Staying Positive During a Job Search

By Michael Schaub, Ph.D., PLLC

Searching for a job can bring up a mix of emotions that may be difficult to manage. Let’s say you find yourself involved in a long, drawn-out job search that seems to have no end in sight. Maybe you are looking for a better job in the same field, or a new job in a completely different industry. The job search can be a tiring process that shakes your confidence and puts you in a not-so-great mood. So how do you keep your eye on the prize and maintain a positive outlook through all of this? Read on for five tips based on a therapeutic technique called motivational interviewing that may help improve your mood as you pursue the next step in your career.

1. List your motivations for making a change

Are you burned out after years in the same position? Do you want to spend more time with your family? Perhaps you feel unfulfilled and want a job that brings meaning to your life. Take a few minutes to brainstorm your reasons for making a career change and write these on a note card. Approach this task from a positive perspective—instead of saying “I hate my boss,” try “I want a boss who shares my passions.” Place the note card where you will see it each day and make reviewing these reasons a regular part of your routine.

2. Do things that bring you happiness

Sometimes when we feel down and discouraged we forget to do the things that bring us joy. Think about the times in your life when you felt happy and fulfilled. Did you exercise? Read books for fun? Volunteer? Spend time with friends? Make a plan to do at least one of these activities each week during your job search.

3. Take control of obstacles

Often, we feel frozen by real or imagined barriers that keep us from reaching our goals. Some of these barriers are conscious to our awareness, and others linger in the back of our minds but have an impact nonetheless. One way to tackle these obstacles is to name them, resolve the issues we have control over, and dismiss those that are beyond our control. Are you overwhelmed by the prospect of networking with people you do not know? Do you believe that your skill set is obsolete? Do you feel lost about how to begin a search? Write these down and rate the probability that each is true. It may be helpful to ask a family member or friend to reality-test your ratings. Brainstorm ways to minimize the obstacles that you have control over. This may mean networking first with people you know, taking a class at a community college to refresh skills, or meeting with a career counselor to learn about the job search process. Finally, give yourself permission to let go of the obstacles that are beyond your control.

4. Seek out others

Conducting a job search can seem like a lonely endeavor. When you are frustrated by the search process, it is easy to get holed up in your house endlessly scanning websites for leads. For some, this leads to feelings of desolation and isolation. Now is the time to seek out family and friends who can provide support. Think about people with whom you can share your successes and frustrations, and check-in with them often. It is also helpful to change up your job search environment by visiting a library or coffee shop while you search for jobs, work on your resume, etc. Seeking out others not only brightens your mood, but it may lead to new connections and opportunities.

5. Benchmark your successes

Set SMART goals for your job search: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. For example, one goal may be “over the next week I will connect with two professionals in my target career field to learn about their companies.” As you reach your SMART goals, create a list of accomplishments to spotlight how far along you have come. Take time to appreciate each success. Recognizing and appreciating your accomplishments are key components to staying positive and improving your mood.

Mike Schaub’s Bio

Dr. Mike Schaub is a licensed psychologist in Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Maryland and maintains a private practice in Fairfax, VA. Mike is recognized by the National Register of Health Service Psychologists and is a certified federal job search trainer and federal career coach. For over 20 years he has conducted career and mental health counseling with adolescents and adults in private practice and university settings. Mike served as executive director of the Georgetown University Career Center where he managed a comprehensive career development program for undergraduate students, graduate students, and alumni. Mike’s private practice focuses on the integration of mental health and career counseling, vocational assessment, couples and premarital counseling, and men’s health and wellness. His work has been published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, Journal of Counseling & Development, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Psychology of Men and Masculinity, and the Journal of College Student Psychotherapy. He wrote a chapter on the discernment of work values for the book The Role of Values in Careers. Mike serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Career Development and is an ad hoc reviewer for the Journal of Counseling Psychology. More information about Mike and his practice can be found at

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