How to Stay Up During a Job Search or Career Transition

By Larry Ebert

March 27, 2017

The periods of job and career search can be exciting times as well as trying ones. Exciting because change is on the horizon. Trying because we can get thrown by the lack of structure — what do I do with this wide open time and no supervisor or work colleagues to hold me accountable? — and the loss or loosening of identity — who am I when not formally working? There can also be concerns about finances, aging, and uncertainty in general.

Here are nine tips culled from articles on the topic of staying positive during the job search, along with wisdom shared by Encore Career Search Strategies workshop facilitators at BAVC (Bay Area Video Coalition) in San Francisco and my own observations from several career transitions over the years.

May this tilt the scales for you to stay hopeful, positive and excited about the change that awaits, buffeting against the negative or down emotions and feelings that might arise at this time.

1. Focus on Self-Improvement and Growth

While you may not control many of the aspects of the job search, such as when and whether a hiring manager or company responds to you, you can control your mindset and choice of how you act and react. Going through transition provides an unprecedented opportunity for improvement, learning, exploration and growth.

There are so many opportunities to grow and improve during the job search process. Here are just a few. You have an opportunity to learn about new fields, roles and companies through informational interviewing, like what a traffic manager does in advertising or what new models are emerging in health care organizations. This knowledge can not only help your current job search but may inform career paths down the road as well. Through networking, you will meet new people, form new connections and relationships. You might meet your next boss, future business partner; or simply have a fascinating conversation. You might even meet your mate!

You can take direct action to raise your game and develop personally and professionally during this time. You might take a class to build a new skill like web design, or you might try something that feeds a new interest and makes you smile, such as improvisation or a hip-hop dance class. What other growth opportunities can you identify from your search process?

2. Volunteer

You can pick up valuable skills by volunteering and can represent these on your resume. Volunteering can fill a need for professional or social connection, a need that may be more pronounced when you are not working. Volunteering can bring satisfaction and remind you of your strengths, capabilities and re-establish that part of identity tied to contributing, to making a difference. Through volunteering you are also networking, and the good feelings and connections you make will spread to other activities.

3. See the Opportunity in Everything.

Related to focus on improvement and growth, you can adjust your mindset to see the positives or opportunities in every part of the search process. Reframing chores or to-do’s as opportunities can be helpful so you approach tasks with interest and purpose rather than as something to be dreaded. For example, refining your LinkedIn profile or website can be a chance to exercise your writing and marketing skills. Working on your portfolio can inspire creativity and motivate you to generate new content. It can be helpful to mix in a little visualization, perhaps imagining how that portfolio will be received, visualizing the reviewer being wowed as they review your material.

Having a gap in work can provide many opportunities in and of itself. You have more time, including unstructured time, so there may be time to go for those afternoon swims or take that trip to Guatemala to learn Spanish in an immersion program. You also have a chance to reconnect with yourself and do a little inner work.

4. Make a Habit of Being Inspired!

Inspiration gives us a sense of what we can become, opens us to new ideas and raises our game, which is helpful especially during times of transition or when we’re not sure what to do. Opportunities for inspiration abound, especially here in the Bay Area. Every day there are countless talks, workshops, and presentations by fascinating people — from pioneers in their field to individuals leading unusual lives.

I love watching people who are masters at their craft, whatever their expertise may be, but I am also inspired by less-showcased or seemingly smaller forms of inspiration, like someone who lives a noble or creative life; someone who expresses themselves through art or music in a new way; someone who possesses traits that I admire. Trees, the ocean waves, and art on the garage of a house I pass during an afternoon walk inspire me.

A friend of mine reads biographies when he goes through career or life transitions. In the stories he is reminded of universal truths — that every successful person has had ups and downs, faced hurdles, sought purpose and meaning — which helps him stay optimistic.

I find my spirits buoyed and my ideas more exciting after I have been in the presence of someone or something I find inspiring. In part this nourishment comes about because I am on the lookout for inspiration. What inspires you, and can you seek it out more?

