Q: When I first started looking for a job, I had energy and excitement. But as time went by and I kept getting rejections, depression began to set in. How do I survive this rough job market with my confidence intact? It's hard to be a strong job candidate when it feels like all hope is lost.
A: My 30-plus years as a career counselor have convinced me that a job search magnifies emotional highs and lows. An invitation for an interview may evoke euphoria, while a rejection letter can result in a three-day depression. Rational behavior often goes out the window when you feel vulnerable and at the mercy of hiring managers you've never met.
Fortunately, there are ways to tame this emotional roller coaster by regaining control and structure in your life. Remind yourself that your joblessness can't – and won't – last forever. It's a temporary condition, and if you kept pushing ahead with your job search and avoid obsessing about the worst that could happen, you'll feel a lot better.
If you want to tackle your job search fears head-on, try to limit this to no more than 30 minutes each day. Instead of constantly revisiting the moment you found out you were getting laid off, or some perceived job interview mistake you think cost you a job offer, use this set time to think about your fears and develop ways to deal with them. For example if money is tight, work out a careful budget for making it last. Think of ways to keep yourself fed and clothed until you're employed again. If you confront the worst-case scenario you can come up with, it will lose its power over you.
Worrying about past performance is useless. If your last interview was a disaster, chalk it up to experience and move on. Focusing on mistakes is only good when you learn from them. In addition, be sure to plan fun activities for yourself. Often job seekers believe they need to spend more energy on their job search than is really appropriate or healthy. You need to dedicate serious effort to your job search, but don't go crazy – otherwise you'll burn out. Hanging out with friends for a night will do more for your morale than one spent poring over job listings.
Imagine how great you will feel when you find the right position. Many experts in goal setting say visualizing your objective is the first step to achieving it. The Secret, "People get what they expect," is certainly true for job seekers. Write an affirmation, post it on your mirror or carry it in your wallet and read it three times a day. Savoring past glories can encourage you to press on for the job you really want as well. Check your step-by-step game plan. Does it use contacts effectively, or is it relying mostly on want ads and resume campaigns? Are there any other avenues you can explore to find leads? A little conceptual blockbusting alone or with friends can rejuvenate a flagging spirit.
Creating a weekly structure can give you more in control of your life. Having no place to go in the morning can be depressing start. Join a job club (job seeker's support group). Volunteer for a cause that's important to you. Meet a friend for lunch. Walk your dog. Paint a room. Workout. Taking action always beats sitting around, unless you're reading a great book.
If you reel with each rejection, use the approach IBM teaches its sales people. Their records show that for each 10 customers, they close one sale. Each "no" will bring you closer to a "yes." Don't base your future on one potential position. Continue to generate possibilities until you receive a bona fide offer. People waste precious weeks waiting for one job that doesn't materialize when they could be pursuing opportunities that will.
Finally, if you are really exhausted, give yourself time to relax and regroup. Take a weekend vacation in a favorite spot, read motivational books or articles about successful people who have overcome adversity, cheer up a friend who is worse off than you, meditate, clear your mind, make a list of your blessings.
Our current job market is a tough one, but it will pass. The booms and busts always do.