By Tim Rose

When I graduated in 2011 with a masters degree in human rights law, I was quite certain that it would only be a few months before I found what every new graduate hopes for—a stable job and the support I needed to build a career.

Sure, I knew that my disability made me different, but I didn’t think it made me any less employable. I felt as though I had done everything properly, from a résumé full of volunteer experience to a long list of committees and extracurricular activities that I’d been involved with at university. By every reckoning, I was set up for success.

But that success did not arrive for a long time. My job search lasted weeks, then months—then years. My confidence was replaced by doubt, and optimism was replaced by desperation. The biggest struggle was to stay motivated. Just how do you keep yourself engaged and excited about joining a labour force that doesn’t seem to want you?

Today, I am fortunate enough to have found a role in which I can excel and grow. However, I know that my story of long-term struggles and my understandable loss of motivation along the way was (and is) not unique. The bottom line is that the daily motivation to keep going during an extended career search is not an easy thing to dig deep for. As such, I would like to offer a few pieces of advice from my own experience.

Be supported
First off, surround yourself with a support system. Whether that’s friends, family or even a local activity group that you’re a part of, putting yourself at the centre of a network of people who care about you lightens the load. Reach out to whoever makes you feel good about yourself as often as you need to. Lean on them when you’re feeling at your lowest, and don’t be ashamed to do so. Without my support system, I would not have made it through my four-year journey.

Network
Remember that job opportunities can come from anywhere. I know that networking can be exhausting, particularly for those of us who need accessible spaces. When I was at the peak of my frustration with my job search, I decided to start my own consulting company. I had no idea where it would lead, but it gave me a reason to get out and meet people. One of the people I met was the executive director of the organization where I now work. My point: Doors can open anywhere at anytime, but you must have the stamina and wherewithall to find and go through them.

Allow your feelings
The last piece of advice is the one I consider the most important. My key to maintaining motivation and the energy to keep going was giving myself permission to get frustrated sometimes. Don’t let your frustration build to a point that it explodes. Be OK with having some bad days. Accept that you can’t be 100 per cent motivated in your career search every second of every day. Motivation needs to come from within and, in my experience, it will never come if you shy away from letting your emotions take over every once in awhile. Take things in short spurts. Pick yourself back up again and keep going. That way, you will stay fresh and energized.

To me, motivation when job hunting is like trying to keep a campfire going during a rainstorm. It can be tough, and sometimes seems absolutely pointless. But each person will nurture his or her own tricks for keeping the fire going. And everyone will feel a lot better about the situation if the fire stays lit. I hope that my thoughts have added a few logs to your fire.

Tim Rose is the Diversity Project Lead at Magnet, an innovative job matching service for people with disabilities. Visit the website magnet.today.