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Top Motivational '80s Songs to Drive Your Job Search

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Lists of generally inspirational '80s pop/rock songs can be long and plentiful, but I thought it might be interesting in these times of layoffs and economic crisis to pick out the ones best suited to galvanize a job search. It takes a special kind of song to make that difficult state of joblessness a little more bearable, and I think the following well-known and obscure tunes take on a new level of meaning once applied to this topic. Of course, such selections are strongly subjective, as one man's dose of welcome perspective could be another's discouragement. In short, chin up, fellow job seekers.

1. Supertramp - "Take the Long Way Home"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of A&M Records
Though released as a single during the latter months of 1979, I think this song hung around deep enough into the new decade to qualify as an '80s tune. Even better, it's a peppy arena rock piano ditty with wry, world-weary lyrics well-suited to the particular absurdities and frustrations of a job hunt. The title's advice sounds like a communal, far-reaching pat on the back urging us to keep going through the tough times. Lyrical excerpts like "there are times that you feel you're part of the scenery" and "your wife seems to think you're part of the furniture" echo close to home when it comes to the magnified sense of scrutiny and apparent status as commodity that one tends to feel when trying to find a new job. A great song about endurance.

2. Orange Juice - "Rip It Up"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Domino
Despite its clear reference to a romantic relationship, this 1983 track from the Edwyn Collins-fronted Scottish post-punk band captures the starting-over, reset button mentality that inevitably makes itself necessary during a loss of employment. Often, such a major life change stems from traumatic developments, ranging from being fired or laid off to, just as likely, reaching a point of no return in a job full of misery and lowering the axe oneself. Collins' affected, nasal croon resembles Bryan Ferry's voice, and the eclectic nature of this song likewise echoes the work of Ferry's band, Roxy Music. "I hope to God you're not as dumb as you make out," Collins sings, and it's hard not to see various workplace applications for such a phrase.

3. Matthew Wilder - "Break My Stride"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Collectables
This one-hit wonder is familiar to '80s music fans, but it's hard to characterize its bouncy, reggae/synth pop strains as anything other than infectious. While it depends wholly on perspective as to whether you see this more as a plague-like contagion or a welcome bug of optimism, an effect of some kind is undeniable. The song's titular stance of defiance works well as a description of the Teflon kind of approach job searches require. Being unemployed, even for a short time, takes a discernible toll on all but the most confident, well-adjusted and (let's face it) annoying individuals among us. So Wilder's call for perseverance feels like sensible advice for those of us who may feel the indignities of unemployment like a kick to the face.

4. John Farnham - "You're the Voice"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of BMG
If you happen to respond well to hammy, over-the-top inspiration in your musical selections, it's hard to go wrong with this 1986 power ballad, brought forth by former teen idol and Little River Band vocalist Farnham. If you take your motivation best by way of hammer-inflicted lumps to the head or other less than subtle means, you might just find yourself adrenalized by the song's self-actualizing exhortations to "make a noise and make it clear, We're not gonna sit in silence, we're not gonna live with fear." On the other hand, if you've never really cared for the music from the Karate Kid films, then it could be advisable to steer clear of this one. Either way, embrace the "chance to turn the pages over" that your job search brings.

5. John Parr - "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Atlantic/WEA
"Soldier on, Only you can do what must be done," Parr the career counselor tells us in one of this rousing tune's many inspiring lyrical passages. In just the first verse alone, in fact, Parr and co-writer David Foster drop another couple of whoppers on us, in "Play the game, You know you can't quit until it's won" and "In some ways you're a lot like me, You're just a prisoner, and you're trying to break free." On top of the irresistible pop/rock structure of the melody and arrangement, this song, originally written as a tribute to wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen, continues to redefine the art of chest-swelling rock anthems. After all, that reference to a "new horizon underneath the blazin' sky" must make life coaches everywhere salivate.
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