Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 30 – Staying motivated when looking for work

In this Issue we will be looking at:
• How to stay motivated when you are feeling “down”
o Finding a job is your job when you are not working
o Networking
o Keeping your skills up to date
o Thinking outside the square
o Contract work
o Voluntary work
o Staying healthy
o Hobbies
• Government launches jobs hotline for older workers
• A Thought to Ponder

How to stay motivated when you are feeling “down”
It’s not easy being out of work, especially if you are a naturally “busy” person. So the question is, how do you stay motivated when you are looking for work? Well, some of the following suggestions come under the category of the blindingly obvious, so you will have to excuse their inclusion, but they all need to stated in order to present a more complete picture. Of course you will also have your own tips and techniques that you use, so if you would like to share them with your fellow readers, I will endeavour to pass them along.

Finding a job is your job when you are not working:
Sometimes it is easy to slump into the habit of “I’ll do it tomorrow” especially when you have been out of work for a considerable length of time (of course considerable differs from person to person). The question is, what happens if you read the paper tomorrow and find that your ideal job, the one that you have always wanted, had a closing date of yesterday afternoon at 4pm. How do you think you would feel? Right – not good. Chances are that with such a tight deadline few people would have applied and would have gone to the person who had been motivated to read the paper – and apply for the position.

What happens if the closing date for your dream job is today at 4pm? Is your CV up to date? Do you have enough paper for the printer? Do you have time to run into the offices and apply in person? Or will you just scrape enough time to apply by email?

Of course the good news is that IEA does some of the work for you. Every week we abstract the library and records management positions that are advertised in the weekend papers and issue them to the list servs (ALIA West, WAIN, RMAA) each week. The downside to this of course is that we occasionally miss one or two, especially if they have generic sounding titles such as information officer. If you are looking for work outside of the library and records management community (sometimes any job is better than no job at all) then you will still need to read the paper, but at least it’s a start.

If you have access to the Internet at home, you may like to have a day when you search all the online job boards such as the governments job page ( and this is best done at the beginning of the week as most positions close on a Friday (although occasionally a Monday or Thursday is quoted). If you don’t have access to the Internet at home, your local public library is the place to go, but you will need to book your place in advance. A handy tip for you, when you are finished with your session – make arrangements to book the next (as you would your next hair appointment) and make sure you diarise it and keep the appointment. To make it easier for you, try and make it the same day and time each week that way you are less likely to forget. 

In addition to the job boards, it is also worth researching the job sectors that you would like to work in. For instance, not every organisation (especially small to medium enterprises) can afford to place an ad in the local paper, so they advertise on their own web sites. But even if there are not any current positions on offer, a well-timed letter and accompanying CV can open doors to opportunities you may not have considered. But do not call everyone on a daily basis, this is called stalking.

I have often said that if your networking is not working, then you are either at the wrong events, or you are not going to events at all. Take business cards with you, and be prepared to hand them out. Be honest about looking for opportunities in whatever capacity, limiting your vocabulary to what you think you are good, may limit your opportunities. For example “I’m looking for work in a library environment” may prevent them from telling you that a colleague of theirs was looking for someone to work in the company information centre, or as a management trainee. Try not to use jargon when talking to people and always listen. If you are too busy telling people about what you need you may miss out on the opportunity to hear what someone has to offer.
Remember also, your reputation will always precede you. If you are known to be a whiner and complainer about why you are not currently working, “it’s not fair” and “they didn’t renew my contract even though so and so was kept on” are common phrases to watch out for. Always be polite when you are at a social or networking event, don’t “bag” your previous employer, even if they did do something you don’t agree with. Everything that happens to you, be it good or bad is an opportunity to learn something new. Even if that “something” is how not to do it in the future. Remember you are looking for new opportunities, by staying in the past, you will not be open to the opportunity that was staring you in the face.

One final word on networking. If someone says “why don’t you call me in a day or so and we’ll have a chat” – do it. If someone says, “a friend of a friend is looking for someone, why don’t you send me a copy of your CV in the morning” – do it, and if you have promised to do something – then do it, whatever it was. You’ve opened the door, don’t let it slam shut in your face, because you “forgot”.

Keeping your skills up to date:
When you have been out of the work force for some time, your skills can become rusty. One way of finding out if you need to do some “brushing up” is to have a look in the paper. Choose a job you think you would like to do, and obtain the application package. Quite often these are available for download from the organisations web site, so don’t feel embarrassed about asking for something you may not apply for.

Now have a look at the selection criteria. What are they asking you to be able to do? If you cannot answer every “Essential” selection criteria, then you have a gap that needs to be addressed, and if you had applied for the position it would be very unlikely that you would have been asked to attend an interview. (Most positions these days require a person to be able to answer all essential criteria as well as most if not all of the desirable criteria as well). However, with some managerial positions, “equivalents” are acceptable, so you may be able to think outside the square and use the skills and abilities you do have and may not need to update your skills at all. 

You may also like to practice answering the questions. A simple statement that says you have good written and verbal communication skills is not good enough. You have to prove by way of examples, what differences you have made to an organisation, this is achieved by stating a situation you faced or a task that you were given, state the actions that you took, and the results that were achieved. This gives your answer balance.

