How to stay motivated during a job search

One question I always get from people is how to stay motivated during a job search. It can be very demoralizing to send out job applications and not even get back a rejection letter. I’ll explain to you how I handle it through a little story.

As the Fall Semester of 2001 was about to start, I was getting a little anxious but also hopeful about my prospects for the remainder of my college career.  I was about to become a Junior which meant that I HAD to secure an internship for the Spring of 2002.  If I didn’t, I couldn’t graduate and I absolutely, positively had no intention of going back home to South Texas and explain to my parents why I couldn’t graduate.

Even though I didn’t have the highest grades or the connections, I wasn’t too worried about not getting a job. After all, I was enrolled in the #1 Accounting Program in the nation.  What could go wrong?

And then it happened.  

The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks.  Aside from the obvious loss of life and impact to our daily lives still felt today, there was also an impact in hiring.  Where white collar internships were plenty, literally from one day to the next, employers canceled interviews set up months in advance and did company-wide hiring freezes.

So what’s a college guy like me to do?

Step 1: Identify your real goal

Yes, I could not graduate unless I had a University-vetted internship which meant my goal was clear: get an internship.

Don’t confuse steps for goals

You see, most people make the first mistake when setting goals by confusing steps with goals.  One time I was driving a group of coworkers to the grand opening of a Panera Bread close to our office.  As we drove into a packed parking lot, there was a guy driving back and forth trying to get a parking space right in front of the restaurant, completely ignoring the other side of the aisle which had 3 open spots.  My group of 5 people were able to park, get in, and place our orders before he gave up and ended up parking on an undeveloped, grassy lot next to the restaurant.

He confused a step (get a good parking spot) for the real goal (Go into the restaurant and have lunch).

I see many people do the same thing during their job search.  Sometimes they confuse the step (applying for jobs) for the goal (getting a job offer).  This is evident when you hear someone say that they’ve applied to 60+ jobs and still haven’t had any interviews.

This leads me to Step #2: Create improvements that matter

I often hear about people who are proud of how efficient their job search has become.  When they started they could only apply to 5 jobs a day but now due to efficiencies they created, they’re able to apply to 10 jobs a day!

They may be efficient (applying to 10+ jobs a day) but they’re not effective (getting an interview/job offer).

Improve where it matters

Instead of doing more of the steps, focus on making improvements on the road blocks.  If you’re applying to X number of jobs a day and you’re not getting any results, then the problem may be your resume.  Making improvements to it will allow you to reduce the number of times you apply and increase your results.

During that Fall of 2001, I think I only applied to 5 jobs total while most of my classmates applied to any job they could.  That was the first time I heard about someone applying to 100 jobs. Out of those 5 applications, I got 2 phone interviews and 1 in-person interview.  Most of my classmates got 1 or 2 interviews despite applying to 2-3X more companies than I did.

Another more recent example: Less than two months ago I started working with a client and in our second 1-on-1 coaching session he asked me what his target number for jobs applied for day should be.  When I explained that our approach should be different, not only did he save himself hours and hours of fruitless work, he started getting results quickly. In the time since, he’s only applied to 3 jobs, received 3 interviews and 2 job offers.

And finally Step 3: If you’ve done your job right, you’ll get results

On October 26th, 2001 I had my one and only in-person interview.  There were probably around 65 open positions for one of the Big 4 Accounting firms and about 300+ applicants.  While everyone else had better grades, more experience, and were part of the advanced Accounting program, what they didn’t have was the preparation.

Do the work. Get the results.  

I researched the company, created the questions I wanted to ask, made sure my clothes were ready, and tried to guess who would be interviewing me. The day of went beautifully and I even remember how relieved I was when I left the interview room. We even went over 15 mins over the allotted time which is always a good sign.

For the next 6 weeks I didn’t hear anything. I finished my finals and the day before I was to leave my apartment for my parents’ house for winter break I got the call.  

“We’re excited to offer you an internship position starting January 15th 2002. Sorry it took us so long to get back to you. You haven’t accepted someone else’s offer have you?”

In my excitement to finally hear those words I stuttered something about how had not accepted other offers because I was waiting for theirs. Never mind that I didn’t get any other offers. Lol

Was I sweating bullets because the semester was over and I had yet to get a call? Yes.  Did I know I was going to get an internship? Yes. The reason I was so positive I was going to get a job offer was because I had done the work.  I worked on my resume making the necessary changes, did deep research on the companies I applied to, and I prepared myself. I did the work so I knew I would get the results

What was your biggest insight from this?  Are you feeling ready for the RIT Career Fair tomorrow?