- By Paul Bernard
The ability to get — and stay — motivated during a job hunt is one of the most critical skills for anyone looking for work. This is especially true today, when it takes considerably more time and energy to find employment than it did a decade ago.
As a career adviser with more than 20 years of experience, I’ve discovered that these eight rules can help job-seekers keep their spirits up and increase their chances of getting hired:
1. Be realistic about the job-search time frame.
Brace yourself for the inevitable speed bumps of a job search. For example, don’t expect to land an interview within a week or two of starting your hunt.
To get hired these days, it typically takes about one month for every $15,000 in desired salary. So if you’re hoping to earn $90,000, figure it'll be approximately six months before you receive an offer.
2. Believe in yourself.
Like a successful salesperson, you must believe that what you’re selling has value. When looking for a job, you're essentially selling yourself and your experience.
(MORE: 6 Ways People Over 50 Can Find Jobs They’ll Love)
Convince yourself that you are selling a quality product — and that by selling the real deal you're saving a potential employer from buying something substandard. Imagine acting that way in your next interview … and you will.
3. Take a project-management approach.
Break down the search process into a series of goals, spread out over time. For example, give yourself one week to draft a résumé and cover letter. Other suggested milestones:
Within one month: Network face to face with 15 to 20 people who could help you find work.
Within three months: Secure three job interviews.
Within six months: Have six interviews and two callbacks.
From a day-to-day standpoint, start each morning with easier, less time-intensive tasks to inspire a sense of accomplishment. Then gradually move to more difficult items. Keep a daily calendar and make to-do lists, checking off each item as you complete it.
4. Spend your time effectively.
Answering newspaper or online ads and building relationships with recruiters are sensible tactics, but they have low return rates. In fact, I’d estimate that if you respond to an ad you'll hear back just 2 percent of the time.
Recruiters are only valuable for very senior executives or people in certain industries, like logistics, engineering, aerospace and technology, where talent is hard to find and companies are willing to pay recruitment fees to find new hires.
So don’t spend more than 25 percent of your time in any given week answering ads and working with recruiters. Focus instead on networking online, by phone and in person.
Don't restrict your networking to email or LinkedIn — it's a cold form of human interaction. A phone call is warmer, and an in-person conversation is the warmest of all. Your goal should be to line up two to five face-to-face networking chats each week.
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5. Evaluate your progress.
Take time out once a week to assess how your job search is going.
Ask yourself: What have I done? What haven’t I done? What’s working? What isn’t?
Then, look for ways to increase your productivity by spending more time on the tactics that have been effective and less energy on the ones that have flopped.
6. Keep your body, mind and soul healthy.
How you take care of yourself while job hunting can have a huge impact on your productivity in finding work. Make sure you eat well, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Minimize your alcohol and coffee intake, since both can interfere with sleep patterns.
My clients have frequently found that meditation, yoga and tai chi reduce their stress and help them foster a positive mindset. If physical or emotional challenges are impeding your job search, talk to your doctor.
7. Learn how to handle rejection.
Getting turned down by prospective employers is tough — and it’s even tougher at 55, when you're likely to feel more vulnerable than you did at 25.
The way to handle rejection is to look at it the way a successful salesperson does: It's a numbers game where every “no” gets you one step closer to the “yes” you need.
(MORE: Create a Winning Midlife Resumé to Get Hired)
The rule of 20 applies for job hunters as well as a sales force: For every 20 contacts, you’re generally going to get 15 “nos” and five “maybes” that will lead to one sale. In job-search speak, you'll need 20 first-round interviews to get the five callbacks that will lead to one job offer.
8. Take time off.
Five hours of job hunting a day is draining. So step back from time to time to avoid burning out.
I recommend giving yourself two weekdays off per month to recharge your batteries.
And try not to look for a job on weekends. That’s the time to enjoy yourself and to relax with the people you care most about.