Of course if you are able to answer all the selection criteria and you still have time, why not send in an application. Who knows you might just be the person they are looking for.

Thinking outside the square:
This one really does fall into the “Blindingly obvious” category – Just because you have always worked for a particular organisation, or always had a particular role eg receptionist, does not mean that you are limited to the same type of organisation or job. Most skills are transferable. Ask yourself – do I really want to do the same job for a difference organisation, or do I want to try something a little different? Only you can decide. After all stepping outside your comfort zone does involve an element of risk.

Contract work:
Contract work may be able to fill the gap between permanent positions. Whilst Information Enterprises Australia is the only employment agency that specialises in Library and Records Management positions in Western Australia, it does not mean to say that other employment agencies cannot help you.  Some large organisations have a “preferred supplier list” and that includes the use of employment agencies to supply them with contract staff, so find your “ideal” organisation and call them. Ask to speak to a person in HR, be prepared to give a 15 second presentation as to why you want the information and ask if they are currently looking for staff, if they say no – ask if they would accept a CV “just in case” and then ask if the organisation uses contract staff to fill positions or slots whilst people are on holiday or sick – if the answer is yes, then ask politely which agency they use, you may be surprised at the answers you get. Of course once you have the information, send in a copy of your CV with a covering letter to the person you spoke to, but also telephone the employment agency and make an appointment to see a recruitment consultant. This also means that you will be on their “books” for other opportunities as they arise.

Voluntary work:
Still not working? Have you considered giving your time and skills to an organisation free of charge? Don’t just limit your thinking to your own industry. The few days and weeks after the Tsunami that hit our region, charity organisations were crying out for people to “person” the phones or to rattle tins. Offer to mow your neighbours lawn, walk their dog, spend some time at the local hospital talking to patients – contact your local hospital for ways that you can make a difference. It may be as simple as reading a story to the children, or a chapter from a favourite book for a person who cannot see, or too frail to hold the book themselves. You are only limited by your imagination, and you can make a world of difference. The good thing about doing voluntary work is that this goes into the “karma” bank. What you put out will come back to you in more ways than you can ever imagine. 

Staying Healthy:
What on earth has staying healthy got to do with finding a job I can hear you ask? Well studies have shown that people who feel good about themselves, those who exercise on a regular basis and eat a well balanced diet are less likely to be “down” and depressed. The reason is a simple one. Exercise releases endorphins into the blood stream, making you feel good. Did you know you can also get a similar effect from eating bananas and chocolate, so even though bananas dipped in chocolate sounds like a great way to really feel good, they are both extremely high in calories, so some things are best done in moderation.

If you struggle to exercise on a regular basis, ask a friend to go with you, borrow a neighbours dog, take your own dog, a friend takes their cat for a walk (yes on a lead), be creative, make it fun. Kick the football with your kids, buy a skipping rope (and use it), make staying healthy a daily commitment to yourself and you will find that almost everything else fits into place. There is an added benefit to regular exercise of course and that is your business suit will fit you when you get that all important interview.

These are also an important part of the daily mix. It is important to keep your mind active and what better way than to keep up with what you really enjoy doing. As we mentioned at the start of this section, sometimes it is hard to get out of bed in a morning when you are feeling down and depressed, so having something to look forward to on a daily basis means that you get to indulge your hobbies more often than those people who are currently working. Of course, this all sounds very expensive, but in reality it isn’t at all. I love to read, but I certainly can’t afford to buy all the books that I would like to, so I utilise my local public library, and swap books of interest with friends. The point is, by creating opportunity in one area of your life, you are opening up the chance of further opportunities to come your way. It may be your local group needs a group leader, and they are willing to pay expenses, if you don’t ask you won’t get. 

I sincerely hope the above has given you some food for thought. Having a positive mental attitude towards yourself and your situation really does make a big difference to the outcome. Yes it can be discouraging when you have applied for a number of jobs and you still find yourself unable to reach interview stage. If that is the case, I would consider having another look at the way you apply for the positions on offer. Re-vamp your CV, have a friend look at it and ask them to give you honest feedback (what do they like about it, what do they think could be improved, what does your CV say about you and so on). If you find yourself doing the same things and then wondering why you are getting the same results, consider doing things slightly differently and see what difference it makes. 

Government launches jobs hotline for older workers
A new telephone helpline, launched on Friday 4th February, will help unemployed Australians aged 45 and over to find work. The service will also give information and advice to mature aged Australians already in the workforce. Whilst the “mature employment line” will operate by the Council on Ageing NSW to start with, if successful, the service will be rolled out across Australia.
“Callers can find out about employment and training services in their local area as well as job search techniques and advice about options to make the transition from work to retirement”, said Kevin Andrews, federal minister for employment and workplace relations.

To access the helpline, ring 1300 795 211. The federal government also has a mature age employment website – Jobwise – offering information to both employers and job seekers. – accessed 7 February 2005.

A Thought to Ponder
“Where many people go wrong in trying to reach their goals is in constantly looking for the big hit, the home run, the magic answer that suddenly transforms their dreams into reality. The problem is that the big hit never comes without a great deal of little hits first. Success in most things comes not from some gigantic stroke of fate, but from simple, incremental progress”
Andrew Wood