Staying positive when you’re unemployed, especially where you must constantly state that yes, you are still “in transition,” can be a tall order. In order to maximize success, you must have practices to shatter the negative illusions in your mind. Be diligent in the practices that sustain you as a leader; this is the version of you that you want walking into job interviews.

Being a leader requires taking risks, creating opportunities out of problems, and venturing out onto the skinny branches; your job search is the perfect opportunity to practice these skills and sustain the leader you truly are. Maintaining excellence during a period of unemployment takes discipline and persistence, so use the practices below to keep you at the top of your game during this journey.

Stay Healthy

When our body is functioning at its best, so will our mind, attitude and emotions. Staying positive is a huge part of the job search and keeping up with your fitness and health levels will make you feel good both inside and out. Career experts share that “An invigorating jog around the park or relaxing yoga session can be a welcome escape from the monotony of your search and will also help to revive your spirit. Your body will thank you for the break, and your mind will be recharged and ready for action upon your return.” Exercise gives you a mental and emotional release, which is critical to combat the boredom of filling out job applications or the sting that comes with rejections.

A few simple health practices include staying hydrated, getting enough sleep and moving your body every day. Keeping healthy snacks close by will also stop you from emotionally eating that tub of ice cream! If these are difficult habits for you, lower the bar. That may seem counter-intuitive, but you have to feel like you are winning in order to stay motivated. Set goals that are actually attainable right now and increase them as they become easier. Even a quick walk around the block will benefit you. Plus, why not make your exercise do double duty? Invite a friend or networking contact out for a walk instead of a coffee meeting.

Take a Breath

If you begin telling yourself negative thoughts, take a moment to pause and ask yourself if what you’re saying is even true. Is it something grounded in fact or are you telling yourself “head trash” based on fear? Are you pushing yourself to work even harder, when in reality you’re not sure what isn’t working in the first place? “When your efforts aren’t working, the natural tendency is to run faster, harder, and more frenetically. Apply for more positions. Stay up later surfing job boards. This can be incredibly counter-productive. It’s almost always better to stop for a few and take a breather. When you’ve regrouped, try to objectively troubleshoot which parts of your strategy aren’t working,” advises Career strategist Jenny Foss.

Often our external responses to challenges are based on things we’ve internalized that have no real basis in fact. Those “things” (like not being called back for an interview) can be negative and self-defeating, challenging our internal sense of peace. Keeping an internal balance will help you better deal with outside circumstances, and you can do this by taking moments to pause. Maintaining this calm will help you better handle job interviews and whatever outcome you receive from them. When you find yourself spiraling into negative thoughts, stop and breathe until you can find your internal balance, then reassess and write yourself a new, more positive story.

Set Reasonable, Concrete Goals:

Goal setting is especially important when life feels overwhelming or out of our control. It can be easy to feel that nothing is going right or you aren’t being productive when in fact you really are. Creating reasonable, concrete goals with measurables will help you actively move toward the results you want while also serving as a constant reminder of how hard you’re working and what you’re accomplishing. Remember, however, to set realistic goals that won’t just add to your stress. Remember what I said about lowering the bar? That applies here as well.

Try job search expert Alison Doyle’s advice to her clients: “At the start of each week, make a list of specific goals that you would like to achieve. Perhaps you’d like to write five cover letters that week or go to three job fairs. By focusing on small, achievable goals, you will feel more accomplished throughout your job search.” Once you do begin the actions, write down the wins. This list will help you see progress, even when you are feeling defeated and unmotivated. Seeing that progress piled up will help shift your attitude and remind you of the leader you are.

Hang with the Right People

Who you spend your time with greatly influences the kind of person you are. Many of us have heard business expert Jim Rohn’s statement that, “you’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” Make sure these people are like who you aspire to be- engaged, active and loving their jobs (not stagnant and complacent). If you surround yourself with people who feel defeated and aren’t moving forward, you will be brought down to this level as well.  Focus instead on spending time with people who lift you up and push you to be the best version of yourself. Their traits truly will rub off!

Dominic Soh, founder of Industry Bootcamp, shares “Whether you’re cruising on success or pushing through adversity, your social surroundings can have a profound influence over you. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur [or leader], spend more time with businesspeople who are crushing it. If you want to be more effective in the marketplace, seek out the movers and shakers in your field.”

This advice may even lead to job opportunities you weren’t aware of. If there are people in your life who you find difficult to be around, step back from them during your job search. You don’t need to end the relationship entirely but putting some distance between the people who don’t better you or drain your energy will help you stay at the top of your game and maintain your best self.

Become Unf♥<kwithable

Staying at your peak level of leadership during a job search can be a difficult task. There is the fear of the unknown, job rejections and the loss of identity that can come with leaving a job. Staying consistent with the practices that keep you on your game will provide stability and stop you from sliding backward. After all, you want to present your best when you are interviewing for your next opportunity. Staying healthy, pausing to reassess, setting concrete goals and spending time with those who uplift you will all help you become Unf♥<kwithable.

I define Unf♥<kwithable as: “When you’re truly at peace and in touch with yourself, and nothing anyone says or does bothers you, and no negativity or drama can touch you; to be at the pinnacle of whatever you do – you are the ultimate; you can’t be beat whatsoever. This IS it, you’re at the top of your game, the desired space to be; you are fulfilled and also making a great big dent in this world.” Stay strong through your search and see where you fall on the Unf♥<kwithability scale here.


  • Sue Hawkes

    CEO, Speaker, Best-Selling Author and Entrepreneur

    Sue Hawkes helps CEOs and their leadership teams succeed. As a bestselling author, keynote speaker, Certified EOS Implementer, Certified Business Coach, WPO Chapter Chair, and globally recognized, award-winning seminar leader, Sue brings over twenty-five years of experience to her clients. She is CEO of YESS! and has designed and delivered dynamic, transformational programs for thousands of people. Sue has received numerous awards including the Dream Keeper award recognized by the Governor’s Council for her leadership program, the Regional U.S. Small Business Administration Women in Business Champion of the Year award, the Exemplary Woman of the Community award, WomenVenture’s Unsung Hero award, Women Who Lead from Minnesota Business Magazine, NAWBO Minnesota’s Achieve! Vision Award and named a 2018 Enterprising Woman of the Year. Her most recent book, "Chasing Perfection- Shatter the Illusion; Minimize Self-Doubt & Maximize Success," is available now.