10 tips to stay positive during your job search

A job search can take you through a rollercoaster of emotions. On one hand, it’s an exciting time full of possibility and hope for the future – and you may be excited about the prospect of challenging yourself to do something different. On the other hand, if your search is going on for longer than you expected, and/or you aren’t getting the responses you were hoping for, then you may find yourself getting down, frustrated, or even angry.

If this happens and you find yourself getting stuck in a bit of a rut, then try to remember that you aren’t alone – there are thousands of other people out there feeling the same way. And the good news is; there are plenty of things that you can do to turn your frustration into something positive and start getting the most out of every day.

1. Set manageable goals and tackle one at a time

One of the easiest ways to avoid disappointment and frustration during your job search, is to make sure that the goals you’re setting for yourself are clear, realistic, and within your control.

Whilst the ultimate goal is usually to land the job you want, the process of getting there can be difficult, as there may be circumstances along the way that you can do nothing about. No matter how good your application is, you can’t control whether there might be a slightly more suitable candidate for the role, or whether the company decides to stop hiring for the vacancy when you’re already midway through the process.

However, if you break down the end goal of landing your ideal job into smaller tasks, based around things that are completely within your control, then chances are, you’ll feel more accomplished and positive as a result. For example, one week you may aim to complete a short course that’s relevant to the job you want to do, and the following week you may aim to create two cover letters and attend a jobs fair.

The most helpful thing to focus on is creating the conditions for job search success, instead of getting too hung up the outcome of the process. Professional golfers and tennis players are taught to focus on their swing and technique during a game – not on the ultimate outcome of winning Wimbledon or the Masters. By steadily setting yourself small achievable goals and completing them one at a time, you’ll gain a strong sense of achievement, boost your confidence and give yourself a much greater chance of landing the job that you want.

2. Create a routine for yourself

Having a routine is important for many reasons; but most importantly it helps us foster good habits and eradicate bad ones. If you’re currently unemployed and searching for work, then a lack of direction and purpose can leave you feeling lost and demotivated. If you are out of work and searching for a new role, it’s likely that you will have a fair amount of time on your hands. To avoid that extra time becoming a point of frustration and something to fear, it’s often helpful to create a productive routine to suit you.

Although looking for work is important, try not to devote all of your time to job hunting, as this will not necessarily speed up the process. Instead, try allocating a few hours a day to your job search – whether this be updating your CV, writing a cover letter or gaining additional experience or qualifications that will aid your search – and try to spend the rest of your time looking after you.

This may mean different things for different people, but for most a decent night’s sleep (which means getting into a bedtime routine) and some moderate exercise (perhaps signing up to a regular gym class) can go a long way in boosting your mood and improving your focus, which will make the hours you do spend looking for work, more positive and productive.

Not everyone finds the same routine helpful, so it’s up to you to decide what works best for you. And if the routine you have is no longer working for you, then perhaps it’s time to shift things around to bring some fresh energy to your days.

3. Quality over quantity

It’s understandable that if you’re really keen to get a job, you’ll want to send out as many applications as possible to increase your chances of job success – especially if you haven’t had success in your early applications. Whilst this may feel like a logical response, it can actually be counterproductive if you’re so focussed on application volume, that you end up not taking the time to submit your best applications for each role.

Whilst putting yourself out there and applying for lots of opportunities is a good thing, it’s important to adopt the principle of quality over quantity. If you rush your applications, don’t include cover letters or simply send out generic applications to multiple employers, you’ll be more likely to make mistakes, which could lead to you being declined for interview. This “quick-fire” process also makes it difficult to keep track of everything that you’ve applied for, which makes following up on your applications more tricky. In situations like these, it can feel like you aren’t making progress, and this cycle can become very disheartening.

However, by focussing on the principle of quality, you’re less likely to overwhelm yourself, and more likely to get a positive response from employers who can see that you really want to work with them and that you’re application is thoughtful and considered. People also tell us that they typically feel much more positive and hopeful about a very relevant and personal application that they took the time to write properly.

