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Looking for work is a horribly frustrating experience. Job seekers have no idea how long their ordeal will last, and they experience constant rejection until it’s over. So it’s no wonder they get depressed. But that depression can create a vicious cycle, because depressed people lack energy and drive – two ingredients necessary for job search success! So here are a few suggestions for battling the blues:
Unless you have a history of clinical depression (in which case, you should be receiving treatment), you are experiencing what psychologists call “situational depression”, a normal and expected emotional reaction to a difficult and discouraging situation. So when you start to feel down, don’t be surprised.
Looking for work is a job in itself. To fight the blues, view this as your new unpaid position. Set up a work area, organize your materials, establish work hours for yourself, get business cards printed up, plan your daily activities – in short, act like you’re working, because you are! You also need to learn the skills necessary for success in this new “job”, so read books or look for free online learning resources. No one should try to “wing it” in a job search.
When you’re depressed, that little voice in your head starts saying “lie around, watch TV, play video games, go to bed”. But that’s the worst thing you can do. The antidote for depression is action, so tell that little voice to shut up! Then force yourself to take the first step towards that day’s job search activities – research a company, work on your resume, make a networking call. Once you get started, you’ll probably keep going.
Yes, we know. Exercising is absolutely the last thing you want to do. But many studies have found that exercise creates physiological changes in the body and brain that operate to lift your mood. And it doesn’t have to cost a thing! So take a walk, do yoga, go to the gym, ride your bike – whatever type of activity appeals to you most. Or repels you least!
A job search can be very isolating. If all your friends are working, the days can seem long and lonely. Job seekers may also avoid people because they are embarrassed about being unemployed or tired of giving the same old answer to “how is the job search going?” But this is the wrong time to become a hermit! Social interaction is a mood lifter (as long as the people aren’t jerks), so take time to see friends, attend a support group, or get to know some new folks.
Volunteering is one way to meet people, but it also has other benefits. Engaging in meaningful activity will add a sense of purpose to your life that is often missing when you are out of work. And volunteering can also help to fill the gap on your resume, since unpaid work still counts as work. Most interviewers will be impressed by your initiative. Finally, the people you meet may be a source of job leads, and your volunteer ‘employer’ can be a good reference.
This may sound like an odd antidote for depression, since networking tends to be the most-hated job search activity. But recent research has found that trying to make a positive impression on strangers produces a sense of emotional well-being. Apparently, putting our best face forward makes us feel better about ourselves. And, interestingly, just the physical act of smiling tends to put people in a better mood. So get dressed up, put on a friendly face, and head out for that dreaded job fair or professional association meeting! Even if you don’t come home with a single job lead, you will have taken a positive step.