A long period of unemployment often takes a significant psychological toll. As the days and weeks mount up, the tasks of job hunting become more daunting. Isolation from former co-workers takes hold. Bills mount up. Savings dwindle. Relationships fray. The feelings of rejection can become further amplified when prospective employers fail to respond. It is not at all uncommon for long-term unemployed individuals to experience situational depression—a very real disease that calls for intervention of one kind or another.
Be Well Partners Career Coach Stephanie Legatos works with those in Greater Boston undergoing transition who have an attitude of "I'm damaged goods. No one will want me." According to her, poor self-esteem is a "transcendent issue" that must be dealt with to undertake a successful job search.
What to do when you are down on yourself? Career counselors convey some common responses:
Claim Your Own Sense of Self-Worth
Tip: Legatos prods her clients to think about their own endearing qualities. "Think about why your spouse or partner loves you. Ask yourself what your best friend would say about why he or she thinks you are great," she suggests.
Another coach, Kim Meninger of Great Heights Coaching, advises her clients to "reconnect with your strengths, and understand what you do better than others. Once you claim this value, it will be easier to convey it to others."
Even when so many are unemployed through no fault of their own, job hunters are often plagued with their own irrational inner feelings of guilt. When this occurs, it becomes much easier to curl up in a corner than to get out of the house and go network with strangers.
Gail Liebhaber of Career Directions has 20 years of career counseling under her belt. She sees one of her tasks as helping people unburden themselves of the stigma they perceive about themselves.
Understand That Effective Networking is About Building Relationships, Not Amassing Contact Lists
Ironically, it can be self-isolating to spend hours online in a frantic effort to collect connections on the big three social networking sites: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. This is especially true when you add people to your network without any personal interaction or discussion. It is important to have a clear strategy. If all you want is a large database, that's great. But if you want to be able to motivate your contacts to further your own objectives, it is important to see the social media sites as a means of fostering real relationships.
Meninger argues that online communities provide an "illusion of connectedness." Despite the fact that they claim hundreds of millions of members, she observes that the "social" part of social networking doesn't come easy to many job hunters. While she considers social media a useful tool, she reminds us: "Social media doesn't get you a job. People get you a job." In essence, one can be alone in the midst of a large crowd, whether in real life or online.
Tip: Be strategic in your decisions about with whom to link or friend. Meninger suggests that job hunters aim to have at least a 10- to 15-minute conversation either on the phone or in person with people they connect with, no matter how the connection is made.
Networking is a learned skill for most people. The old adage, "To get a friend, be a friend" is key. If people feel that you are interested in them only for what they can do for you, they are much less likely to want to deal with you. Turning a "contact" into a vital part of your network entails taking the time to learn about them. What do they do? How do they do it? What might you be able to contribute to their efforts? One of the reasons the business referral network BNI is successful is because it inculcates in its members the motto, "Givers Gain." Put differently: Give to Get.
It all comes down to this: When you know and appreciate your own value, you will be able to best interact with others. You will be able to contribute to their success, and gain an even greater sense of your own self-worth. By dispensing with the roadblocks that come from within yourself, you will clear the path for a more successful job search.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.