In today’s job market, it’s easy to get discouraged.  Competition is fierce and good jobs are harder to come by.

It’s essential, however, for you to stay focused and motivated during this difficult time.  Why?  Recruiters and employers are trained to gauge your attitude and enthusiasm – it’s critical to show them that you’re optimistic and confident in your abilities.  If you lack a positive attitude while searching for a job, you will almost certainly convey this impression when you’re applying, interviewing or corresponding.

So if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, or if you just can’t bear the thought of one more rejection, take a step back from the process.  Use these 10 tips to stay upbeat, focused and motivated while you’re on the job hunt:

  1. Visualize job search success. Create a picture in your mind of your desired job outcome.  Visualize yourself working at your dream job and thinking that all the effort you put into finding it finally paid off.  The more you focus on the end result, the better prepared you’ll be to tolerate the difficulties you face in getting there.
  2. Set tangible goals. Create job search goals that are concrete and directly tied to job search success.  For instance, instead of saying to yourself that you’ll spend five hours looking for a job tomorrow, write down a list of tasks that will help you get the job you want (e.g., research employers online, contact your network, schedule informational interviews, register with a staffing service, expand your network, etc.).  Use these tasks to create tangible goals that will guide your job search efforts.
  3. Treat your job search like a full-time job. The more serious you are about your job search, the better your results will be.  Establish a daily routine that simulates a work day.  Get up early, shower and dress nicely enough to make yourself feel both positive and productive.  Create a game plan for the day and tackle your highest priority tasks first.  Before you end your job-hunting day, plan out the next.
  4. Find a job search partner. If you want to get in shape, it helps to have a buddy who can motivate you.  The same holds true for your job search.  Whether the person is a friend, family member or fellow job seeker, having someone to whom you’re accountable, and with whom you can share your ups and downs, can be a tremendous source of motivation.
  5. Register with a staffing service. A staffing service can be a great source of motivation, income and opportunities during your job search.  By working with a staffing service you can: keep your skills sharp and gain new ones; avoid gaps on your résumé;  access the “hidden job market”; and get your foot in the door with potential employers.
  6. Find ways to stay current. Keep yourself and your skills on the cutting edge in your chosen field by finding ways to stay involved.  Volunteer, work as an intern, take classes, teach yourself a new skill or consider freelance work.  While it’s important to continue with your job search efforts, staying current and involved will help maintain your confidence, motivation and enthusiasm during your job search.  As an added benefit, you may make new contacts or use your experiences to build your résumé.
  7. Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”  If you make a mistake during an interview, or don’t get the call back that you’re hoping for, learn what you can from the experience and move on.  Tomorrow is another day to make new contacts and uncover new opportunities.
  8. Manage your stress level. While moderate levels of stress can be motivating, it’s easy for financial and emotional stress to overwhelm you during your job search.  Keep stress levels at healthy levels by exercising, eating right, getting plenty of rest and – yes – taking time-off for a little fun.  Allow yourself to laugh, enjoy hobbies and meet with friends.  By making balance a priority you can keep functioning at peak efficiency.
  9. Find opportunities to help others. If you come across a job opening that would be perfect for a friend, pass along the information.  If you meet someone whose résumé you could forward to one of your contacts, offer to do it.  Networking is a cycle, so be generous with your time, energy and participation in helping others.  A small favor you do for someone else may ultimately help you in the future.
  10. Try not to take rejection personally. No matter what job you apply for these days, you will be competing with job seekers who are equally as qualified as you – perhaps even better qualified.  Instead of viewing this as an excuse to admit defeat, use it as a source of motivation.  The trick to looking for a new job is not to take application rejection personally.  Recruiters and employers often have a very specific idea of the ideal candidate in mind, and it may only be a small detail that keeps you from making the short list.  When possible, try to get specific feedback as to why your job application was unsuccessful.  Identify the areas where your application, résumé or skill set is weak and use them as a starting point for making yourself more employable.