It’s been said many times that finding a full-time job is, in itself, a full-time job. Staying motivated during the holidays can be a major challenge, but this time also presents a great opportunity to compile resources and get a jump on (or continue) your search. It can be tempting to take a prolonged break – but staying engaged and flexible is key to finding opportunities to learn about your field and interacting with the people who can help you launch a career, not just land a job. Even 1-2 hours of work each day will help you feel more prepared to take on the New Year. Here are a few ways to stay motivated when the job market seems unyielding and your home base is rife with distractions.
1. Operate on a professional schedule. Your resume and cover letter are much more likely to make it into the right hands if you submit them when the working world is active on email and social media. Seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get spend longer than you anticipate tweaking your materials - all of a sudden, 5 p.m. rolls around and the people you’re trying to reach are preparing to call it a day. One way to avoid this? On any day that isn’t an actual holiday, get up and out of your PJs at the same time you might head to work. Take a shower. Eat breakfast. You don’t need to put on a suit, but take care of yourself as you would on a normal job schedule and stick to that routine.
3. Join the conversation: Whether you work in healthcare or the arts, social media and blog culture have made it easier than ever to engage with people who are doing the kind of work to which you aspire and organizations whose missions align with your own. So start speaking up on these platforms. You don’t need to post constantly, but setting aside a few minutes every few hours to be present via these channels - by sharing content, asking questions and encouraging discussion - will help you get a read on issues relevant to your profession, and maybe even forge some valuable connections.
2. Go outside. Don’t camp out in front of your computer all day, every day - your ability to concentrate and your wellbeing will suffer (research has shown that sitting for extended periods of time is associated with shorter life spans and other serious health risks). Find ways to stay excited about your job prospects by balancing screen time with the real world: find seminars, and talks, or attend brown bag lunches in your field that are open to the public. If you’re having trouble landing formal interviews, schedule informational interviews instead. These are a great - and more low-pressure - way to build connections and gather information about your industry in one fell swoop. This isn’t just a form of networking - it’s a way of unearthing the ideas and topics that drive your most sincere professional interests.
4. Protect your workspace. Carve out a space at home dedicated entirely to work: clear it out, keep it tidy and treat it like sacred ground - only things that pertain to your job search should populate this area. This tip isn’t an excuse to go to town on a miniature home office (take it from an advanced procrastinator), but rather a way to separate work and play. Don’t be afraid to try out different types of work environments, either. Do you work well with ambient noise? Maybe keep a radio on low-volume or head to a coffee shop. Maybe you need complete silence, in which case noise-cancelling headphones might be a great investment.
5. Keep a “Done” list to go with your “to-do”: Treat your to-do list as a fluid document and a record of your accomplishments, not an inflexible daily mandate. One way to track your progress over time? Use the same notebook for all your lists - just mark the date at the top of each page. Take five minutes at the end of each day to review: did you complete any tasks that weren’t included as part of the initial version? Say you attend a seminar and end up meeting someone in your field who’s willing to sit down for coffee - when you get back to your list, write that down, too. Another example: maybe one of your action items for the day was “complete application for x,” but you only finished editing your writing samples and resume - note this! It will serve as a reminder that you’ve accomplished something and a placeholder, so you know exactly where to get started the next morning.
About the Author
Emily Newhook (Emily Newhook) is a community outreach coordinator for MHA@GW at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. Outside of work, she enjoys writing, film studies and powerlifting. You can follow her on Twitter @EmilyNewhook.