09/05/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

What is Work? Feeling Well-Paid From Your Job Search

The last few posts in this series on work have focused on folks who have created custom-fit jobs by following their passion.

But what happens when your passion for employment meets with a "Maybe Later, Maybe Never?" from the world?

Freelancers and job-seekers can spend the workday seeking work, earning a weary brain, tired body and no Benjamins to show for it.

It's a queasy-making situation on many levels. Which may be why so many folks seem to avoid the question entirely. When I posted a query online, asking experts to help job-seekers feel well-paid while job-searching, many of the replies I received skipped the "unpaid" part of the question entirely.

Seeking work is a job, the experts said. And job seekers needed to work-work-work at it!

"But how do we keep mind, soul and body afloat during those times when the job of looking for work doesn't pay?" I asked.

Here are some wise replies from career professionals around the country. These tips may not turn a "No" into a "Yes." But they can help us reformat our brain's old "labor for dollars" work paradigm into a form that supports our search.

Get Rich in People

Business strategist Kathi Elster aand psychotherapist Katherine Crowley are partners in NYC officeplace consultancy K Squared Enterprises. They're also the co-authors of two books on dealing with lunatic situations and co-workers.

Kathi suggests that job seekers measure the success of a search in terms of the smart, kind, inspiring and otherwise great people we meet along the way.

(This change of outlook could not only make a job search feel more rewarding, I believe. It could cure "Network Night Anxiety/Blues," a painful emotional state that isn't in the DSM IV...yet.)

Kathi writes:

To feel emotionally well-paid for looking for work:

1. See job hunting as an adventure in building new relationships and
investigating what different companies are doing.

2. Interviewing offers the hope of a possible job, or other opportunities/

3. The greatest reward when job hunting is the network of people you
develop in the process.

Appreciate Who You Are

Career coach Julie Bauke hails from Loveland, OH. Her suggestion for feeling well-paid without a checkbook returns to the central theme of this series: passion.

Julie writes:

Mentally redefine "paid" as "beyond money". Figure out what your needs are -- appreciation, giving, spirituality, physical fitness, etc. -- and create ways to get those needs met while you are looking. Look to fulfill the needs that you tend to ignore while you're working. You will come out on the other end of this period of unemployment better, stronger, happier.

Reward Yourself For A Job Well Done

L.A. Psychotherapist Nancy Irwin advises us to create our own version of pay:

She writes:

1. Money is a social construct. It doesn't really exist. So make up your own system of rewarding yourself for every resume you send out, every follow-up phone call you make, every job fair you attend, etc.

2. Your job is looking for a job, so be at your home office desk from 9-5, and take a lunch break. This way you will feel like you are a professional still working and your body will keep up the same rhythm.

3. During those hours, you search, write, email, call, attend job fairs, networking meetings, etc. Keep a log of each "seed" you plant. Of course the more you plant, the more will bloom. It's all a numbers game, as any gardener or farmer will tell you!

4. When you reach your goal (i.e., 50 seeds planted), cash in your 50 points and reward yourself with something you can afford; a movie, fresh flowers, ice cream cone, etc. It's very important to send positive reinforcements to your body and psyche that you are working. It's especially important to do this when you are not getting any results. This is when most people give up. Winners keep on planting seeds and trusting.

View the Story Backwards, From Your Big Goal to Now

Rivka Kawano, president of Life Train, creator of job-hunting materials, in Grand Rapids, MI:

1) Keep in mind your goals and why you are doing what you are doing. Do you hope for a better future? Like the flexibility that this lifestyle provides you? Know there is something great just over the next peak? Always be mindful of where you are trying to go and getting there will not seem so hard.

2) Learn from every experience. Had another interview flop when you were really hoping for that job or a competitor picked on your recent bid? Rather than chalking it up to bad luck or beating yourself up for another failure what can you learn?

3) Surround yourself with supportive and positive people. You really do not need anyone asking you yet again "when are you going to get a REAL job?" Seek out friendships that will be understanding and provide helpful insight and encouragement. This doesn't mean don't listen to advice from knowledgeable people who can help. But there is a difference between someone working with you and guiding you towards success and someone just being a naysayer. It is up to you to know the difference.

These tips are great tools for reframing the brain as we continue to job-search.

Yes, it's hard to reframe when our bank account won't let us a buy the wood to build the frame, much less a hammer. But there are ways to reframe that idea, too.

One clever answer to finding paychecks between Paychecks in our next post...