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Out of Work . . . Seeking a Job?

Six tips to stay hopeful while out of work.

When you are out of work, a lingering recession can take a psychological toll on you and your family. Under these adverse conditions, you may feel challenged to keep a cool head and persist in your job search. So, what can you do to reduce stress and power your job-search efforts? Here you'll find six coordinated psychological themes to weather this prolonged economic storm and move forward to get reemployed.

Master therapist Ed Garcia, former business executive and Graduate Center CUNY psychologist Ron Parker, psychologist and Fearless Job Hunting co-author Nancy Knaus, and I share knowledge on how to deal with the psychological parts of a job search.  I give a brief overview of each of the six themes in this blog. In the comment section that follows, you'll get a summary of our joint participation on each theme which we did before a live audience.

The comment section fleshes out the themes. In this case, the comments are a "must read" for anyone interested in deepening their understanding of the  themes and how to apply them to do better in life and in your job search.

Theme One: Keep Perspective

Being out of work can trigger a rush of distress that lingers and may interfere with getting remployed. Understandably, a job loss is a legitimate economic threat as well as a personal strain. By wisely managing your economic and psychological resources, you put wind behind you job-search sails.

Perspective may be more important than economic circumstance. For example, history is filled with the healing power of perspective under extreme circumstances.

The Stoic philosopher and Roman slave, Epictetus, could not control the fact that he was a slave. He found freedom in his thoughts. The founder of American psychology, William James, suffered a recurrent depression. After reading the philosopher Charles Renovier's work on free will, James chose another way of thinking and relieved himself of much misery. When the founder of Logotherapy, Viktor Frankl, was imprisoned by the Nazis in Auschwitz, he escaped an oppression of his spirit by choosing his thoughts, such as reflecting on his love for his wife.

You have the thought-power to widen the lenses through which you view your life circumstances. In a panoramic view of your job loss, what you may have viewed as devastating on one day, you may accept later. What changed took place in your mind. This awareness can start you on the path to finding ways to develop this perspective and free yourself from needless stress.

Theme Two: Choice

You can't escape change or choice. It is clear that the quality of your life pivots on the type and quality of the choices you make.

Choices are mainly psychological. For example, is misery a choice? When unhappy, you are missing something that you value, such as a cherished job. Misery is an add-on problem.

You may act like you believed that without a job you are adrift in a sea of misery. This is a formula for narrowing your panoramic view by magnifying what you are missing at the cost of parts of your life that you can enjoy. You can choose to widen your lenses to get a panoramic view of your life, and you can simultaneously choose to hone in on what is important for you to do now to get that job that you seek.

Separating unhappiness from misery sounds good in theory. The practice is different. However, Is it possible to keep your job loss in context, manage the economic and personal details of a search, and free yourself of extra stress and needless misery? You bet!

Theme Three: Separate Facts from Interpretations

Facts are indisputable. Some are pleasant, such as a rose has a pleasant fragrance for most. However, we normally interpret facts. Separating facts and interpretations can be a start point for reshaping a negative job-search perspective to include the positive actions that you can take and what you continue to celebrate about your life.

You are unemployed. That is a fact. What you make of that fact is your interpretation. If you were stoic, you'd accept the loss as unfortunate. If you feel stressed and anxious, you are likely to think that you are powerless.

Believe you are powerless to do anything about your unemployment, and your tension is likely to escalate as you mood declines. When you are  unemployed, that is a fact, but it is not a fact that you are powerless to change the situation. Your thoughts can change from, say, defeatism to experimenting with new ideas and directions. Thus, your choices can change.

Theme Four: Mental Karate

Whatever you do and wherever you go, you are the same person. What changes are conditions, such as what you learn, your sense of awareness, and what you think.

Mental Karate is the idea that when you feel in command of yourself you are in a better position to choose what you can control and to take steps to execute those choices. This process involves taking charge of your life by reaching for valued goals, such as learning and effectively using networking and job interviewing skills to ultimately secure the job that you seek.

Theme Five: Emotional Muscle

The idea of gearing up to find a job is intellectually simple. But as practically everybody knows, a job-search process is rarely easy. Within a psychological theater, job-search tasks, such as creating a great resume,  can get done in an instant. Reality is different. Execution takes time, effort, and sometimes failure until you achieve the result you seek.

Between the point where you are at in your job search, and the desired result you seek, many psychological challenges lie in-between. There is practically always an emotional phase in executing actions to bring about a desired change.

A goal can be simple to conceive. The process of executing actions to achieve your goal, often involves discovering and dealing with uncertainty and intangibles that you won't know until you discover them. Depending on your perspective, this emotionally charged effort can be the more challenging, engaging, and exciting phase of finding a job.

Theme Six: Procrastination and Change

Procrastination normally leads to inner pressures that that linger. If you want to get out of a procrastination rut, you'll need to disrupt the process you follow when you procrastinate, and adopt a productive new process. This means making a "change."

Change is a process, not an event. This simple idea has profound implications. By mapping your procrastination process you can target vulnerable points in that process form change. You can organize how you make the change(s) around a five-phase process of change. This process involves recognizing how and when you procrastinate, and what triggers the process. This is the awareness phase. The action phase involves cognitive, emotive, and behavioral changes in the procrastination process. For example, challenging procrastination thinking is a platform for making a cognitive change. Accommodation includes reconciling incongruities, such as thinking you work better under pressure while feeling averse to pressure. Acceptance involves taking reality for what it seems, not what you think it should be. Insisting on what is unachievable is a formula for stress.  Finally, actualization involves stretching your resources to build your competencies. 

Especially see theme six in the comment section. This gives a fleshed-out five phases of change approach to overcome job-search procrastination. If you want to follow an expanded program on effectively using procedural and psychological tactics in your job search, get a copy of Fearless Job Hunting

(c) Dr. Bill Knaus


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