Hey guys, how’s everyone doing?
I decided to write this blog post for a few reasons. One reason is because I know that the topic will resonate with many… whether you’ve been to university or not, whether you’re looking for an entry level job or you’re trying to make a career move, we can all relate to job hunting in some shape or form. I’m also conscious that around this time of year loads of people graduate and begin the quest of searching high and low for a graduate job… and it can be a pretty gruelling process if you don’t have the right support and information.
A second reason is because truthfully, I get asked the question a lot: how did I stay motivated? So on one hand, whilst I’d rather not revisit dark times, I do believe that sometimes we go through difficult “seasons” in life in order to be a blessing to others. I’m here to share the big or small lessons that I’ve learned along the way. So when people learn of how long it took me to be offered a graduate job after completing university, that is usually one of their first questions – exactly HOW did I keep going. It’s a valid question and today I’m going to thoroughly answer (well as thorough as I can be in a blog post anyway).
The first thing I want to say is that you probably won’t feel motivated 100% of the time during your job search and that’s okay. Let’s just be real. I’d be a liar if I suggested otherwise, because I certainly didn’t experience an easy ride… you guys know this. At my worst, there were weeks when I just about managed to leave my house twice – once for fellowship and once for church. And other than that, I’d lock myself in my room, (mentally) chained to my laptop, desperately sending application after application praying for a breakthrough. I became obsessed with refreshing my LinkedIn homepage just to see who was working where and what everyone was “up to” post university. The journey was very tumultuous but if I’m honest the two main things I ensured never to stop doing were 1. actually applying for jobs & 2. having faith in God and my ability to succeed.
Stripped down to the basics… you have to keep those 2 things going as a bare minimum. It’s highly unlikely that the job is going to just fall into your lap one day, so you must keep actually applying (we’ll talk about the quality of your applications and getting help later). And secondly, as you’re firing off applications you need to have self belief or else what’s the point? If you don’t even think you’re capable, how are you supposed to convince the employer?!
So those are the basics. Keep those in mind as you read the rest of this blog post. Now, I’m going to share a few practical tips on how I personally stayed motivated whilst looking for a job, and how you can too:
- Do something else! — yeah, yeah, yeah… we’ve all heard that saying before “applying for jobs is like a full-time job in itself”, well forget that. Disregard that mentality right now. The truth is that it isn’t a full-time job and it shouldn’t be yours! In order to stay motivated, you need to give yourself a mental and physical break from sending applications… some time to relax, refuel and recharge. For example, get a hobby or distract yourself with some other productive things that you enjoy doing. For me, I escaped through blogging or rewarding myself with watching a TV show. Sometimes my boyfriend would drag me out of the house. Whatever you do, don’t make applying for jobs your full-time job.
- Seek feedback — I’ll admit, at first I wasn’t very good at this because it was a bit embarrassing to be so vulnerable to criticism, but I’ve seen the light now. I can’t stress the importance of seeking feedback enough! Feedback will keep you motivated because it’ll give you a fresh perspective on your strengths and weaknesses. If you understand how far you have to go, you’ll feel more confident going forward. And constructive feedback could literally be the difference between you improving and subsequently getting the job or you wallowing in self pity and remaining unemployed. Realistically, you should try to seek feedback at every opportunity for example, have someone proof read your applications, do a mock interview and even if you’re rejected post interview/assessment centre, ask the company to give you feedback!! Having said that, sometimes my feedback (particularly after interviews) was inconsistent so I advise you to take feedback with a pinch of salt and match it up with your own evaluation of yourself. Here are some organisations that I used for preparation and proof-reading (relevant to careers in law, business and finance, the public sector, consulting, engineering, politics and more): Rare, SEO, Aspiring Solicitors, Bright Network.
- Corporate prayers — also known as praying together with other people. In the Bible, it’s evident that the early church encouraged each other through praying together. They came together as believers to fellowship: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” – Acts 2:42. From personal experience, knowing that people are praying with me and on my behalf really motivated me in my job search. Whenever I had an interview coming up, I’d always raise it as a “prayer point” in my fellowship group and we’d all pray together about it. Whether or not I got the job was irrelevant, the fact that I had this support system despite my shortcomings encouraged me to keep trying. You don’t need to have a whole group of people to pray with you, even if it’s just one person then that is enough to make a difference. Jesus said: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”” – Matthew 18:20.
- Accountability — Over the past year I have learned that you need to be accountable to somebody other than yourself whilst job hunting. Why? Because it’s natural to become complacent when you are the only person that cares/is invested in whether you get a job or not. On the other hand, if you make yourself accountable to someone other than yourself, you may feel motivated to keep striving not just for yourself, but for that other person too. In some ways this could create more pressure but I would argue that if you find the right person to be accountable to, they should serve the purpose of genuinely spurring you on and not scaring you into sending applications etc. I guess I became accountable to everyone because I was so open about the fact that I was looking for a job lol. Whenever someone would ask me Wunmi, how’s the job search going? at first it might annoy me to have to talk about it, but ultimately it definitely gave me the push I needed to keep going. I would recommend finding at least one or two people that will regularly check up on you to find out how you’re progressing and support you through the process. Be accountable to someone that cares, not just anyone.
- Have a little faith! — I’ve mentioned this before but it is so key. God is all powerful, so often, the only thing limiting you is yourself. As you’re going through the motions of researching, sending applications, preparing for interviews etc. visualise your success and truly believe that through God, you can do anything. My faith in God’s power and my ability to succeed kept me motivated during my job search. I would have to constantly remind myself that I am talented and any company would be lucky to have me. That’s a hard thing to do 100 rejections later, but no matter what, you have to pick yourself up and keep reinforcing those things to yourself (or who else will?!): you are talented and any company would be lucky to have you. Once you’ve fully convinced yourself and have mastered self belief, you’ll have a much better chance at convincing an employer of the same. Remember – faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains! (Matthew 17:14-20)
- Use your network and ask for help! — My final point is to reach out to people. I guess it’s a reoccurring theme as it coincides with praying with others, being accountable to someone and seeking feedback. But hopefully you can see now why it makes sense to stop trying to do this all alone? I went to a networking event last month and one of the professionals I had brunch with told a story about how she was looking for legal work experience for months and at the very last minute, she randomly found out that her best friend’s mum worked in a law firm! Had she been more open with her friend about her job search, she might have found out that vital information and been able to make a useful connection much sooner. The moral of the story is, let people know that you’re looking for a job because you never know how they may be able to help you. Whilst not every person I met over the past year led to a direct job offer, I have definitely made a lot of valuable connections that I will carry with me into my future professional career. And indirectly, the conversations I had with people about finding a graduate job and the advice I gained really motivated me on this journey.
I hope that this post has helped to shed some light on my journey and more importantly, provides a source of encouragement for anyone going through a similar situation. Life after school/university, particularly for the unemployed can be incredibly lonely. I really believe that as a society we need to recognise “post graduate depression” as a real issue and more conversations need to be had to help those that are struggling. Even still, our life problems don’t magically disappear once we’re employed but I guess that’s a debate for another day.
If you have any other motivation suggestions or tips for job hunting, definitely share them in the comments down below!
Please do share this blog post with anyone who you think could benefit from it – every little helps.
God bless you!
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. — Ephesians 3:20