In April alone, nearly 4 million people voluntarily quit their jobs, according to the Labor Department. And the numbers were almost as high in both May and June. Moreover, according to Bankrate’s August 2021 Job Seeker Survey, more than half (55 percent) of Americans expect to search for a new job over the next 12 months. Today, just Google “The Great Resignation” and you’ll get hundreds of results.
By all accounts, then, tens of millions of people are, or will soon be, embarking on a job search. And if you’re one of them, your first step — before even brushing up your resume — should be to emotionally prepare yourself for what lies ahead.
An emotional roller coaster
The average job search can span from several weeks, to more likely, several months. And to be successful yet stay energized and focused, we suggest allocating 10 to 15 hours per week.
During this time, you can expect to be on an emotional roller coaster, with many ups and downs, twists and turns — sometimes within the same hour.
All this makes it essential to know how to recognize and work with the emotions that arise. Otherwise, you’ll lack the self-awareness and agency you need to stay on track.
Five key actions
So if a job search is an emotional roller coaster, how can you best ready yourself for the ride?
To start, we recommend five key actions, influenced by positive psychology, Buddhist principles, and Nonviolent Communication, or NVC, a process created by American psychologist, mediator, and teacher Marshall Rosenberg.
1. Get into a present mindset.
When you’re present, you can better access your feelings and stay focused on what “is” — not what was or what could be. As a result, you can process what’s right in front of you and make more reasoned decisions.
Perhaps the easiest way to get into a present mindset is to simply pause and pay attention to something right in your midst. What do you see or hear? For example, you might note, “The birds are chirping” or “There’s an airplane overhead.” Then just be with that in the moment.
2. Explore what’s motivating you.
Being clear on why you’re looking for a new job can help you take the ups and downs in stride.
Among the most common motivating factors for a job search are: fatigue or burnout; higher pay; more flexible hours; a better boss or work culture; a switch in roles or sectors; greater meaning and purpose; or a major life change.
So carve out some quiet, reflective time — away from any distractions or devices — to explore what’s currently motivating your own search. Your journaling or mindful-meditation practice can be helpful here, as can talking with a trusted, objective partner, such as a therapist or career coach.
Also, it’s not uncommon to have multiple motivating factors, making understanding and prioritizing them that much more important.
3. Recognize your feelings.
The reality is that you can’t turn off your feelings even if you wanted to. So you may as well as find ways to recognize and distinguish them, and consider how they’re affecting your job search. To keep it simple, start by separating your feelings into two categories: difficult emotions and feel-good emotions.
Difficult emotions in a job search include feeling sad, angry, frustrated, discouraged, anxious, bored, confused, overwhelmed, or insecure. Conversely, feel-good emotions include feeling happy, hopeful, curious, confident, determined, excited, inspired, calm, or proud.
For example, if you’re feeling anxious about not hearing back when you apply for jobs, you may compulsively apply for more and more, even if they’re not a fit. But if you’re feeling confident and excited about what’s to come, your positivity will help prop up your outlook and put any passing radio silence in perspective.
4. Identify your needs.
Throughout your job search, think of your feelings as road signs, indicating whether your needs are being met or unmet. A caveat about needs, though, is that our tendency can be to put someone else’s needs (e.g., a parent or partner’s) or societal expectations above our own needs. For instance, you may overemphasize money or a particular kind of job, even if it’s not what you want.
So ask yourself what your true needs are for your next job. It could be to earn a certain dollar amount. Or to have autonomy in how and where you do your work. Or perhaps to stay physically and emotionally healthy, or to do something more aligned with your values and to have social impact.
5. Understand your beliefs.
Your beliefs are shaped and internalized throughout your life, with influences from your upbringing, specific life events, social systems, and more. They’re significant because they play a major role in how you see yourself and experience the world.
Generally speaking, beliefs are either limiting (closed and rigid) or empowering (open and hopeful). Limiting beliefs can make it difficult to embrace nuances and possibilities, whereas empowering beliefs amplify positive emotions and self-confidence.
A limiting belief, for example, may cause you to think you’re not worthy of a particular job, and thereby downplay your abilities and accomplishments in interviews. In contrast, an empowering belief can allow you to see that you’re fully in charge of your life and future, helping you connect with people and really shine, even at virtual events like Zoom interviews and online job fairs.
In closing, remember that a job search has the potential to be one of the most transformational learning experiences of your life. And emotionally preparing yourself is a giant first step to staying on track.
This guest post was authored by Cathy Wasserman and Lauren Weinstein
Cathy and Lauren are co-authors of “The Empowered Job Search: Build a New Mindset and Get a Great Job in an Unpredictable World” (Admo Press, June 2021). Their shared approach draws from more than thirty years as career and leadership coaches, working with thousands of diverse clients at all stages of their professional journeys. Learn more at theempoweredjobsearch.com,
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