Recent statistics indicate job growth is slow to non-existent. This does not mean that there are no jobs available. It does mean that there are still too few available jobs for the amount of people in the market. Inevitably, this leads to a stress-inducing increase in the length of time it takes to find a job. Some of you have been able to find a job within just a few months after a lay off, while for others it is taking up to 18 months and even longer.
Born out of this already bleak employment climate is what is being referred to as "unemployment discrimination." Unemployment discrimination occurs when an employer deems a candidate unqualified on the basis of how long they have been out of work. Fortunately, Barack Obama has already addressed this on a federal level by including in his AJA legislation clauses that make discrimination illegal based on length of unemployment.
Personally, I can't think of many situations that can be as confidence-deflating as trying to find a job. Multiply that by the number of months you've been looking for work, and number of people in the market, and your self-esteem may be taking a significant blow.
With the persistence of this economic and employment climate it becomes critical that someone engaged in a job search manage themselves effectively on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to help avoid what could otherwise be a very demoralizing experience.
Below I offer seven tips to help you manage yourself effectively and maintain your self-esteem during your job search.
Don't Do it Alone
In the past few years during this economically challenging and high unemployment period there have been numerous groups that have been birthed specifically for job search networking and support. This means you don't have to do it alone! Check out organizations like pinkslipmixers.com. Even if you can't find an actual group in your region, I encourage you to identify a "job search partner" with whom you can create an accountability and support system.
Too often we define ourselves only by what we do for money. But I am quite sure you play more roles in your life than employee. Maybe you are a terrific mother or father, volunteer, trustworthy friend or the "dependable one" in your family. Spend time with people who remind you that you are not alone, and who reinforce those roles. Their positive feedback will reflect your value as a human being with a heart and soul, not just an employee who is currently between jobs.
Research has clearly demonstrated that doing volunteer work has a position impact on health, self-esteem and general well being. If you are a volunteer or have strong community involvement, perhaps take on a bigger role in those arenas. Your interaction with people in these environments will reinforce the diversity of your skills, experience and reflect your value.
Shift Your Perspective
It is important to shift your perspective by remembering that whether or not you are actually qualified for a job is not the only variable in a job search. There are hiring managers, other candidates, organizational politics and even timing that influence a hiring decision. For instance, I recently conducted a recruitment search for an organization that yielded two final candidates who were excellent fits for the role on all levels. However, in the final hour, a candidate referral was made from the organization with which both the hiring manager and hiring manager's boss had previously worked. The candidate referred actually had less experience than the two finalists. However, along with their prior working relationships, because my client knew that the candidate was primed for the growth this position offered, the offer was made and accepted by this candidate. This left two perfectly qualified candidates with more experience on the table without offers.
Eat Sensibly and Exercise
It has been proven time and again that a supportive diet along with regular exercise help to maintain energy level, positive self-image, health and abate depression. Maintaining a positive self-image is critical during a job search. You want to be able to put your best foot forward every time you meet with a prospective employer or make a networking contact. In addition, at all times you want to broadcast a positive attitude to a potential employer (subliminally or otherwise).
I strongly encourage you to keep a gratitude notebook. There is no denying that things can get tough -- really tough on all levels (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) during a long and seemingly arduous job search. Taking five minutes out of each day to write in a journal about the things for which you are a grateful can go a very long way in shifting your attention away from the negative and on to the more positive aspects of your life. This will help you experience greater sense of well being and even joy.
Take the time necessary to acknowledge yourself. One way, which will also help prepare you for interviews, is to make a list of all of your key professional accomplishments. Also, I encourage you to identify employer value inherent in these accomplishments. For instance, as a recruiter I know when an organization contracts with me that they are choosing to do so in lieu of incurring exorbitant agency fees. Therefore, it is easy to identify the value in my recruiting accomplishments by calculating the agency fees that would have been paid minus my fee. On a recent contract I easily saved the organization over half a million dollars in six months.
Also, remember, your accomplishments are not limited to the professional arena. Identify any life accomplishments you have had, perhaps as a parent raising children, a caregiver to an ill loved one or in volunteer work.
Practice Positive Self-Talk
When something in the job search doesn't go as planned, particularly when we feel we had control over the situation, it is easy to spiral into negative thinking patterns imbued with self-judgment. It's important to become aware of these patterns so that you can avoid dwelling in a sea of negativity. When you do become aware of negative thought patterns or judgments I encourage you to ask yourself this question: "Would I talk to a best friend the way I am talking to myself right now?" The answer more often than not I am quite sure will be no. This is a perfect opportunity to shift this pattern and begin practicing "positive self-talk." One example may be if following an interview you find yourself saying, "How could I give such a dumb answer to that question? How could I be so stupid?" When you become aware of this self-judgment it becomes a perfect opportunity to shift this energy and speak to yourself in a more supportive way. You could say to yourself instead, "That was a challenging question that I didn't see coming. However, I did answer many of these questions well, and next time this question or one similar comes my way I will now be much more prepared to answer effectively."
If you are currently experiencing challenges in your job search I strongly urge you to employ even just one or two of these tips and am confident that if you commit to them they will support you in shifting your perspective, increasing your energy and adding some grace to the process!