10 Ways to Stay Motivated During Unemployment

10 Ways to Stay Motivated During Unemployment

Allen Plunkett, President & CEO of Phoenix Staff

Being unemployed can have many affects on a person. You may be feeling depressed, embarrassed, defeated, and overwhelmed, or you may be relieved, jubilant, and feeling as free as a bird! Likely you are feeling some combination of emotions, and that’s fine, let those feelings feel. But, when the party (pity or otherwise) is over and you’re ready for your next job, the one feeling you really need to hang on to is motivation. (Is motivation a feeling? I don’t know, but you need to have it.) So, how do you get motivation when that cat poster just won’t get you there anymore? Here are 10 things to try:

           1. Ask for help – Get a mentor, career coach, or recruiter (yes, you can seek them out, you don’t have to wait for them to find you.) These people are professionals and can help you find and keep your motivation, as well as helping you find a great job. Some will ask that you pay them for the help, but that is not always the best way to spend your money when you aren’t currently spinning off cash.

           2. Practice, practice, practice – Prepare and practice for interviews; looking for a job is your job right now. To be good at your job you need continuing education and training. Look up typical interview questions (especially behavioral interview questions, they are torture, but everybody is big on them at the moment) and prepare answers for them. Write them out and revisit them often. Don’t wait until you get the call and then panic that you aren’t ready. This will also ensure that you know your own resume top-to-bottom; despite what you may have heard, many hiring managers will actually read it and even more use it as a crutch during the interview. Know everything that is there and be prepared to speak to what, when, where, and how you have listed.

            3. Self-improvement – Remember how you said you’d join a gym and eat right if you just had more time? Well, guess what, now you do. Exercise, meditate, or find an online class; we often don’t give ourselves time for these things when we’re stressing about a job, so take the time now to build good and healthy habits that will continue on when you’re employed.

           4. Build a Routine – You don’t want to realize in a week or two that you are now nocturnal. This is especially dangerous for those living alone; without others around to keep you on a schedule, you could slip into some bad habits (remember sleeping in until one in the afternoon during summer break in High School?) I’m not saying that you can’t use this time to finally watch Breaking Bad, or catch up on Game of Thrones, just don’t do so until the sun comes up.

            5. Become a duck – You know, so that disappointment will just roll off your back. You are going to get rejected. You will get your hopes up only to be let down. You will not have any idea why you didn’t get the job. But, in most cases, you didn’t get the job because somebody else fit the mold a bit better than you did. It’s not your fault… It’s not your fault. Just think about how much better prepared you are now; experience is what makes us stronger and more prepared for the next go around. You now have new interview answers in your pocket, you’ve seen how another company operates, and new insight about yourself as an employee.

           6. Set goals besides finding employment – Jump into that project you’ve been wanting to do (clean out the garage, paint the house, or organize the office.) Anything to make it feel like you aren’t wasting time; unemployment can actually be really productive. Embrace it! Just be sure to schedule it and stick to that schedule so that your time doesn’t get away from you.

           7. Develop a pre-game ritual – By the time you get to interview three or four, your motivation may be wavering. But, like an athlete, you need to be at your peak whether you feel that you can be or not. Your pre-game ritual should get you into the right mind-set for impressing the socks off your interviewer. You’ve already practiced interviewing, and researched the company, so now it’s just down to getting into the right head space. Instead of hitting home plate three times and taking a lap around the outfield, what can you do before an interview? Step one of this is starting your ritual with plenty of time before the interview so that you aren’t running around trying to find your other blue sock two minutes before you have to leave the house. My ritual involves making sure that my outfit is clean and pressed the day before, and any paperwork or resumes I need are printed and ready to go. I lay out my outfit, check my nails, and make sure I’m freshly showered with my hair done. A glass of water to ensure I’m hydrated, a breath check, a good luck pat and pep talk with the dogs, and I’m off. (What, you don’t talk to your dogs?)

           8. Give yourself a break – Give yourself the weekends off just as you would when you’re working. Put aside the resume, don’t check job boards (nothing good gets posted on a Saturday anyways), and relax a little. You won’t be at your best when you get an interview if you are stressed and overwhelmed. Some down time will do wonders for keeping you sane.

           9. Change your perspective – Getting denied for a job is not always a reflection on you, it can be for any number of reasons beyond your control. You could be a bad match for the company culture and you wouldn’t be happy there anyways. If you are a suit and tie guy, and the company is full of jeans and hoodies, then you’re better off somewhere else. A rejection could mean that you are actually over qualified for the job and the assumption is that you’d be bored, which you probably would be. Getting passed up for a job can sometimes be for the best. I know there are jobs in my past that I wish now I wouldn’t have gotten.

           10. Give back – A great way to give yourself a pick-me-up is to lend a helping hand. Plus, if your unemployment grows beyond a month, having a regular volunteer commitment to add to your resume will help fill the dreaded employment gap. A volunteer supervisor can also be a handy reference to have and could even lead to an employment opportunity. Look for a local homeless shelter/food pantry, animal shelter, or anything else that can align with a passion or your career desires; if it fulfills both then you’ve hit the jackpot!


Obviously this is not an exhaustive list of things that can keep you motivated, and you don’t have to follow every tip in order to keep moving, you just need to keep moving. Hold your head up high, don’t compare yourself to others, and keep the right frame of mind. You will see the other side of this – all things end, unemployment is one of them. And when all else fails, remember that it’s not your fault.

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