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Career Corner
Staying motivated

Barbra Lewis -- Name this job: "Seeking hardworking person willing to invest blood, sweat and tears into writing, typing, reading, revising, editing, printing, calling, researching and presenting while alone and unsupervised. No expenses covered. No benefits. No vacation. Hours: Indefinite. Start Date: Immediately. End Date: ? Salary: $0."

Like it or not, this is a "job" most of us will have several times in our careers--looking for work.

Facing a job search can be bleak, especially if it's suddenly thrust upon you after being laid off or fired. To find a great job while keeping your head above water, personally and financially, is no easy feat. The only way to do it is to stay motivated, and here are a few guidelines:

Treat your job search as a full-time job. Although you do not have to search from 9-5 every day, you will only get out of it what you put in. Have a plan. Research companies, go on informational interviews, network, analyze your skills.

Stay healthy. A job search can be stressful. Don't let it affect your physical health. Eat well, exercise and practice relaxation and stress management techniques. If you have a spiritual life, put energy into that.

Reconnect. Although it may be uncomfortable to have so much free time, use it to get in touch with your creative side. Start writing that book you've been thinking about. Finish those household projects that you have put off. Talk more with your children and family. You may find that the time you spend not worrying about a job will be the time when you make realizations about yourself that will lead to a better job in the end.

Volunteer. Take a few hours each week to volunteer at your favorite church or charity. Not only will it give you something to feel good about, as well as remind you of what you do have, but you never know what contacts you might make.

Create a "to-do" list for the week. Carolyn Couch, of the Career Services Department of Wake Forest University, "This list could include the networking calls you will make that week, the web sites you will review, the time you will spend at the public library doing research... Once you have completed the items on your list you can relax and be less likely to worry about what you should be doing, knowing that you are working toward your goal on a regular basis."

Form a support network. Rely on your friends and family to encourage you and provide you with networking contacts. "As long as you fulfill your responsibilities for your career change and don't expect others to do things for you that you should be doing for yourself, there's nothing wrong with seeking support and feedback from others along the way," says Dr. David Helfand, career counselor and author of "Career Change."

Find a part-time job. There is nothing wrong with waiting tables or signing on with a temp agency. "Getting out of the house, working around other people, and being productive will help lift depression," says Couch. "It also may lead to a permanent job, as you will increase your network and show potential supervisors your work ethic and skills on the job."

The Pep Talk

It's inevitable that at some point in this process, you will feel run down and need a good pep talk. Remember that this period of unemployment likely has a deeper meaning in your life, which you cannot yet see.

"Most of the unemployed people with whom I have worked later say that being unemployed was a positive thing for them," says Couch. "In many cases, it gave them a chance to reassess what they really wanted and needed out of life, to make positive changes, and made them much more resilient in the face of other crises."

There are always jobs. If your job search method isn't finding them, change it. Remember that rejection does not make you an unworthy worker or a bad person. It just didn't work out for that particular job.

Finally, remember not to give up! There is a good job out there for you--in fact, there are many. Keep your head up, and you'll find them!

Barbra Lewis is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC.

(c) 2002

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