employer but in my experience the top reason why an employer hesitated hiring a more seasoned candidate was because they were too qualified for that position.  Hiring someone is an investment; you don’t want to invest in them then have them leave because they realize it isn’t a good fit.  Along with over-qualification is salary.  Seasoned candidates usually demand a much higher salary based on their experience and qualifications.  A good tip is to review the position and determine if it is truly something you would feel comfortable doing and not something that you think you can get based on being overqualified.  Once you’ve determined that it’s a good fit, address their potential areas of concern in your cover letter.  Eg: “I understand that my 20+ years of administrative experience may suggest to you that I am overqualified for a position marketed to  recent graduate but I assure you my years of experience truly make me the best candidate for this position.  Within my role I took the opportunity to learn new tasks and continue to do so as evidenced by…”

The second point is a little bit more sinister because it’s misrepresentation.  The hope here is that the employer will assume the date has just been left off (probably for the first reason listed above).  It really doesn’t matter if you’ve completed 118 of 120 credits needed to graduate, do not list that you have a degree unless you’ve truly earned it.  At the very least add a disclaimer below that reads: 118/120 units of coursework completed towards Bachelor’s degree.  Most employers are asking for proof that you graduated regardless of how long ago it was (diploma/transcript).  Don’t get caught having to explain something later on when you’re close to being hired.

Employers receive many resumes and will use the most rudimentary points to disqualify someone from a position.