How To Beat The Job Search Blues And Stay Motivated

According to an article in the NY Times, depression can set in at around 10-12 weeks of a job search. You start to feel dejected, pathetic, humbled, frustrated, etc. The list of terrible adjectives goes on and on, but most of all, you feel hopeless. In other words, you’ve got the job search blues.

In addition to the obvious coping mechanisms (e.g. stick to a daily routine, don’t beat yourself up, lean on your network), here are 10 additional ways for how to cope with the job search blues, stay motivated and keep things in perspective until you find your dream job.

Photo by Daniel Korpai on Unsplash

1. Play a Game

First, do something fun. Play a fun, silly game on one of your devices or a game console.

It’s On Like Donkey Kong

The reasons are two-fold.
First, you feel like you’re accomplishing something. For example, I play Clash Royale which involves battling with baby dragons, skeleton armies, and a mohawked barbarian riding a hog (my personal favorite). Every time I crush someone in battle, I feel a bit better about myself. ‘See? I’m not a total unproductive loser today, because I beat a 12-year old from Japan!’ [claps for self] Consequently, it’s a small, but effective, dose of accomplishment…and fun.

Allow Yourself To Power Up

Secondly, the game will give you a much needed break from the daily monotony of job searching. You can even turn it into a motivation. For instance, ‘if I slog through reading these 10 soul-crushing job posts, I can play 20 minutes of Candy Crush.”

Make sure you’re not allowing games to be a time suck. Play games in 10-20 minute increments to chill and unwind. But otherwise, stay productive.

My Mega Tip: Some of my favorites:
Clash Royale
Words With Friends
Candy Crush Saga
The Sims (oldie but goodie)

2. Work Out. Every Single Day.

girl working out at gym class to beat job search blues
Photo by Geert Pieters on Unsplash

If you’re a procrastinator like me, when faced with an unpleasant task like searching for a job, sometimes you find a slightly less unpleasant task to do instead…like working out.

Exercising is an excellent way to get your mind clear. Whether you attend a class, grind on the elliptical, or take a long walk, by spending an hour working on your fitness, you are giving your mind, body, and soul a break. It’s tough to find opportunities to exercise while fully employed, so appreciate and take advantage of this time. As a result, you will reap physical benefits – work hard to look good!

My Mega Tip: Watching TV during the day is off-limits because it’s a slippery slope. BUT, I’m allowed to watch whatever I want at the gym…especially the trashiest TV possible. Therefore, if you’re dying to see what those frisky Housewives are up to, get to the gym and find out.

3. Go Outside and Take a Walk

girl walking on boardwalk to beat job search blues
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

If you’re keeping regular office hours for a job search (highly advisable), assign time on your calendar to go outside and take a walk. Even if it’s for 10 minutes, stroll around the block and clear your head.

I listen to motivational podcasts and walk my dog for 2 miles each day. It gives me an excuse to get out of the house and enjoy some entertainment, without feeling guilty. You can also use this time to chat with friends, brainstorm, or just appreciate the outdoors and nature. In particular, getting outside is especially important if you’re starting to feel very low and frustrated — fresh air always makes you feel better.

Listen Up 🎧

My Mega Tip: my favorite podcasts for a walk:
Motivational: Modern Wisdom | How I Built This | Tim Ferriss Show | TED Talks Daily (these are 10-20 mins, perfectly bite-sized for a short walk) | We Can Do Hard Things
Business: Second Life | Goal Digger | HBR Ideacast | A16z
When You Want To Learn: Huberman Lab | Fresh Air | This American Life | The Daily
Celebrity/Pop Culture: Celebrity Book Club | The Rewatchables | NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour | Life is Short | Everything Iconic | WTF w/ Marc Maron | Wiser Than Me w/ Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Humor: How Did This Get Made? | Smartless | My Dad Wrote A Porno | Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend | Fly On The Wall w/ Dana Carvey & David Spade

4. Reconnect With Your Network

Reach Out & Touch Someone

Job searching can get very lonely. You sit alone, plugging away at the computer for hours on end, so it’s easy to feel isolated and out of touch from your network. Therefore, it’s imperative to reach out regularly to people who can distract you, offer helpful advice, or just be a supportive listener.

Over the last few months, I’ve contacted old bosses, coworkers, and friends in other cities, and pretty much anyone I haven’t talked to in awhile. I’m not a phone person but after each one of these calls, I’ve hung up feeling 1000x better. Your network is there to support and encourage you. Furthermore, it’s an ego boost to be reminded by colleagues about how great you are and how you can do anything!!

Put Yourself Top Of Mind

Beyond just reconnecting with people who build you up, it’s a smart move to get your name out there and put yourself top of mind for people. Your long-lost friend in Albequerque might know someone who works at a company you’re interested in and can make the connection. Or, your old boss may have turned down a job that he’s overqualified for, but you’d be a perfect fit.

