How to Stay Motivated and Moving Forward During an Extended Job Search

By Jamy J. Sullivan, J.D.,
Robert Half 


It can be hard to stay positive when you’re in the middle of a job search that seems to never end. After applying and interviewing for role after role, even the most resilient legal professionals can get discouraged. Here are six tips to help you stay upbeat and keep moving forward.

1. Evaluate your job search process

Reflect on the main steps in the search process for jobs in the legal field — researching firms and positions, tailoring your resume and cover letter, networking with legal professionals, interviews and salary negotiations. At which stage are things stalling or not progressing as expected? For example, are you sending out numerous resumes but not receiving any responses? Or maybe you’re being invited to interviews but not getting any callbacks. Once you identify where the process is breaking down, you can take targeted steps to fix it.

2. Streamline your search

While online applications make it easy to send out numerous resumes quickly, this may result in a scattergun approach detrimental to your job search and confidence. Instead, invest time researching only the most promising opportunities.

Also determine which practice areas are currently in high demand or have the best growth potential. Explore specific sectors known for stability, such as healthcare, intellectual property or data privacy. Familiarize yourself with the latest legal hiring trends. Also, consider attending legal conferences, webinars or networking events to better understand the current hiring landscape — and perhaps uncover job opportunities you hadn’t thought of.

3. Seek constructive feedback if possible

If you’ve been turned down for a position, it’s natural to feel disappointed. But you can transform this setback into a learning opportunity by trying to find the recruiter or manager you worked with who’s willing to give you constructive feedback on your application.

If possible, arrange a time for a brief phone call — you’ll learn more from a two-way conversation than an email. Ask what aspects of your application were strong, but also inquire about the skills or experiences they feel you could improve upon. Seek their advice for developing your capabilities in those areas; they may be able to recommend legal-specific or developmental resources. Keep the conversation concise and professional: resist the temptation to relitigate your case and remember to thank them for their time and feedback.

4. Focus on what you can control

It’s easy to become overwhelmed and anxious about factors beyond your control, such as when and whether a company will get back to you. Instead of dwelling on these uncertainties, concentrate on actions you can take to improve your job search.

Following are some ideas. Optimize your resume by incorporating relevant legal keywords and formatting to pass through the applicant tracking system (ATS) software many law firms and organizations use in the early hiring stages. If you’re granted an interview, prepare by researching the firm or company, understanding its practice areas and rehearsing tailored responses. Pursue continuing legal education courses, legal writing workshops and specialized certifications within your field of interest to enhance your skills and marketability. Also, consider doing pro bono work to not only help those in need but also keep your skills sharp.

5. Treat yourself to some self-care

It’s not uncommon for legal professionals to feel they can’t afford to relax until they secure a position. However, an extended job search can take a toll on your mental well-being, so practicing self-care is crucial. 

Whether reading a book on a topic you’re passionate about, going for a walk to clear your mind or trying out a new recipe, engage in activities that help you decompress and maintain balance. Connect with supportive friends, family or colleagues within the legal community who can provide encouragement and help you stay optimistic and motivated throughout your search. 

6. Partner with a talent solutions specialist

Consider working with a recruiter can be a valuable asset in your job search. Talent solutions firms like Robert Half don’t charge for their services and they can also help job seekers secure contract work. This approach can help you alleviate financial stress and build your skills and experience level.  

Jamy J. Sullivan is executive director of the legal practice at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized talent solutions firm. Robert Half offers contract, temporary and permanent placement solutions, and is the parent company of Protiviti®, a global consulting firm. Visit