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With the economy woes of the past several years, most of us have either experienced unemployment or know someone who has. Our clients come to us with stress and anxiety over the loss of a career or the struggle to find work.  Often they express feeling "stuck" and a lack of motivation. This article will give you some tips for staying motivated and focused when out of work.

1) Take a little time to regroup.
The key phrase here is "a little time." Being let go from a job, laid off, or seeing your position eliminated can be stressful and upsetting. Initially, it's okay to take a few days to recover from the change, process the initial feelings, and then gear up for the changes ahead.

2) Set goals.
Will you be looking for a new job? Enrolling in school ? Going for an extra certificate in your field? Now is the time to formulate a plan and come up with some goals. Decide what you would like to accomplish, both short- and long-term. What's on the agenda for tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Planning this out will help define your course and keep you on track.

3) Stick to a schedule.
Once your new status has begun to sink in, it's time to get back in the game. Start this process by creating a schedule to follow during your transition period. Without a job to report to each day, it's easy to stay up late, sleep in, and generally get off track. Each week day, set your alarm, get up, take a shower, and get dressed. In the evenings, get to bed at your normal time and plan for a good night's sleep.

4) Write it down, check it off.
If you don't have a day planner, now is the time to get one. Even printing up some weekly schedules on your computer will serve as a way to help you plan out your day and add some structure.  Write down your tasks, no matter how trivial they may seem. When you finish a task, check it off the list. Tasks may include activities related to your job search, such as "Send out five resumes today. Mail 'thank you' note for yesterday's interview."  No steps are too small as long as you are moving forward.

5) Don't isolate.
Keep in touch with friends and family. Make time to see others, even just for a quick cup of coffee. "But I am such a downer right now...I feel like all I do is complain. And forget meeting new people....when someone asks me 'What do you do?' – what am I supposed to say?" This is a normal reaction to being unemployed. Our jobs are part of our identities, and we can feel lost without them. Your loved ones can be a great support right now.

6) Network.
Career Counselors call this the "Five Foot Rule" – tell everyone within five feet you are looking for a new job!  Schedule time to go to workshops and meetings in your field, volunteer to help with an event, find a mentor or offer to be one. Social networking on the internet can be helpful. Sites like Twitter and LinkedIn can help you meet other people in your area of interest. Reach out – you never know what you will find!

The tips here can also apply to those who are underemployed, have gone back to school, or work from home. There are a number of situations where it's easy to lose motivation.

What activities keep you motivated? What worked for you? Feel free to share in comments!

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