How to Stay Motivated When Unemployed

Hurley 1000 Wins Basketball
AP/Julio CortezCoach Bob Hurley Sr. in 2011 after his 1,000th career basketball win.

It's hard to stay inspired when on the job hunt. One source for encouragement can come from sports coaches, the team managers who keep players performing at peak even when confronted by seemingly insurmountable odds. Recently, I had the opportunity to hear a famous coach present his philosophy for success at the New Jersey Travel Industry Annual Conference in Atlantic City. Although his speech was meant to motivate travel and tourism professionals, it held wisdom for job seekers in any industry.

The coach, Bob Hurley, Sr., is known for coaching basketball at what's known as the "most dominant high school team in the country." Hurley has been heard to admit that he has little career motivation himself, having stayed at St. Anthony's High School in Jersey City for close to four decades. But if Hurley is known for anything, it's his high, not low, ability to motivate others as shown by his 2010 induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Hurley's teams are built from the ranks of students frequently considered as most at-risk from less than stellar urban neighborhoods. But, through team-play and personal inspiration, the school has won 25 state championships, had five undefeated seasons, been the subject of the book The Miracle of St. Anthony, featured on an HBO special, and most recently been the center of a CBS 60 minutes piece.

Hurley was an odd keynote speaker in a conference largely dominated by state political and travel industry pundits. But after he spoke, I understood the rationale. The travel industry in New Jersey has been hard hit not only from the recession, but a series of bad weather occurrences including Superstorm Sandy.

Hurley's message is to take personal PRIDE in creating opportunities and maximizing our abilities particularly when faced with seemingly insurmountable adversities largely out of our control. In New Jersey, Superstorm Sandy was out of the travel industry's control, but the response to it, and determination to recover was not. As a result, NJ travel and tourism had a banner year in 2013, ranks as the 5th largest industry in the state, and saw positive growth from 2012 to 2013 despite all odds and projections to the contrary.

The Coach's message also resonates with job seekers regardless of industry because Hurley's PRIDE is actually an acronym. Here's how he defines it:

P = Practice. Practice makes perfect, and no one expects an athlete, job seeker, or any goal seeker to do it right just out of the gate. Everything, including interviewing skills, resume writing, and personal presentations, requires ongoing and consistent Practice.

R = Repetition. Accordingly to Hurley, the basics need to be repeated over and over again. Even top-performing athletes have to continuously repeat basic moves to keep them fresh. No matter how expert a player may be in advanced moves, the basics are required in every game.

I = Imitation. Find people who have achieved what you desire and imitate them. How did they find their success? It wasn't overnight, and by patterning your search or career after them, you can start to also mimic their results.

D = Determination. Each person has to dig deep to find his or her personal determination to be the best he or she can be. "The world," Hurley stated, "is filled with extraordinary people who accomplished nothing." Hurley puts higher value on average people determined to succeed than so-called "naturals" who don't put in the time and effort to ensure success.

E = Enthusiasm. Hurley states he can sense enthusiasm from the moment a player approaches. He wants to see a spark in potential players that makes him believe, as the coach, that there's nowhere else in the world the athlete would prefer to be.

If you're currently unemployed, take some tips from the Coach who specializes in creating dreams for teens who felt they had no future. Don't feel powerless even when the concept of ending a year with a win seems far-fetched. When the odds of success seem insurmountable, don't indulge in disillusionment, dismay, or isolate yourself.

None of these are cornerstones of a success. Instead, consider the tenets of Coach Bob Hurley. Take Pride in yourself, and recognize that being unemployed is just a recent loss. It may be a defeat, but it's not the whole game. It just means you've got to get up, dust off, practice, and get ready for the next opportunity to get called back into the game.