4. Spend time connecting with friends and family

If you’re missing the socialisation that you would usually get from your job, then try to think about other ways that you can be sociable instead. Many people find that the easiest way to do this is to incorporate regular visits or phone calls to friends or family into their routine. 

Having your own space and time to reflect and work on yourself is great – but spending too much time on your own can lead to unhealthy thought patterns and feelings of isolation. Humans are social creatures, so there’s nothing wrong with admitting to yourself or others that you’re feeling short of company before venturing out to find it!

You could also try meeting like-minded people by going to an online class that teaches something that you’re passionate about e.g. art, yoga, photography etc. Putting yourself into new situations like this will boost your confidence, and if you approach your new connections with an open mind, you never know where your next opportunity might come from.

5. Don't dwell on one job

Throughout your job search, you may come across one or more opportunities that you really want, more than the rest. And while it’s healthy to get excited about the possibility of getting chosen for these opportunities, try to remember that even if you don’t, there will always be other openings and that the right job for you is out there somewhere.

Put time and effort into your applications, but don’t hang around waiting for a single response – apply for other attractive prospects in the meantime and keep your options open. Similarly if your application is not successful (at any stage), then it’s okay to feel disappointed, but try not to let your feelings about a particular application stop you from moving forward. As the saying goes, sometimes you just need to get straight back in the saddle.

If appropriate, try emailing employers to ask for feedback on an unsuccessful application. We recognise that not all employers will provide this these days, but it’s still important to ask in case you can gather any useful information to help improve future applications and drive your job search forward.

6. Do things you love

It’s common for people who are trying to find work to think that they shouldn’t have any fun in the meantime, or that under their current circumstances, there is simply no fun out there to be had. However, this is simply not the case and the sooner you embrace the journey, the more enjoyable your job search can become.

Many people find themselves linking their job status to their sense of self-worth – but by doing this, they find it much harder to be kind to themselves. And part of being kind to yourself is allowing yourself to partake in the things that you love.

If looking for a job is the first thing that you think about when you get up in the morning, then those thoughts could be what helps you to structure your daily routine. Try getting up early, making yourself a hot drink and spending the morning getting a couple of really good quality job applications done. Once you’ve done this, why not put your job search out of your mind and use your afternoon and evening to look after yourself, and do the things that will make you smile? It doesn’t matter whether you choose to get stuck into some gardening, bond with your dog, or complete a few DIY home projects – just as long as it makes you feel good. And the better you feel, the more motivated you will feel in the hours you are looking for work.

7. Consider volunteering

If you’re finding yourself really frustrated and anxious with the amount of time on your hands when you’re not working on job applications, then volunteering can be a great way to meet new people, learn some new skills and feel good about helping others.

You might be surprised by the range of opportunities available from helping children learn to read and keeping an elderly person company, through to helping to preserve the planet by taking part in a community clean-up event.

Generally speaking, volunteering has no upper age limit and as long as you’re fit to carry out the tasks relevant to the role, then there’s no reason why you can’t get involved. Most charities and organisations will also pay part or all of your voluntary expenses (for example, travel and possibly lunch), so there’s no need to feel restricted by fear of cost.

8. Try using positive affirmations

The things we want most in life are typically the things we have to work hardest for, which makes them even more special when we get them. And, as you work towards your goals, it’s normal to have a few doubts and worries about whether you’ll get there. However, this is where it’s helpful to try and get your thoughts to mirror the positive practical steps you’re taking. If you’re putting maximum effort into landing a job, then there’s no reason to believe you won’t – even if you’re mind is telling you otherwise.

If you’re used to assuming the worst about every situation, then perhaps you could try changing the way you think. Start telling yourself that you are good enough for the job and that you will find something eventually – even if things get tough. Whilst it may sound too good to be true, positive affirmations are powerful and have been scientifically proven to have dramatic impacts on the brain. If you use them enough, then there’s a good chance that you’ll have a stronger belief in yourself and in what you have to offer.

