I think one of the hardest things applicants face is maintaining job search momentum.
When one first embarks on a job search there is often a heightened sense of excitement and anticipation. The thought of finding new or more challenging employment is energizing. The initial online application, or the first set of networking meetings, or uncovering that an opportunity in that elusive hidden job market, can be novel and motivating. As with many things however, life often gets in the way. Other priorities emerge. Or sometimes, that exciting new opportunity doesn’t pan out. Suddenly, that rush of adrenalin that emerged at the start of your search fades, and the prospect of applying for opportunities becomes a drudge that you face with frustration, trepidation or worry.
Tips for Maintaining Momentum
So, how do you maintain momentum when everything starts to head south? Here are some tips and ideas that may prove helpful.
1) Plan the work and work the plan. A worthwhile undertaking, whether it be something as simple as building a birdhouse to a home renovation, requires a plan. That plan serves as a blueprint for what you want and how it will be achieved. The same is true of job search.
In an earlier blog I shared details on what that plan might look like. A weekly or monthly calendar sub-divided into morning/afternoon/evening segments, with time allocated to various activities such as online applications, networking, meeting with agencies or search firms, or informational interviews, will ensure you have a pattern to your search. When supplemented with a method for tracking calls, interviews and meetings it provides a powerful guide to track and manage critical job search activities.
2) Consistency counts. Anyone can undertake an important activity once, but the key to success is being able to do it repeatedly over time. A work plan that can be sustained over the course of several weeks is what will ensure eventual success. The ability to stick to a plan demonstrates resilience, and resilience is a key factor in both job search and career success.
3) Keep to a routine. A major problem with job search is that once clients stop working they get out of a routine. Over time, they start to drift. They lose focus, and then they lose motivation.
The more you are able to keep to a routine, even if it differs to the one you maintained while working, will help sustain your job search. It is fine to incorporate time for activities you may not have had time for while working (e.g. going to the gym; visiting friends; etc.). Just ensure that your job search remains pivotal to your new itinerary.
One of the biggest problems I see with clients is the “start/stop” syndrome. They begin their job search with great gusto and enthusiasm. A month or two in they stop and take a break….but not just one or two days, but rather, two weeks, a month, etc. They then resume, or more precisely, they try to. Unfortunately, what they don’t realize is that it takes time to re-build the pace they once had. Many of the activities they were involved in before their break must be re-activated. That takes time. Regaining lost ground and momentum is not easy. It can also result in lost opportunities.
4) Monitor your progress daily. Spend 5 minutes at the end of every day tracking how closely your actual activity compared with the goals in your plan. If you are applying yourself consistently then you should see minimal variation. If there is considerable difference between your plan and your activity then that is deserving of further examination. Something may be wrong with you plan, or perhaps not enough effort is going into certain job search activities.
5) Carve out some personal time. Because job search can be stressful on both the job seeker and their family I always encourage clients to take some personal short-term time off during the week. Go to the movies, go shopping, go for a hike, try something new. All of these are important provided they are done in moderation.
6) Find someone who will hold you accountable. Sharing your job search plan with a close family member, a friend or confidante is important to long-term success. Ideally, that should be someone who you trust, and who is forthright and honest enough to challenge you when necessary. This is often why many people engage a Career Coach. Sometimes, a neutral third party can be the catalyst many people need to move ahead in their job search.
7) Finding support during those difficult moments. Reaching a plateau in a job search is commonplace. Usually, it occurs at two intervals. The first often occurs after about the three month mark. Initially, there would be a spate of meetings, interviews and activity, and then suddenly, the phone doesn’t ring, the e-mail traffic dwindles, or the number of job postings seems to lag. What went wrong?
The second comes usually just before you land a new position. A client goes through a spate of interviews with an employer, and then there is this time lag after the final interview when you walk on eggshells waiting for a phone call or e-mail regarding the final outcome. It seems like an eternity, and the tension around you is palpable.
Having someone who “has your back” and can be there to offer moral support and guide you is invaluable. As in point 6, that person can be a close family member, but not surprisingly, it can also be your coach.
8) Don’t lose sight of the end goal. After a few weeks doubts can sometimes set in. Understanding that job search has both highs and lows will help you transcend these different stages. Maintaining a clear focus will ensure you recognize what is and isn’t important.
9) Be prepared to adjust where necessary. Sometimes finding that elusive new job can take more than a few weeks. Sometimes, it can even take a few months, or sadly, for senior executives, a few years. How do you know when it is time to hit the re-set button?
Often this decision is dictated by financial considerations. It may take time to find that perfect job, but waiting for the right opportunity can extract a monetary cost. The question clients often ask is “Should I take something that isn’t quite what I want and keep looking, or should I hold out for a better opportunity”? This is an intensely personal decision, and in evaluating your options you should confer with others and ensure you do a thorough benefit/cost analysis.
10) Keep an open mind to new opportunities. Opportunities may arise in different forms. Sometimes, it could be a chance for self-employment. Maybe it is an opportunity that requires an unexpected relocation. Perhaps it is an opening in a different career path or industry.
It is crucial that you have a process for objectively researching and evaluating the unexpected. Analyzing it based on several dimensions (i.e. monetary considerations; lifestyle; prospects for advancement; work-life balance; job security; risks vs. benefits; etc.) will provide you with a framework for making an informed decision. And yes: there is that thing called “gut instinct” or intuition. Sometimes, it pays to listen to that voice in your head.
A Final Thought…
Let’s face it: job search is difficult. Anyone who tells you otherwise is neither honest nor realistic.
Recently, I coached a number of individuals who had worked for a major Canadian company and whose positions had been eliminated in a restructuring. Collectively, these four gentlemen had over 100 years of service with the same organization. Fifty years ago that degree of seamless employment would have been considered the norm. Today, it is the exception rather than the rule.
That being said, most of us, at some point in our careers, will have to go through it. Taking a broader view, and seeing job search as a temporary but an often unavoidable step in one’s career, will help in providing context around what you are facing. Maintaining your momentum — what is commonly referred to as your “mojo”– requires a combination of strategy, planning and even a bit of luck. Understanding the importance of maintaining momentum in your search will help you get there sooner.