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How To Encourage Persistence...

When it comes to the topic of persistence, there are platitudes aplenty. We’ve all heard the old adage, “When at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Then there is the timeworn quote attributed to former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley that goes, “Ambition is the path to success; persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.” These snippets of advice sound nice, but they don’t do much good for somebody who is in need of some actual, real-life persistence.

For example, try one of these tidbits on a struggling job seeker. You’ll find that they have tried and tried again multiple times over, submitting application after application to no avail. It will become apparent that ambition is not an issue either; all the motivation in the world isn’t seeming to make this ‘vehicle’ appear.

Rejection will cause the persistence of even the most resolute individuals to give way to frustration or even despair, and when it does the encouragement of a job counselor is crucial. At Daily Work, we’ve found three things that help keep job seekers coming back, but our discoveries can apply to any life area that requires dedication and persistence.

1. Give a reason to come back next time.

If a job seeker’s only purpose at an employment agency like Daily Work is to search for jobs, then frustration is bound to set in quickly. Job searching is hard! Rejections happen, and they happen often. Job counselors have to anticipate that landing a job takes some time, and they must give their job seekers a reason to come back and engage in more frustrating, energy-sucking job hunting.

One way we use to ensure that job seekers come back next time is by building a relationship with them. We spend time at every meeting with the job seekers asking about their weekend, or their children, or their dog—whatever! Have them share some life with you, and share some back, too. Make them feel heard, like they have somebody on their side in the often demoralizing job searching process. Having an ally will give a job seeker a reason to keep showing up. After all, like Woody Allen says, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

2. Set small goals first.

Of course, securing new or better employment is the goal of everybody who walks through Daily Work’s doors. But setting sights on one, big goal is like picking up a dart for the first time and expecting to hit the bullseye — you have to get on the board first and steadily work toward the center.

I like to start small: having job seekers set up email addresses and check them on their own is often an appropriate beginning. Then you can ask them to find two jobs they might want to apply for.

After submitting an application, I often see if a job seeker feels comfortable enough to follow up and call that employer to confirm the submission. You’ll quickly find that these mini goals are steadily leading a job seeker toward the target. Record each goal as the job seeker reaches it; the confidence boost he or she will feel after completing goals will be palpable.

3. Showcase success stories.

When I was in junior high, I lived to play basketball. Even so, when my coach told me that I needed to shoot 100 shots each night to improve, I disregarded the advice. ‘He just wants to make my life hard,’ I thought. But when I saw Kevin Garnett, my boyhood idol, say on TV that his untouchable baseline fadeaway was perfected only after thousands of hours logged in the gym shooting, that did it. I went out to my driveway every night and hoisted shot after shot after shot, going well into the evening until I could no longer see the rim. I wanted badly to be like KG.

Sometimes coaches can be pests. Despite efforts to call the best out of their players, there are limits to how much motivation a coach can inspire. Job counselors — or ‘job coaches,’ if you will — face the same limitation. The simple truth is that job seekers will respond to a peer who has struggled through unemployment and landed a job better than responding to a job coach. That’s one reason Daily Work highlights successful job seekers on its’ website. Direct job seekers to Daily Work’s website and its success stories, or better yet, introduce them to a successful job holder who was once in their shoes. Seeing flesh-and-blood proof of the benefits of persistence will inspire them to persist in achieving their goals. Do you have a strategy for persistence? If so, please share it with us.

Jacob Ruff

Jacob Ruff, Social Work Intern

One Response to "How To Encourage Persistence"

  • Joel Hagen
    December 17, 2013 - 3:10 pm Reply

    Jacob, well done post. You’ve got some solid writing skills and buckets of empathy, which should take you far in helping others.

    My strategy for persistence was to keep reminding myself that there are lots of talented job seekers out there, and the rejection isn’t personal even when it feels entirely so. Also had to remind myself that I was fighting on for my wife. Love helps get through the toughest challenges.

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