If you've ever been stuck between jobs, you know that it can be incredibly difficult to keep moving forward, especially as time goes on. The feeling that no one wants to hire you, or that you may not be skilled enough to even get a job, can be overwhelming.
As a rookie looking for a job in the advertising industry decades ago, I accepted the risk that I might find myself between jobs at some point in my career. Similar to others just starting out, I saw the risk of being jobless as part of the price of entry into a competitive and volatile industry. Account losses or economic downturns could instantly trigger layoffs at senior and entry levels within large and small agencies.
I learned that you'll be more marketable by moving forward with a plan focusing on your strengths than if you dwell on the fact that you're not working and probably resent your situation.
Here are five tips to motivate yourself when you're between jobs.
Get over personal embarrassment
I was between agency jobs and taking a break from what seemed to be a relentless job search on a sunny, summer Monday morning. I wore a baseball cap and sunglasses to avoid being spotted as I cycled through a well treed, local park. (I would have rather been riding an office tower elevator on my way to work). Sure enough, I was spotted by two friends driving by who were surprised not to see me dressed for work. I was troubled that I had been exposed and feared it might be a long time before I would find work again. Instead of actively looking for another job, I cocooned myself to avoid embarrassment, which was the worst thing I could have done.
Remember that unemployment is not rare and that people are generally thinking more of themselves than your employment status and are too busy to judge you. Being between jobs is an issue for others only if you make it an issue. Get over any embarrassment and resolve to put yourself out there.
Be candid with family members
I know of professionals who lost their jobs and yet continued to dress and leave the house at the same time each day, too afraid to tell their families they were unemployed. They would only be found out when their partner tried to call them at their former office and their number had been disconnected. In one case, this went on for six months until the partner found out and was devastated that her partner had rung up large household debt to maintain the status quo on the home front. Supportive family members can be strong motivators by reminding you of your strengths versus dwelling on your shortcomings.
Find a routine that suits you and stick with it
A disruption in your daily routine can be stressful and act as yet another reminder that you're unemployed. While your situation may have changed, you need to reclaim your routine.
You don't need to focus on your job search from dawn to dusk. Consider starting your day at the gym or with a neighbourhood walk. Take the opportunity to reclaim the energy drained during your layoff negotiations and other events leading up to that moment. Consider setting aside specific periods to network, either online, over the phone or by attending selected events where you will connect with potential employers and key contacts.
Plan your schedule around your peak performance times. I prefer to do my most complicated work in the morning, leaving my less intense tasks for the afternoon or evening.
Realize that others may not share your sense of urgency
When I have been unemployed, I sometimes wrongly assumed that after a good job interview, my interviewer would be thinking only of getting back to me with an offer or another interview request. Once you accept that hiring someone is as much a risk management exercise as it is filling a vacancy, you'll appreciate that employer pragmatism can drag the job-hunting process out. You may wait weeks or even months before your offer arrives, but don't be deterred until you know the final outcome.
However, if you're pleasantly surprised by how quickly you get an offer after just a few back-to-back interviews, don't question the employer's motive. You could have been the perfect candidate she couldn't wait to hire before she met you.
Broaden your focus to include volunteer work
After losing my job early in my advertising career, I was interested only in finding another one as quickly as possible. Volunteering seemed to offer little value for me until a friend suggested I look into sharing my communications skills with a charity. It didn't involve a significant time commitment and I stuck with it, learning about the charity and the people it served.
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I soon found my writing skills were helping the charity, and were valued by the organization and donors. While raising my professional self-esteem and skills, my volunteer copy writing connected me with professionals, some of whom became clients. While time always seems to be critical when looking for a job, offering your skills to a charity in which you believe can yield unexpected, positive results.
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