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You’ve been searching for a new job for longer than you ever thought was possible. In the beginning, you felt positive that you’d find a job quickly, after all, you’ve always been able to find a job within a month, why should this time be any different? But a month has come and gone and there’s still no sign of a job, and you’re starting to get worried as you watch your backup funds dwindle. But how can you stay motivated and productive when you’re unemployed? 

There’s no doubt about it, job searching can be stressful. And the longer you go without a job, the worse you start to feel. As the “We regret to inform you that you have not been selected to progress” emails roll in, it’s no wonder that the last thing you feel like doing is job searching, let alone being productive in any other aspects of your life. It’s hard to find the motivation to keep going. 

It’s easy to fall into the unemployment trap of letting your good habits slide and stopping anything that resembles a routine. While it’s tempting, to stay in bed till noon lamenting the fact that you don’t have a job yet, this might not be your best strategy for staying motivated and productive when you’re looking for work. 

So instead of throwing in the towel and retreating under the covers, read on to find out…

18 tips on how to stay motivated and productive when you’re unemployed.

1. Stick to a daily routine 

One of the best ways to maintain motivation and focus on a prolonged period of unemployment or at any time is by having a daily routine. 

Avoid the stressful situation of getting up and wondering what to do with yourself each day by deciding what you want to achieve and planning out a routine that will help you to get there. This way, your time will be filled with productive activities rather than spending it dwelling on the fact that you don’t have a job.  

2. Take a career audit 

Is your career going in the direction you really want? Are you doing what you really want to do? Could things be better? If so, how? 

When was the last time you asked yourself any of these questions? 

Life can get really busy and it’s very easy to get swept up in the status quo. Many of us take little or no time to actually sit and assess whether or not our careers or even our lives are headed in the direction that we want to go. If the last time you asked yourself these questions and answered them was never, then you’re definitely not the only one. 

The truth is, it often takes for something drastic to happen before we have a wake-up call and realize that we’ve been headed in the wrong direction all along and we feel completely lost. 

“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” – Steven Covey

Instead of just applying to anything and everything you see, take a moment to give yourself a career audit to make sure that you don’t end up in a job you actually hate. 

How To Stay Motivated And Productive When You're Unemployed

3. Get social 

Being unemployed can make you want to withdraw, especially when it’s for a long period of time. Work is such a big part of our lives and so often when you spend time with people, the conversations often land on work at one point or another. 

Don’t be tempted to cut yourself off. The best thing you can do is get yourself out there. Remember, often, opportunities come through connections, so go out and make some. 

Possible opportunities to get social include going to industry events or business networking events, career fairs, meetups or find out if there’s a job club near you. If this all sounds too much, then perhaps set yourself a challenge to reconnect with some old colleagues and friends to get you started. 

4. Read a book 

If you’re like me, then you might feel like there are just so many books that you want to read and yet so little time! 

Well, no more. Now’s the opportunity to finally become that literary you’ve always known you were deep down. 

From reducing your stress level’s to improving brain function to boosting happiness, the benefits of reading are endless.  

5. Learn a new skill 

Being unemployed doesn’t mean you’re unemployable and if you use your time wisely, the result could be quite the opposite. 

If there are any skills that could benefit you and your career in any way then this is a  great opportunity to learn a  new skill. 

Here are some of the top skills which can be beneficial in almost any industry and will help you to progress your career:

  • Communication skills 
  • Writing skills 
  • Microsoft Excel, Word, and Powerpoint
  • Networking 
  • Relationship building 
  • Influencing skills
  • A second language 
  • Coding Skills ( While coding may not be required in every job, learning to code will seriously future proof your career

How To Stay Motivated And Productive When You're Unemployed

6. Set achievable goals 

When you’re searching for a new job, it’s tempting to set yourself the goal of finding a job by a specific date. The problem with this goal is that you’re not the only person that would be involved in its attainment so it’s not something that is fully in your control. 

