How to stay motivated when you’re job hunting

Let’s not sugar-coat it: the search for your next academic job can be exhausting and painful. The thrilling moment when your offer finally arrives will hopefully make all your efforts seem worth it. But staying motivated mid-job hunt is incredibly tough. You may well find yourself investing hours honing your CV, tailoring your cover letter, rehearsing answers to likely questions, prepping your presentation, and following up after interview – only to hear ‘You were not successful this time’, or nothing at all.

Job hunting consumes time. Applying for jobs can hamper the progress of the very research and publication you must complete to advance your career. The process can also quickly eat into essential rest time, leaving you drained and frustrated.

It’s also exposing. Rejection stings and saps your confidence. It can make you feel as if you’ve been weighed and found wanting – and reluctant to start all over again. Constructive feedback is relatively rare, but without it you may struggle to know how to adapt your application or which gaps in your skills or experience to plug. This opaque, bruising, and lengthy process can prove all too discouraging and demotivating.

That’s why it’s vital to remember that you’re not alone. More people – almost all highly qualified, credible contenders – are seeking academic jobs than there are jobs available. A survey of 317 early-career researchers by the Future PI Slack community found it can take at least 15 applications to secure a job offer. One interviewee in the study reported applying for 250 positions – and receiving 30 rejections.

To have got where you are, however, you will have faced – and overcome – steep challenges. So what can you do now to revitalise your search and keep momentum up until you finally nail that job? Here are five suggestions.

  1. Get organised
    Be as shrewd and strategic with your time as you can. Block out realistic slots for job-hunt tasks and stick to them so you’re not tempted to procrastinate your way into an impossibly stressful situation just before an application deadline. Break down daunting tasks like ‘Build my network’ into measurable, manageable goals like ‘Reach out to two new contacts per day’. Save yourself time and avoid confusion by recording the details of different applications in a dedicated job search spreadsheet.
  1. Draw inspiration from those who are where you want to be
    To know where you’re aiming, take a look at the trajectories of people in the positions to which you aspire. Track how they got there, notice the lack of linearity and take heart. What can you learn? What can you emulate? Try connecting and asking for their advice.
  1. Find a job-hunt buddy
    Tackle loneliness and discouragement by teaming up with a peer who’s also looking for a new job. This can be an excellent way to stay motivated, gain exposure to more jobs and a wider network, and get helpful, detailed feedback on your applications. Thomas Magaldi explains how finding a job-hunt buddy helped him land a new job and sets out useful ground rules in this article.
  1. Build in time off
    The more time and effort you invest in the process, the more all-consuming your job hunt can quickly become. But losing sleep or missing out on what makes life worthwhile will only reduce your effectiveness. In addition to allocating time for working on applications, make sure you ring fence time for activities that re-energise you – whether that’s spending time with the people you love, getting active or learning something new.
  1. Learn how to handle rejection 
    Take a look at these five suggestions for ways to bounce back rather than letting rejection sink you. Remember that, painful as it is, the experience of being turned down can be a stimulus to review, redirect and refine your application – and ultimately find the fit you’re looking for.

Applying for your next academic role may prove to be more of a marathon than a sprint. But the Global Academy Jobs team are here to provide you with access to all the latest jobs and a host of practical resources – and cheer you over the finish line. 

Further reading

Turned down for the job? Eight ways to up your game and secure your next post

10 job hunting myths that could be holding you back from your next job in HE

Top tactics for finding your next academic job

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Jo Mitchell is an experienced writer and editor. After studying Modern Languages at the University of Oxford she worked in fundraising at Oxfam GB and Viva, where she specialised in writing communications for major donors. She now provides freelance editing and copywriting services at Nightingale Ink in the firm belief that sometimes words can sing.

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