One of the biggest reasons we lose our sense of optimism in a job search is that we become convinced there is nothing out there for us. No hope, no real job possibilities that we are qualified for and would actually want.
Although discouragement can hit anywhere along the way, surprisingly, it may occur at the outset of a job search, when it all seems too complicated and overwhelming to even begin. Then you get an idea from someone, or open up a website, or see an opening at an organization you’re interested in, and you feel a glimmer of hope.
Keeping that glimmer alive and turning it into a nicely banked fire – is the challenging work we’ll talk about here. No mistake about it: job searches take time and effort and a lot of psychic energy. We need stamina to keep going when we hit roadblocks or get discouraged.
Many people find this series describes the experience of job search:
No no no no no no
No no no no no no
No no no no no no
No no no no no no
No no no no no Yes!
In effect, there’s no reason to become discouraged by all the “nos” you receive, because each one brings you closer to the eventual “yes.”
Here are some ways to move closer to your own “Yes”, and keep your spirits up along the way.
- Consider your skills and experience. Remind yourself of your accomplishments and what you’ve learned from your past school and work experience. If you keep a file of positive comments, thank you notes or testimonials about work you’ve done or classes you’ve taken, volunteer work, or other activities, pick it up and read through it.
- It can be uplifting and energizing to communicate with people you’ve worked with in the past. Consider setting up phone, video chat, or socially distanced coffee meetings with former co-workers, managers, volunteer supervisors, instructors, or others who have had influenced your work life or skill development. Or just write a note of appreciation to someone who has supported or recognized your work and feel the immediate reward that expressing gratitude generally endows.
- It’s helpful to start the day with a positive or uplifting practice, since the rest of the day often follows the tone of the early hours. Many enjoy these practices: meditation or quieting your mind, contact with nature, taking a walk or other form of exercise, writing thoughts out in a journal, or other activity that clears your mind and feels energizing and boosts your mood.
- If you are feeling negative, explore the reasons behind it. There may be a valid point to explore. Or it may just be a habitual thought sequence that happens when you feel down. If there’s a genuine concern, you might try affirming or validating the worry; acknowledge that the worries may have a good point that you can take into account, but that you are making the decision to move forward on a more positive, success oriented note.
Negative self-talk refers to the inner dialogue most of us run at some point that says “you’re not good enough, smart enough, talented enough”, etc. It can be helpful to either speak aloud or write down the facts to dispel the negative inner dialogue, and over time, those thoughts may well come up far less often.
- One way we can get stuck is by believing we cannot change, or that we can’t move beyond a limiting situation or past occurrence. Mindset research shows how seeing yourself as capable of change actually makes you far more likely to take actions that do make a difference. If you take one small step in the direction that you want to go, you will likely immediately begin to feel better.
- If you can do something about the issue right now, take action.
- If you can’t take action now, make a plan for when you can.
- If you can’t take action at all, set a time limit to give your attention to the issue, then actively release it.
- The classic listing of pros and cons to possible actions or options is classic for a reason. If you are considering a job prospect, or what actions to take next to move your job search forward, make a list of pros and cons to the possible actions before you. The process often reveals insights.
- Check the content of your conversations, as well as what you are reading, watching, and listening to. If a lot of it is negative, try “turning the channel” toward content that is more informative, inspirational, humorous, or thoughtful. Positive beliefs and ideas can be contagious – so even if it’s not about employment, aim for content that keeps you more energized.
It can be tempting to voice all the difficulties and fears you may be feeling, but a focus on those topics will tend to feel discouraging. If you aim to share worries and fears for 20% of an interaction, and then focus on what you hope to do, the kind of workplace you are aiming for, how you could contribute, who you’d like to work with, and other positive topics about 80% of the time, your mood and expectations are likely to lift.
- Finally, happiness research seems to keep drawing the same conclusion: gratitude is like a super vitamin for improving mood and a sense of possibility. Make a daily practice of noting what you feel grateful for to expand those feelings and make it easier to begin seeing the many positive aspects of your life and future.
You will likely find it easier to take risks, to ask for a meeting or a job lead, or bring enthusiasm to a conversation or interview – when you feel upbeat and grateful. If it’s a struggle to find anything to be grateful for, writing positive words, such as happy, light, cheerful, bright, open, intelligent, successful, prosperous, effective, etc. can even give you a lift.
One way to move toward positive action is to set goals for your immediate job situation or long term plans. They could include some simple steps toward your professional development, or longer term education and training, or focus on specific steps of your job search. If you have special circumstances, you may find CareerOneStop’s Resources For… section useful, with targeted information for young adults, older workers, people who have a criminal record, veterans, persons who have disabilities, and more.