As an endurance athlete, experience has taught me the power of consistent training practices. For every cycling event, I start training months in advance and follow my coach’s direction on taking small but consistent steps every day and every week. Often the training seems mundane and it is hard to see progress day-to-day, but over weeks and months of training I always get results.
Just like in sports, the progress we seek in a job search is often too gradual for our liking; it can test our patience when wins don’t come quickly enough and that can breed frustration. There are no hacks or tricks or shortcuts to finding a job—and if someone tells you there are, walk in the opposite direction. Just like winning a race, no one can do it for you.
So when you feel your job search is out of shape, how do you find ways to gain motivation when the siren song of the couch or YouTube is softly calling your name? Consider this: marathoners don’t just strap on a pair of running shoes and go run a marathon—they train extensively. We change our routines, and our diets; we work on making ourselves mentally tough.
Treating your job search like you are training for a race can make a big difference. Here are my Top 5 Tips for getting started.
1. Change your daily routine to accommodate your search. Peruse job listings and write cover letters in the morning, and schedule informational interviews during the afternoon—or vice-versa depending on when you function best during the day. Just like you won’t get physically stronger if you make infrequent trips to the gym, you won’t gain momentum in your job search unless you keep at it every single day.
2. Determine the best place to do your job hunting. If you like loud cafes—go there. If you need a quiet environment, head to a remote section at your local library. If you work best at home, create a special space that allows you to put on your thinking cap on and focus during those times you’ve designated for your search. If it helps to put on an actual cap—do it.
3. Keep distractions at bay. If you fall prey to Internet distractions, download an app or two to block the sites and social media networks that entice you to go down a rabbit hole. Consider turning your phone off, or hitting the mute button on your computer or phablet. These days it’s easy to get sensory overload often and quickly. Give yourself the gift of quietude, and a genuine opportunity to give your full attention to the task at hand.
4. Talk about your job search like it’s your favorite subject. This might seem like a strange suggestion; of course you’re going to talk about applying and interviewing for jobs because it’s a big part of your current reality. One form of casual networking is talking about your search to people beyond your close circle of family and friends. Spread the word! Talk to strangers in cafes, and folks at the grocery store! Tell your neighbor, and your cousin’s friends. You might be surprised by how many people are also looking—and who you might be able to help in return. Because don’t forget: your approach to networking should be about what you can offer others. Your good networking deeds will come back tenfold. Trust in that.
5. Have a plan for celebrating small wins and keeping your spirits up. Tell your support network that you will need to lean on them a little more than usual. Team up with other job searchers and hold each other accountable. If you like to keep active, don’t skimp on physical activity. Give yourself breaks during the day—and give yourself a break, too. Each effort you make in your job search gets you one step closer to the finish line.
These steps will not only help in a practical sense, they will keep your mind in the game and your eye on the prize.
And if you’ve just graduated, keep this in mind: there’s a momentum that newly minted graduates exhibit that evokes in people the desire to help them set a good course. Many employers fondly remember the people who gave them their first job out of school (sometimes that meant going out on a limb) and would like to return the favor to a younger generation. But you need to meet them halfway.
Do what you need to do to cross that finish line. Just remember: it starts with you.
– Kathrine Boshkoff, Vice President, Global Career Services, Hult International Business School