Life & Work Skills

Living Well: How To Stay Motivated When You Are Unemployed


Having launched my own business right out of college full-time, I initially thought that I might not be equipped to share on the subject of staying motivated when you are unemployed.

However, upon closer examination that’s not really the case. As I started to take my fledgling business from a side-hustle to a full-time business that paid the bills… I was pretty much “unemployed” in the beginning.

No clients. No cash flow.

Which is pretty darn similar to unemployment.

During the first year there were several anxiety attacks, dark moments, and leaps of faith. And the ability to stay motivated along the way was the key to landing those first few clients and sticking it out.

With this in mind, I’d like to encourage those looking to stay motivated during their job search to consider an entrepreneurial mindset in order to stay positive and take effective action.

Below are four habits that will help you stay motivated as you move forward with your job search… or your own small biz.

Stay Positive and Keep Moving

The first thing to keep in mind is that your enthusiasm for your chosen field or industry will catch the attention of potential employers and help you persevere against obstacles you may face along the way. So be sure to pick an industry or position that you are passionate about. Otherwise, your false enthusiasm may subtly turn off potential employers or even derail your momentum when challenges appear.

The next thing to remember is that forward motion is necessary to sustain your optimism. If you start to drag your feet or do less than your best during your job hunt, your intuition will sense it. And when you know deep down that you aren’t giving your very best, self-doubt, procrastination, and low self-esteem can surface.

Once you start “going through the motions” without truly feeling motivated and excited, resistance to taking positive actions will get stronger. Therefore, do your best to give your best.

Like Steven Pressfield says, “put your ass where your heart wants to be.” If you want a job, do what is necessary to get your foot in the door.

Invest in Yourself

With that said, you might not be completely aware of what it really takes to get the job you want. In that case, take time to discover what you need to do or understand to get you to where you want to be.

If possible, reach out to people within your field for informational interviews. School alumni and “friends of friends” can be great networks to explore for these sorts of connections.

Or, maybe there is a book, blog, or training program out there that might be able to advise you on your career search. Don’t hesitate to invest – within your means – in the education and information that will help you get to where you want to go.

As someone who started a business with very little money, I didn’t have the funds to order any fancy programs. But I was able to buy or borrow incredibly helpful books and implement the teachings in my own business. You can do the same.

In fact, I would say that investing in yourself is about implementing the knowledge and advice you hear, more than it is about accumulating a whole library of resources. So whatever resources you choose, be sure to act on the advice.

Get Scrappy

Don’t be afraid to get scrappy when it comes to your job search. This is a hallmark of most organically grown small businesses and is particularly powerful in the job market.

It might be disheartening if you don’t find the job you want by following the traditional job search methods. But other options are available. 

I know one person who snagged an elusive spot as a production assistant in Chicago (a relatively small tv market) simply because he contacted a fellow college alumni who worked at a Chicago production company. By doing an informational interview, touring the offices, and following up over following weeks, he was on the top of their consideration list the moment they had a new spot available.

Had this person simply sent in his resume and “hoped for the best,” he never would have landed the job.

Do what you can to connect with people within the company, be sincere, and (appropriately) persistent.

Ignore the naysayers.

Staying motivated involves learning to ignore the people who say “it can’t be done.” Whether you are starting your own company or searching for your ideal job, there will be people in your life who may not believe your dream is possible – particularly if you have been looking for a job for an extended period of time.

In this case, it is best to understand that most of the time these friends or family members mean well and want the best for you. On the other hand, there are always going to be people who prefer that we choose a safer or easier route rather than persevere towards what we really want.

The best thing to do in these situations is recognize that the person who doubts your potential has their own point of view based on their own life paradigms and conditioning. It does not have to affect your mood, decisions, and actions. Be sure to surround yourself with people who have succeeded in your care.

And above all, follow your gut. If you feel pulled in a specific direction, do what you can right where you are to make that vision a reality.

As long as you stay positive, keep taking things one step at a time, and do what you can to connect with people in your chosen field, there are far more possibilities than first meets the eye. If you are prepared to do what it takes for as long as it takes, your future is bright.

Start where you are and just keep going.

This post was contributed by Jess Lively, a consultant and writer helping people design lives, homes, and businesses with intention on and