Set yourself up for success by focusing on all the aspects of your job search that you can fully control. 

More suitable goals might involve:

  • Contact 3 companies that I would love to work at speculatively by the end of the week
  • Attend 2 networking events by a specific date / each week 
  • Meet with a former colleague by a specific date 
  • Volunteer for 2 hours each week or for a set number of hours by a specific date 
  • Finish updating and revamping my LinkedIn profile by a specific date 
  • Read one or more specific books by a specific date 

As you can see, each of these activities is beneficial for your job search, however, they are also in your control. 

Setting specific goals in this way will help you to stay focused and motivated as well as giving your days more structure and direction. 

7. Develop your creativity

Studies have revealed that we are all born creative, but as we grow, we learn to be uncreative. What’s more, studies have also shown that 8 out of 10 people feel that creativity is necessary for success and that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth, yet so many of us are losing this critical skill.

But worry not. If you feel like the last creative thing you did involved potatoes or hand painting, it’s not too late to develop in this area.

Creativity is like a muscle, the more you practice it every day the more creative you will become, and just as it can be unlearned, it can also be learned.

Some things you can do to get those creative juices flowing include:

  • Asking lots of questions
  • Learning new skills
  • Experiencing new things
  • Doodling
  • Making time for play

If you want to make the most of your time by learning a new skill AND getting creative check out Skillshare. They offer a wide variety of creative courses on all kinds of skills, that you can take at your own pace.

8. Learn to cook 

Ok, so cooking might not be your bag. But it can be confidence boosting and self-esteem boosting according to Julie Ohanah a culinary art therapist. These are two things that you are in serious need of when job hunting. So, why not make it a goal to learn some new recipes, not that there’s anything wrong with grilled fish and sweet potato, my personal go-to! 

9. Journal

So you’ve probably noticed that everyone is all about journaling these days. You haven’t? Then you need to get to it. 

Journalling has so many benefits. It’s great for stress management, getting more clear on your thoughts, and getting to know yourself better. All of which contribute to a healthier mind and a more calm and productive job search. 

How To Stay Motivated And Productive When you're Unemployed


10. Work towards your long-standing goals and dreams

“All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

How many things have you had on your “things I’d love to do/achieve when I have the time… one day?” The funny thing is that there are those goals that somehow never seem to make it onto the “take action now” list. 

Maybe it’s because we have so many bigger goals that some of these smaller goals just never seem that important to us when we’re forced to decide which goals we want to take action on first. If there’s one thing that you have to be selective about, it’s how you spend your time. 

So these “goals” become more of a pipe-dream, a wish, or a fantasy, with little or no action ever being taken towards them. But they’re always there in the back of your mind, the “someday goal”

Perhaps you’ve decided to write a bucket list, and it’s long. So long in fact that regardless of how old you are, it already feels like there will never be enough time to accomplish all of the things on the list. 

Or maybe it’s the opposite, you have your bucket list, but you feel like you’ve got a lifetime, so why rush? 

Whichever sounds more like you, why not take this opportunity to complete or at least seriously start working towards one of these goals. After all, when you’re unemployed, time is the one thing that you definitely have more of.

11. Volunteer your time 

So you don’t have a bucket list and you’re not really sure what your goals are, all you know is that you need a job right now, any job, even being stuck in a job you hate would be preferable to no job. What can you do? 

If this sounds more like you, then you might want to consider volunteering. Aside from the fact that you’re helping another human being and making the world a better place, there are many other benefits of volunteering. Some of these include having a sense of purpose, something which can be sorely missed when you don’t have a job to go to, learning new skills, and meeting new people. 

All of these things can help make your life feel much more fulfilling and ultimately will make you happier at a time when you might not be feeling your best. 

12. Work on your relationships 

Do you feel like you’re constantly struggling to strike a balance between your work and the other aspects of your life? In particular your relationships? 

Your relationships can have an impact on your work and your work can definitely have an impact on your relationships! 

