When you think of the harm done by unemployment, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the economic hardship. But that’s only part of the picture. Unemployment can wreak psychological havoc as well, making a person feel inadequate, hopeless, ashamed.
One thing to keep in mind when struggling with unemployment is that both positivity and negativity can have a kind of momentum to them.
Consider this first on the negative side. The less hope you have, the less inclined you’ll be to try to get a job; and when you do try, the less you’ll be able to present yourself with confidence. The more you withdraw from family and friends out of shame, the more ashamed you’ll feel in your isolation. The more rejections you absorb, the more gun shy you’ll be about taking any more of the chances you may need to take to get a job. The more lazy you let yourself be, the harder it’ll be to break the laziness habit. Negativity can mean a downward spiral from which it gets harder and harder to break free.
But the flip side is that if you can approach the task at hand with a genuinely positive attitude, that positivity too can snowball and become easier to maintain.
So what are some ways to remain positive when dealing with the stress of long and arduous job hunting?
1. Maintain human connection.
This isn’t a time to avoid people because you’re self-conscious about your financial or employment situation. Spend quality time with family and friends. Talk openly about your situation and the efforts you’re making to rectify it. If they have leads or helpful advice, all the better, but aside from any immediate practical benefit like that of interacting with them, what you’re really getting is moral support and uplift from being with people you care about who care about you.
In addition to getting this need met through the people already in your life, consider joining a therapy or support group, perhaps one specifically for people dealing with unemployment. Just being with people stuck in the same boat can make you realize you’re not in unique circumstances and you don’t have to face this alone.
2. Stick to a responsible schedule.
One way to stave off drifting into lazy doldrums is to make believe looking for work is in effect your job.
If you had a job, chances are you wouldn’t simply not bother going to work one day because you didn’t feel like it. Or get up at different times every day and start work if and when you happen to get around to it. Or shy away from doing some aspect of your job that isn’t entirely comfortable or easy.
Therefore don’t give yourself permission to do these things as a job hunter. Get up every day and put in your eight hours, or whatever is a reasonable amount of time for you. Consider yourself self-employed, and attack job hunting the way you would any significant project at work that requires a certain amount of planning, organization, initiative, time, recordkeeping, people skills, etc.
3. Maintain your health.
When you eat healthy, exercise, sleep properly, avoid abusing alcohol and drugs, etc., it keeps you feeling good about yourself. This then translates into your job hunting.
And not just your health considered narrowly, but grooming and personal habits. Shower, shave, dress neatly, do your makeup, get a haircut, etc. just the same as if you were going to work every day. Don’t “let yourself go.”
4. Cherish your small successes.
One of the problems with getting shot down every time you try for a job is that failure starts seeming natural or inevitable. So stop and appreciate all the things that happen in your life that show that you’re not a loser, that you haven’t lost your touch, that the norm is actually for you to succeed.
Maybe you pulled off some impressive parenting feat today. Or you accomplished something worthwhile working as a volunteer. Or you gave a hundred percent on the court in your pickup basketball game and won the respect of your teammates and opponents.
This can also be a reason to accept lesser work while still looking for a primary job. Let’s say without hampering your job searching, you can set aside 10-12 hours a week for some small scale side business, like making some decorative craft objects and selling them on eBay. Setting that up successfully, presenting and selling your products skillfully, and getting those little Paypal deposits can be a significant ego boost.
Sometimes you have to grab the small victories like that where you can.
5. Focus on how the job hunt itself is benefiting you.
Mostly looking for work is a miserable grind. But aren’t there also things about it that are helping you?
Maybe you took the time to learn a new skill because you were sure it would help you with a certain prospective employer, and yet you still missed out on that job. You can be upset and think of that as wasted time, or you can look at it as now you have this additional skill that you wouldn’t have otherwise acquired, and even though that employer didn’t appreciate it, it’ll still help you in your next job wherever that is.
Maybe you are having to learn about other positions a little different from your last job, in order to give you more options, more flexibility. Just because that hasn’t landed you a job yet, isn’t it good to know about these other fields? Once you do find work, you’ll have a much better sense of what the people around you do, and how they can help you in your job while you help them in theirs. You won’t have so limited or narrowly specialized an outlook.
In general, just remind yourself throughout this process that things are sure to get better. Everyone with a job had to go through the misery of job hunting in one way or another. You yourself have succeeded in getting jobs before. Somehow people do it. So have some confidence that it’ll work out for you.