My Mega Tip: People who care about you are rooting for you. Thus, it feels really good to hear their encouragement and support…you just have to reach out and ask for it.

5. Talk To A Professional

sign saying "it is well"
Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

I’m a fan of therapy, in general. I think everyone should see a therapist because it gives you a chance to talk to someone who doesn’t have any agenda. They have zero feelings for you. You are literally paying them to sit there and listen. I always feel 20-lbs lighter when I leave my therapist’s office because I’ve unburdened myself, in a 50-minute diatribe, without being interrupted. It’s pure bliss.

The job search blues are an amalgamation of heavy feelings — unworthiness, fear, frustration and especially rejection. Sure, you can lean on your network of friends and family to build you up, but seeing a therapist for ancillary support will give you coping techniques to help bolster your day-to-day mood. Plus, they will never get tired of listening to you complain or whine or repeat yourself ad nauseum…as long as you’re paying them to.

My Mega Tip: If you are feeling listless, apathetic, unmotivated, and/or emotional for days on end, you may be heading into depression territory. Gut-check if you have these signs of depression. Then, get professional help ASAP.

6. Learn A New Skill

fried eggs on a plate
Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

To beat the job search blues, you don’t need to learn Mandarin, web design, or how to make Baked Alaska (though, if you do, mad respect bro) but you should challenge yourself to take on a new skill. Learning something is an easy, effective way to get a much-needed jolt of accomplishment and productivity.

For instance, while on a break from reading job posts, I learned how to make the perfect medium-boiled egg. I watched YouTube, practiced every day, and now have the ability to produce a flawless gelatinous yolk…perhaps the best eggs in the entire world. I also learned how to use WordPress to create this blog you’re reading. I took some SEO/SEM courses. I joined my local Toastmasters to get better at public speaking. I studied machine learning on Coursera. I got certified in Google Analytics. I taught my dog how to beg, shake, and spin. I’m slowly working on my high-school level French via Duolingo (tres bien, oui?)

The best part? All of this learning and development was FREE.

Educate Yo’self!

Expand your skills and tap into all of the resources available —
Business: CheatSheets (get better at Excel!); Google Academy; Coursera courses; LinkedIn courses; TED Talks
Cooking: Tasty Presents (how to make perfect eggs!); Tastemade
Multimedia: Digital Photography School (love their articles); lookgoodinphotos on TikTok; How to Use Lightroom; How to Edit Movies in iMovie

Health / Wellness: How to Meditate; CPR Training; Tank Top Arms Workout
Languages / Public Speaking: Duolingo; Memrise; Toastmasters
Home Improvement: DIY Shiplap; Interior Design tips
Hair / Makeup Tutorials: MattLovesHair; AliAndreaMakeup; ChrisAppletonHair; JustClassicallyCassidy; KellyStrack (drugstore makeup dupes!)
Learn How To Do Anything on YouTube or TikTok:
dog training
crack your back
contour your face
meditation 101

emily mariko salmon or make chick-fil-a chicken at home
make an expensive looking bowl
install wood floors
(Sidenote: you could lose yourself for entire days going down rabbit holes on YT so be careful here. Stay productive!!!!)

My Mega Tip: As you complete these new skills and certifications, you can add them to your resume, though I don’t think a prospective employer will care that you learned the perfect cat-eye or push-up. (though, I do care and am SO IMPRESSED. Gold star for you!!!)

7. Take Mental Health Breaks

woman hugging dog to beat job search blues
Photo by Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash

Throughout the week, take some time for your mental health and give yourself a break.

Meditate. Snuggle with your pet. Read a magazine or book. Write in a journal. Finally learn all the lyrics to your favorite song (still working on this one). Look through photos. Take a long shower or bath. Shoot hoops. Work on a puzzle. Try to speak in a foreign accent (start by saying “rise up lights”. You’ll sound like you’re saying “razor blades” in a flawless Aussie accent). Drink some sparkling water. Make a doctor’s appt. Take some silly selfies. Sketch the human form (good luck!). Scrub your toilet. Go for a bike ride. Work on your cartwheel. Eat some blueberries. Try to do the Thriller dance. Pop a pimple. Wash your sheets. Or, all of the above.

The point is — get up, get away from the computer, and go do something. Not social media. Not reading articles online. Not watching TV or videos. Not playing with TikTok filters (although that can be fun too). Just do something that will make you feel good (it’s watching animal videos for me).

My Mega Tip: All things considered, mental health breaks are essential to keeping you sane and motivated.

8. Plan Something Fun To Look Forward To

woman riding bicycle in park to beat job search blues
Photo by Blubel on Unsplash

By scheduling a future activity or getaway, the anticipation build-up will motivate you through the job search drudgery and give you something to work towards.

Get Outta Town

For instance, plan a weekend trip to a fun destination (helpful packing list here). Visit a friend or take a roadtrip to a city you’ve never been to in your state…the world is your oyster. Take advantage of this free time because once you are gainfully employed, your freedom will be limited.