With so many relationships to nurture, old friends, new friends, family, peers, husbands, partners, yourself ( Yes that is a relationship you need to work on, remember that self-care), when you’ve got a full-on job that also takes up brain space, making the time to keep everyone happy can be difficult and sometimes your relationships can indeed suffer. 

Why not use this time to work on some of your relationships that might feel a bit neglected. That’s not to say you can forget about everyone the minute you get a job, but a little extra time could do both of you a lot of good in the long term. 

How To Stay Motivated And Productive When you're Unemployed

13. Practice self-care

Self-care is important. It’s especially important when you’re going through a potentially difficult time, which is the very time that you’re least likely to make time for it.

Being unemployed can make your mind turn on you, from stress to self-doubt to despair, these are all very negative emotions and it’s important to give yourself a break from it all if only for a little while.

In case you were wondering where all this money is supposed to come from for the SPA treatments and massages, remember, self-care comes in many forms and doesn’t have to be costly, in fact, it can be free.

The simple act of setting aside some time when you will listen to some music you love, read a book you enjoy, or watch a movie, without thinking of the situation can be classed as self-care, and of course, having a long bath or a 10-hour hot shower with some relaxing music… all self-care. Because self-care is all about taking time to think about yourself and care for yourself.

14. Go for a walk 

Inactivity increases the risk of lots of health problems, and active people have a significantly reduced risk of numerous serious conditions. If you’re not ready to go for that 10K run or HIIT session, then walking is a great place to start. Not only does it still provide many health benefits, but regular walking can be beneficial for your mental health and could help ease depression. 

15. Get active 

Whether it’s hitting the gym or hitting the road for a run, fitting in workouts can be a struggle. Do you go first thing in the morning, wait, but you’re not a morning person and that means waking up over one hour earlier? Ok, so you’ve decided to go after work, but… so tired! 

Well, struggle no more. This is your opportunity to get in those workouts and get into a workout routine as you’ve never done before. 

The benefits? An energy boost, endorphins, mental clarity, clearer skin, better sleep, and the list goes on! 

16. Watch a TED Talk or two… or three

Whatever your mind is craving, there’s TED Talk for it. From leadership to creativity, to technology, you name it there’s a TED Talk and a great lesson for it. 

TED Talks will help you to expand your mind, learn about intriguing and random things that you never even thought about and even change your perspective on life. 

To get you started, here are some of the most popular TED Talks of all time. 

How To Stay Motivated And Productive When You're Unemployed

17. Listen to Podcasts 

When it comes to learning on the go you can’t beat a podcast. 

Whether you’re looking to learn a language on the go or you want some inspiration in your life, there’s a podcast out there for the curious person in you. 

Check out some of our favorites below:

Stuff You Should Know: For those nagging random questions in life

The Broad Experience: For all conversations about women, the workplace, and success. Seriously, nothing is barred.

Hey, Cool Job!: For going behind the scenes of those really intriguing jobs. 

How I Built This: For the entrepreneur in you 

The GaryVee Audio Experience: For a much-needed kick up the but. 

And of course, be sure to subscribe to the She Owns Success podcast for entrepreneurial stories and career advice from amazing and inspiring women. 

18. Make the most of the time 

However you feel about your current situation, it’s important to remember that in the same way that everything comes to an end, whether good or bad, every end is also just the beginning of something else. 

While this time of unemployment may feel never-ending, it will end. So why not do what you can to make the most of it, in any way you can. 

It will be difficult and there will definitely be harder days than others, but if you take these actions, then when you finally land that dream job, you won’t look back on this time as a wasted opportunity. 

19. Prepare For Interviews

When you’re unemployed, one of the MOST important things you can do is to make sure you’re ready for opportunities. This means preparing for job interviews so that when they do come up, you don’t miss out. Make sure you’re not rusty, too nervous, and ill-prepared by the time you get called for an interview by using the time to fully prepare! You can check out our FREE Guides here!