Increasing the Motivation of Entry Level Workers to Job Search

By Julie LaCroix

Stop the Spinning, Start the Steps Forward
So many students graduate not knowing what direction to go with their degrees, what fields to consider, or where to start looking for a job. Not surprisingly, motivation is low and frustration is high.

Professionals and parents give great advice: Network! Talk to people! Go on informational interviews! Work on your resume! This is all excellent advice . . . the best practices, in fact, for setting up their first job search. However it lacks the secret ingredient – Motivation.

Each of us as career professionals can help young job seekers adjust their cycle from ‘spinning in circles’ to taking steps forward by focusing on 2 simple things:
(1) Work they enjoy
(2) Skills confidence

Once a job seeker identifies work they think they would enjoy, and realizes they are confident using the skills it takes to perform entry-level work in that field, you, as their career professional, have a starting place.
1. Build rapport to create a positive, relaxed dynamic. Normalize their anxiety by sharing that almost all young adults start careers without a clear direction.
2. Reduce anxiety by restating and reframing the problem. Teach the client they are looking for a successful starting career point, not an entire career.
3. Promote exploration. Lead a career interview to determine their past experiences in work, leisure and learning.
4. Analyze experiences by asking questions: “What did you do that solved a problem or fulfilled a need? What were the specific tasks you performed?” Help the client learn to break down their general experience into specific tasks, and develop the language to describe their experience.
5. Determine skills confidence. Ask questions such as “On a scale of 1-10 how confident are you doing that?” Or, “If you had the chance to do that again, do you believe you would do well?”

Case Study
The following is an actual case study from my private practice as a career counselor. This is a summary of many sessions, culminating in the method described above to identify:
(1) Work the client enjoys
(2) Skills confidence.

Janelle is a recent college graduate with a degree in Child Development, extensive volunteer experience and excellent communication skills. Her personal strengths are her communication skills, attentiveness, and empathic nature. Through her volunteerism she has expressed her concern for and desire to help children in need. She has also organized many of the events in which she has participated, giving her basic event planning, program planning and coordination skills.

We isolated practitioner fields which Janelle could pursue with her degree, but she was clear she did not want to advance into graduate school and develop practitioner skills. As she reflected on why she pursued this degree, the people she met through volunteering, and the role she played as more than just a volunteer but as a program leader, she formulated a career goal to work professionally in the field of non-profit.

She was able to secure an unpaid internship and after six months came back to me to get help finding paid opportunities in non-profits. She had advanced her program planning and coordination skills, and we researched the field of Corporate Giving. She became familiarized with the field by researching the professional organizations, specific job descriptions in companies, and current Corporate Giving trends. We concluded: 

(1) She found work she enjoys: Her excitement grew and I asked her to scale her interest in working in this field on a 1-10 scale. She answered 9.
(2) Skills confidence: Then I asked her to scale her belief in her abilities to perform the required duties of an entry level job in this field and she also scored herself a 9.

I then asked, “Given you are highly interested in this field, and have a strong skills confidence for it, what does this tell you?”
And the rest is history. She successfully entered her chosen field.

Summary of the Simple Method to Motivation
This method promotes career identity development, clarifies career direction, crystallizes entry points to careers, and increases motivation by:

  • Teaching clients more about their profile as a worker
  • Increasing the intrinsic value and relevance of their past experiences
  • Highlighting the fact that “career” is a combination of experiences in work, leisure and learning
  • Revealing their interests, related skills, and the tasks they enjoy and want to perform
  • Building a language for articulating their skills and abilities
  • Pinpointing a starting place and increasing momentum to job searching.

It’s a simple method, which can be used with workers at all stages of career, but is especially helpful for young job seekers with limited work experience. All experience is relevant, and skills are easy to find. Be sure to find tasks they have been successful performing which also have been interesting and enjoyable. This is the key to helping them move forward.


Julie LacroixJulie LaCroix, M.A. Ed. is a Career Counselor with a busy private practice serving adults of all ages in Southern California. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from UC Irvine, an M.A. in Educational Counseling from Azusa Pacific University, and the Master Career Counselor designation from the National Career Development Association. She can be reached at julie@julielacroix.com

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