Explore Your Local Scene

If budget is an issue, there are lots of affordable (or free!) options. Take a picnic lunch to a local park or beach and spend the afternoon reading. Roadtrip somewhere within two hours of your home city and play tourist for the day. Look up events in your hometown — discount days for museums, Groupon discounts, search Google to find free yoga or bootcamp classes, attend a Meetup for one of your interests (they have all sorts!). Go for a long bike ride and explore your neighborhood. Meet a good friend or your significant other for a fun lunch. Go to an afternoon movie (AMC offers reduced ticket prices on Tuesdays!). Join a book club. Set up a potluck supper for a group of friends. Go to a local sporting event (minor league baseball teams, soccer, college or high-school level).

My Mega Tip: Bottom line — put something in your calendar to look forward to. When the weeks drag on and time seems elastic, seeing that one bright spot on the calendar will help get you through the rough days.

9. Eat Healthy [or at least try to!]

colorful food on toasts
Photo by OLA Mishchenko on Unsplash

This is hard. You will probably be tempted to snack or graze all day long, out of boredom, procrastination, convenience, seeking comfort or even using food as a reward. ‘I’ve job searched for 3 hours straight. I deserve this bowl of ice cream!!!!’

The problem is, when you’re “rewarding yourself” with a bowl of ice cream + bag of chips + handful of nuts + Reese’s peanut butter cups + can of soda + bowl of cereal…etc., you will start to gain weight, which will only make you feel worse. Using food as a reward can be an effective technique but only for necessary, scheduled breaks, like lunchtime or a singular afternoon snack.

When you start to aimlessly head over to the kitchen, take a moment and ask yourself, “am I feeling bored/idle/uncomfortable/frustrated/needy/overwhelmed or even just thirsty?” If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these, grab some nice cold ice water and keep on walkin’. Don’t eat your feelings, people. (at least not all day long. Once in awhile is OK. I understand your pain.)

Prepare For A Snack-Attack

My Mega Tip: My favorite healthy-ish snacks:

  • PB powder & apple slices
  • Avocado (or guac) + rice cake + lemon + Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel salt + splash of hot sauce (Crystal with garlic is my fave!)
  • Sliced tomato with muffaletta olive salad
  • Spinach artichoke dip & celery sticks (the one from Costco is THE BEST!)
  • Chocolate hummus and/or peanut butter & banana (@TX peeps, the hummus from H-E-B is amazing)
  • Half of a vanilla protein shake or One bar (chocolate chip cookie dough is my fave)
  • Turkey rollup with cheese and mustard
  • Louisville Vegan Jerky (I am not vegan but holy cow, this jerky is good. No pun intended.)
  • Carrot sticks
  • Cherry lime La Croix with 3-5 maraschino cherries & splash of cherry juice (this satisfies your sweet craving in a BIG way)
  • Buffalo cauliflower (recipe)
  • Unsalted almonds
  • Cup of yogurt with blueberries, granola, and light agave nectar
  • Tuna + sliced green olives + lemon + salt/pepper + sriracha and these magical crackers which taste like tortilla chips. (sidenote: why is Sriracha still so hard to find!?!?)

10. Maintain Your Perspective…and Keep Your Sense Of Humor

girl laughing against colorful wall to beat job search blues
Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Keep Yourself In Check

Look, it’s easy to lose your way when you’ve got the job search blues. You feel frustrated, isolated and rejected, often on a daily basis. The best panacea for this is to keep everything in perspective. Yes, you may be conducting a fruitless, painful search every day. However, you will get through this. You will find a job. You will earn a paycheck again. Stay the course and everything will be fine.

To help put things in perspective, take some time to volunteer — at a local animal shelter, senior living center, school (be a lunch lady/man!), organization, church, or soup kitchen. By giving your time to help someone else, you’ll feel better about yourself and your current situation. Plus, if you make it a regular thing, you can look forward to these breaks in your schedule where you can do a productive good deed.

Don’t Forget the LOLs

But above everything else…you must keep your sense of humor. Droll job postings are pretty much the opposite of funny. But, laughter can be an awesome stress reliever, so find those giggles wherever you can! My favorite example is when I received a “personalized” job alert to be a Chick-Fil-A cow mascot at a local restaurant. I’m pretty sure the Indeed algorithm read my resume incorrectly, but it gave me a good laugh as I immediately screen-capped the email and sent widely to my friends and family. (sidenote: I’m still considering the position as a side hustle, because…free nuggets!!).

My Mega Tip: Seek out funny people, entertainment and moments to keep your spirits up and beat those job search blues.

Keep those job search blues away!

Hopefully you’ve found some ways to help you cope with the job search blues and stay motivated. If you’re so inclined, please leave any additional tips or ideas in the comments! Or, LMK if you have a good podcast reco. I’m always looking for more!

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