9. Spend time around positive people

The company that we keep can have a huge impact on our mood, whether we realise it or not, which is why it’s a good idea to try and surround yourself with positive, like minded people so that you can motivate and encourage one another.

It’s not uncommon to start to feel negative if you spend a lot of time with people who can never find a silver lining, or who don’t appreciate the positive things in life. This is not to say that you should simply remove people like this from your life altogether, but try to give more of your free time to people who make you feel good and uplifted, and less time to people who just want to dwell on the negatives – chances are you’ll feel better for it!

10. Seek help if you need it

Whilst the tips in this article should hopefully help to make you feel more positive about your job search, if you’re feeling particularly low, then it’s a good idea to let someone know; whether it be a friend or family member, a doctor or counselor or a charity like the Samaritans or the Silver Line.

Searching for a job often requires stamina, and we’re humans, not robots – so if things don’t go as planned we can sometimes end up feeling angry, sad or hopeless. This is completely normal and the important thing is that we don’t let these feelings continue to build up. Other people may not realise how you’re feeling until you speak up – but once you do, chances are you’ll be a step closer to getting the support you need.

And remember...

By staying positive, looking after yourself and taking small steps each day to help create the conditions for job hunting success, you will be happier on the journey and ultimately more likely to find your next job sooner rather than later. 

As a wise person once said:

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”
John Lennon

Did you find this article useful? How has your job search been so far? We’re interested to hear about your experiences – both good and bad. Email us at [email protected] or leave a comment below.

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14 thoughts on “10 tips to stay positive during your job search

    1. Avatar
      Helen on Reply

      Hi David.

      Thank you for dropping us a comment. Business ownership can certainly be satisfying and rewarding but it’s not the path for everyone. For those who would prefer to be employed, we’re helping to keep things positive. We have resources for business owners and those thinking about taking that step, too – so hopefully we’re covering all the bases.

    2. Avatar
      Sadie on Reply

      I found this article helpful, thank you. I have been out of work for a long time and feel as if I am unemployable now. It does make me angry and depressed because I used to have a good career and I’ve owned my own successful business. It seems this is not enough anymore. I feel like I’m on a scrap heap.

  1. Avatar
    Sam MacCunn on Reply

    I decided to read the Top 10 Tips above to see if I cold find anything new to help me on my journey of job searching. It’s great confirmation and encouragement to see that I have been following the suggested ideas to stay positive.
    You have also given me some extra food for thought which I will look into. Many thanks

  2. Avatar
    Susan on Reply

    Thank you so much for this article. For me it will be 6 months of unemployment this week and I feel extremely low.
    Have lost confidence in applying for posts similar to my old one and have been turned down for supermarket jobs.
    Thought it must be me!

    1. Avatar
      Helen on Reply

      Hi Susan. I’m so sorry to hear things are tough for you at the moment. It’s definitely not just you, the market is challenging, for sure – one of the reasons we’re working hard to keep our content helpful. Do have a browse around the website for other articles that might keep you feeling positive. We’ve got everything from ‘how to’ guides through to inspiring personal stories plus lots of courses (many of them free). Wishing you all the best.

  3. Avatar
    Irene on Reply

    An excellent list. There’s an organisation called CAP (Christians Against Poverty)
    which runs a great course called Steps To Employment you might like to look at and perhaps suggest to readers. They also have a wonderful Debt Management programme which Martin Lewis recommends. It’s all free, done compassionately and so supportive and uplifting. Just thought I’d pass on.

  4. Avatar
    Paul Harry on Reply

    Good advice wish i had seen it before in the past i have been guilty of applying for to many jobs and quality suffering.
    thanks Paul

  5. Avatar
    Sandra on Reply

    Thanks for this article
    Your articles in general are very useful and insightful!

    Like a previous comment, I am now out of work for 7 months – first redundancy and then when I had 4 options open and in final interview stage COVID hit!

    I have never felt so low as I am also 58 and now lost my confidence of re employment in present market ! I was in senior management!

