9.1 Two Types of Motivation Relating to the Job Search

Learning Objectives

  1. Become aware of the importance of motivation to the job search.
  2. Anticipate the areas within the job search where motivation is needed.
  3. Start thinking about how you have handled motivation in the past and what you can use from past experience or what needs to change.

There are two types of motivation in your job search:

  1. Long-term motivation over the duration of your job search
  2. Short-term motivation for a specific job search event, such as a networking meeting, interview, or offer negotiation

Each type of motivation requires different energy and focus, and, therefore, a different strategy. It is similar to taking two different classes—one where the emphasis is on weekly exams versus another where the grade rests on research papers. The way that you prepare for each class will be different. The pace at which you do your work will differ. In a job search, the weekly exams are the networking meetings and interviews (in fact, you will have more than one exam during the busy weeks of your search). Getting from job idea to job offer is a long-term project, akin to a multiweek research paper.

Long-Term Motivation

To retain long-term motivation for your job search overall, you need to take certain actions:

  • Pace yourself and move through the process.
  • Push past the ups and downs, and do not get discouraged by the inevitable disappointments during the job search.
  • Stay focused on the end goal of ultimately securing job offers.

Long-term motivation is the marathon aspect of your job search. If you are experienced at long-term projects, such as big research papers, then you can apply your experience and know-how about pacing and scheduling to your job search. If you are a better student in the weekly exam class model, then you need to periodically remind yourself of your overall job search goals. Select from the specific strategies for maintaining long-term motivation later in this chapter.

A good example of maintaining long-term motivation is the case of Emily G., a class of 2008 undergraduate who was interested in the media industry and had moved to New York City after college in Pennsylvania. Her job search took over a year, during which time she held a series of internshipsA job set up for the purpose of learning or developing the intern. While the employer also benefits, the difference between an internship and a regular job is that the primary purpose of the internship should be the intern’s development. and part-time jobs, all while conducting her search. She graduated during a serious downturn in the economy. She received two offers that were rescinded, through no fault of her own, because the budget for those positions was cut. It took over a year, but her third offer finally stuck, and she is happily employed at a major media company in human resources.

Short-Term Motivation

In addition to long-term motivation, individual situations in the job search, such as a job interview, call for increased energy and focus. For every job interview, you will need to be at your best, regardless of whether the commute to the interview was tiring, whether you woke up feeling a bit down, or whether you stubbed your toe on the reception desk right after you walked in at your appointed time. This short-term motivation provides an immediate and necessary boost to whatever is the focus of your search right now.

There are many instances across your job search where you need to harness short-term motivation:

  • Each and every job interview (and most companies will have multiple rounds for one job opening)
  • Each and every networking meeting
  • Career fairsAn event where companies and organizations exhibit their information and job openings.
  • Professional group meetings or mixersAn event set up for the purpose of enabling people to meet each other, to mix and mingle.
  • Phone calls to your target companies (e.g., for information, for a status update)
  • Offer and salary negotiations

If you are a better student in the research paper class or you like to ease into a situation, then you need to ramp up your preparation for the high-stakes events like job interviews. Prospective employers form impressions very early in the process. You will not have the first five minutes of an interview to ease into it. Your interviewer will already have an opinion of you from meeting you at reception or from the small talk you make at the start of the interview.

A good example of maintaining short-term motivation is the case of K. V., an experienced executive who was negotiating an end to her contractA legal agreement. Most employment does not require contracts between employers and employees, but for very senior roles you will see employment agreements, or contracts. at a major firm while negotiating a new role at another one, all while continuing to do her high-profile management job. K. V. would often have very different types of meetings in the same day, from contentious negotiations with her bosses to enthusiastic sales meetings with her future bosses. She had to maintain composure and advocate hard for herself in a severance negotiation, and then turn around and be cheery for an offer negotiation. She was able to be at her best in each scenario, came to an amicable end with her former employer, and is now enjoying a bigger role at her new employer.

Key Takeaways

  • There are two types of motivation, long-term and short-term, each playing a critical role in your job search.
  • Long-term job search motivation is akin to a multiweek research project, while short-term motivation is more like weekly class exams.


  1. Do you do better with exams or research papers? Based on this, on what areas of the job search will you pay particular attention so that nothing falls through the cracks?
  2. Do you prefer exams or research papers? This gives you an indication of what areas you may enjoy in your job search.
  3. How do you currently prepare for exams or research papers? What strengths do you have in one or both areas that you can bring to your job search?
  4. What bad habits or tendencies do you need to avoid, for example, procrastination, nervousness?