5. Be Good to Yourself and Take Timeouts

This is a good time to grow your self-compassion, build your positive self-talk and implement your own structures for staying healthy in body, mind and spirit. As always, eating healthily and getting exercise are vital for strong functioning, positive mindset and self-image. Research shows that moderate exercise can ward off depression and give you energy. Now is also a good time to continue your spiritual practice, connection with friends and family, and focus on what feeds rather than drains your energy.

Taking timeouts is critical. Because the job search process can be amorphous, it can leak into every nook and crevice like a vapor. Be sure to carve out times and/or activities — like evenings, sacred walks, weekends, drives along the coast, and that hip-hop class — where you focus only on things Not related to the job search.

6. Set Goals and Manage Expectations

Setting goals can provide a map to get from where you are now to a future place. Goals can reduce uncertainty, especially if you make them concrete and not too big within any one task. Doable begets doing, I have found. Would you agree? Perhaps you’ve heard this adage, attributed to wise old grandparents: “Inch by Inch is a Cinch; Yard by Yard is Hard.” Find and use a system that works for you, like weekly schedules, to-do lists, or planning sheets such as the one distributed by Encore/BVAC.

The job search process is inherently filled with ups and downs, at times akin to an extended rollercoaster ride, and so keeping equanimity and balance is helpful. You can maintain reasonable expectations by not placing the outcome of your whole wellbeing (or “the weight of your soul” as one facilitator poetically expresses it) on the outcome of any one event or interview. I’m reminded of my realtor who said, after we put in our first housing offer, “If it works out, great; if not, there is one that is more right for you around the bend.”

Remember to reward yourself along the way, celebrate positive steps and results along the way. You deserve it! And extract the available lesson and move on when you face the inevitable setbacks. These, too, are part of the process.

7. Engage with others, and Give and Receive Support

Sometimes being out of work leaves us feeling isolated. Ward off feelings of isolation by engaging regularly with others, including friends, family, and more. Consider adding regular weekday activities, like recurring lunch meetings, a club or activities where you can interact with or at least be around others. You might work part of the day at the local coffee shop.

Consider joining a job search club, support network, or identify friends with whom you can share regular updates, vent and hold each other accountable. Giving support spreads the good karma, builds humanity and contributes to your own self worth and purpose, so share what you reasonably can. Of course, remember to manage your energy, too; saying “No” to requests that you cannot fulfill or that will only drain energy is a part of self-care.

8. Focus on Strengths and What You Can Control

During a job search or career transition it can be easy to fall into a habit of thinking about what is lacking, such as skills you are missing or yet to obtain, or comparing yourself with others. To counter this, focus a fair amount on your attributes and strengths — they are there! Focusing on your positives serves a double-purpose: it helps you appropriately and favorably present yourself through your marketing materials and in your interviews as the special and amazing person you are, and it helps you stay in touch with your inner luminance.

In her article about staying positive while job searching, Alison Doyle suggests focusing on what you can control. She suggests that “If you feel yourself worrying about something that is out of your control [like whether a lead will pan out or a new contact will phone you back], do something that you can control, such as writing and sending out a cover letter, or attending a networking event.”

9. Have Fun!

The job search can leave us feeling heavy, so it’s important to add levity and have fun where possible during the process. You might look for ways to make the search fun — for example networking over drinks at a cool new spot, or getting creative with how you discover new opportunities. And have fun outside of the process. Keep up the good friendships, the activities that bring you joy, and cherish the light unstructured moments. Maybe a laughter meditation is order. Adding levity and lightness can really help. I’m reminded of the saying, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly!”

Get out there and soar!

Sources / Resources

  1. How to Stay Positive When Your Job Search Is Dragging You Down, by Kat Boogaard, in
  2. Tips for Staying Positive While Job Searching, by Alison Doyle, Updated June 21, 2016, in
  3. 3 Ways to Stay Positive While Looking for the Perfect Job, by Heather Huhman, June 30, 2015,
  4. How to Stay Positive When You’re Unemployed, by Kayla Matthews, Huffington Post.
  5. Encore Career Search Strategies, workshop by BVAC (Bay Area Video Coalition) in partnership with City College of San Francisco. February — April, 2017.