    I have been doing all the things on your list and have a spreadsheet of now 130 applications or contacts made since being made redundant and getting nowhere!
    Another rejection yesterday for a position I have all skills and qualities for !

    Finances are now a problem and no idea how government thinks people can live on UC money ! Furlough was never an option due to timing!

    Trying to think of what business I could start without money and doing free training courses and joining webinars for coaching as a possible next step but hard to find the confidence and enthusiasm needed for that !

    One day I find motivation, the next day I’m a mess !!

    Sadly, I am sure my story is common and more will join us on this very rocky road !

    Thanks for posting articles that try to help !

  6. Avatar
    Pauline Bezzant on Reply

    Many of us are unemployed now because of this COVID. We just need to ride this out to the end of the year or so. I think meditation or doing something creative like Writing works for me and this is an ideal time to do something apart from work, we are also lucky we have this time.

  7. Avatar
    Jim Currie on Reply

    Hi Susan This is tough! And you are right it is more common than you think. Do you have a good little support group around you that’s supportive and positive? If not do form one.
    It may not help but sometimes when you get to a low point, hang on and sometimes that’s when the break comes.
    As for the job search itself then how much of your time are you devoting to your contacts , asking them for advice and information and getting them to refer you on to their contacts. At 58, and in a difficult market, 75 to 80% of your opportunity will grow out from these, NOT from job applications. Believe it, it is true.
    You need a lift and to get back in to doing something. Have you considered in the short term taking on a job, different and at a lower level than the one you left, where there is demand. Jobs in the NHS, driving jobs etc. I don’t mean a lower level in your existing field because you will fall into the over qualified category. Also if you could afford it volunteer in an area you love and feel strongly about. You will feel better and you never know where it might lead
    Invest in the latest version of John Lees book “How To Get A job You Love”
    I do hope you can pick something out of the above. We are rooting for you!

  8. Avatar
    Sonya on Reply

    This article was so helpful and so true. I have been unemployed 2 months, I escaped redundancies but when I went back to work after being furloughed, I was so low, it wasnt the same and there were extra pressures because of other staff being made redundant. But I do have a routine, every morning during the week (I give myself the weekends off) I sit at my laptop with a cup of tea and log in and check all my job boards (I currently have 20 log in passwords!!), I go on to all the company websites I’d like to work for to check for vacancies and check in once a week with a quick email to the recruitment agencies I’ve registered with, just to let them know I’m still available. I was a legal secretary but I am looking at other sectors such as the NHS and construction, or whatever comes up. I’ve tried supermarkets but sadly so have another 10,000 people! I’ve been lucky enough to have 4 interviews but haven’t been offered, they have been with the NGS and sadly I am being told I’m being pipped to the post by returning ex-employees that already have knowledge if systems, etc. The NHS is a VERY hard nut to crack! But I’m not going to give up! By the way, one of my interview questions was, if you were a biscuit, what would you be? Random or what?! But my advice to all if you who are feeling low is to find an outlet – I like to crossstitch but I’m also writing a children’s book. I know it will never get published, but I so enjoy losing myself in the story and the characters it takes my mind off of everything else for a couple if hours. I spend my mornings (9am-12.30) job hunting, revising my CV (I currently have 4 different versions depending on what job I’m applying for and drafting template cover letters), but the afternoons are for ME. I’m 58 and 3/4 and I am making the most if this free time I have, brushing up on my typing speeds using the free on line typing tests, I’ve joined a free 8 week course which is an introduction to being a teaching assistant (just to see if I’d like it) – I’ve learnt so much and it’s fun! That’s every Monday for 2 hours, so my advice is the same as Helen’s and we mustn’t give up – it’s just a question of LUCK and TIMING. Good luck to us all!!

  9. Avatar
    Lyn Bennett on Reply

    Aim59 employers won’t look at me at my age I haven’t worked since I was 51 is there anything I can do to improve my chances of getting a job plus I’m on EAA and thinking of going self employed is there any grants out there I may be able to claim to help me go self employed

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