Searching for a job presents many psychological challenges. You are in the difficult position of having to convince the world of what a terrific, positive, energetic person you are, at precisely a time in your life when you might be feeling particularly anxious and insecure. You may be worried about finances or about losing your skill set. As a refugee or immigrant, you may struggle to communicate effectively in English, or you may be confused by some American customs or ways of doing things. It is important not to ignore the emotional toll these challenges can take on you, because you cannot be an effective job applicant if you do not find ways to cope with your feelings.
One of the biggest challenges during a job search is simply not to let yourself become discouraged. Especially if you have been searching for a long time and don’t feel like you are making progress toward your goals, it’s easy to fall into a downward cycle in which your motivation lags. Everyone has down days, but as difficult as it can be to maintain a positive outlook overall, you don’t want to let a negative mindset stop your efforts.
It is an integral part of your current job as a job seeker to foster optimism. Remember, as you look for a job, you are selling a product, and that product is yourself: your skills, education, and experience, of course; but also your attitude and ability to contribute with positive energy and enthusiasm. You don’t want to do all the work of earning the opportunity (an interview) to demonstrate your product (yourself), and then not present that product in the best possible light. It doesn’t matter how professionally you dress, or how impressive your credentials are: If you project a depressed or cynical attitude, you will likely not be called back.
There are numerous approaches to keeping up morale and momentum, but they all come back to one thing: self-care. Only you can identify what might cause your spirits and motivation to lag at any given time, so you need to arm yourself with the tools to cope with obstacles and dig yourself out of difficult spots.
Make the Process More Appealing
Create and maintain a workspace that is comfortable and inviting.
- Make your work surface and seat as comfortable as possible.
- Hang photos with inspirational sayings. (You might even enjoy creating these yourself.)
- Office supplies can be surprisingly motivating. Find a pen you like to write with, and stock up on things that will make it easier to stay organized and on-task, such as a notebook, paper-and binder-clips, a stapler, file folders, a three-ring binder and hole-punch, post-it notes – whatever works best for you, and, ideally, all in colors you enjoy.
- Pay attention to lighting. Ensure you have clean, even work light by investing in an inexpensive desk lamp.
- Use an atomizer or room spray with a fresh, mind-clearing scent like eucalyptus or mint to focus your senses.
- Consider soft music or white noise, especially if you need to block out distracting sounds.
Cope with Set-Backs
Maybe you got called back for a second interview and felt like you were really in the running for a job, but in the end, it didn’t come through. Or maybe you took a chance and asked an acquaintance to help you make contact with a hiring manager at your dream company, and that person turned you down.
Any setback in a job search is going to be painful, because we can’t help but feel it as a personal rejection. But in reality, chances are that, from the other person’s viewpoint, personal rejection had nothing to do with it.
Try to remember that everyone has different needs they are trying to fill. You need a job; employers need to continue to run their business while bringing in new hires with the least possible risk to their company and to their own jobs. Acquaintances might be overwhelmed with their own professional or personal concerns and simply not have the time or energy to be helpful. Many factors contribute to whether or not you get what you ask for. Focus on taking positive steps to do your best with what you can control, and let go of the rest.
Sometimes we really have to remind ourselves that good things happen in life, and that it really is worth it to persevere toward our dreams. You may be able to find the inspiration you need by reading articles or books, or watching videos or movies, about people who “made it”. This can be especially helpful if their stories are in some way similar to your own, or if they had to overcome significant hardship to reach their goals.
Another possible source of encouragement is to connect with other job seekers. Just be careful to avoid negativity. It can be healthy once in a while to commiserate about the difficulties of the job search, but you will benefit yourself and others much more by engaging in positive, problem-solving conversations.
Finally, a mentor (or several) can both guide you in ways that will improve your chances for success, and probably also share a story or two about times in their own career when they had to overcome obstacles. If you don’t have a mentor already, you may be able to find one through LinkedIn or Facebook (especially if you join and participate in groups), or through your place of worship or social circles.
Take Care of Yourself -- Mind, Body, and Soul
Preparing fresh, healthy food requires some planning and takes time away from active job search tasks; but the food needn’t be complicated, and shopping for and prepping it can be welcome breaks from the phone and computer screen. Listen to music or watch a favorite show while you cook, or cook with your family for some quality time.
This is critical to your ability to cope with difficulty and to present your best self in the job search process. If you are having trouble sleeping, try to figure out why. Light from alarm clocks and other electronic devices can interfere with sleep, as can a noisy environment. If necessary, wear a sleep mask and/or ear plugs.
Try not to work in the bedroom (or at least not on the bed), and establish bedtime rituals that help you disconnect from the concerns of the day, such as a bath, a cup of herbal tea, or reading for pleasure. If you are really struggling with insomnia, talk to your doctor. Good sleep is essential.
Don’t neglect your inner child: Pursue a hobby you enjoy. Far from being a waste of time, hobbies tap our natural curiosity and bring out the best in us. They also augment problem-solving skills, which you might apply to your job search without even realizing it.
You can connect with fellow-enthusiasts through www.meetup.com. If you don’t already have a hobby, this can also be a great place to explore some options, from canoeing or rock climbing, to cooking, to working with Arduinos, playing music or chess – There are many, many options. Having a hobby as an outlet provides an opportunity to socialize, and is a great way to recharge your batteries. (Plus, you never know what connections you might make!) (See also “Five Ways to Enhance Your Skills While in Job Search”)
Walk It Out/Feed Your Soul
Of course, more vigorous exercise has its place, too, but going for a walk without the objective of physical fitness is one of the most effective ways of clearing your mind and de-stressing. Alternatively, meditate, practice yoga or tai chi, pray, and/or attend your place of worship.
Talk It Out
You may not want to worry your spouse, but sometimes nothing is more effective than sharing your fears and concerns with a loved one. On the other hand, you may sometimes need a more objective ear, perhaps someone you find through a support group for job seekers or refugees, or someone from your place of worship.
It can be difficult to open up and let others see our weaknesses. Remember that we all have our struggles, and letting yourself be vulnerable can take pressure off you, and enhance your relationships.
Write It Out
You don’t have to write long entries, and they don’t have to be good writing or anything you would want anyone else to read. Writing is one of the best ways to purge negative thoughts and to gain perspective. There are no rules for journaling: Let it be the tool you need it to be.
Nurture Your Own Success
It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that your current circumstances are not permanent, and that it is in your power to alter them. Give yourself credit for your efforts, and remember that self-care is the opposite of selfish: It’s how you ensure that you can make your best possible contribution to your family, to your job search, and, ultimately, to your new job.
It may help to think of it this way: Your job search is your current job. And a big part of your job description is to take care of your product -- you!