By Wilma Bedford
A recent Gallup Poll shows that people who lose their jobs either through dismissal or by choice experience a strong feeling of wellbeing immediately after the events. This could possibly be ascribed to the feeling of relief if the person experienced extreme tension in the workplace. Unfortunately this feeling does not last long and feelings of loneliness, despair, dejection and isolation set in, especially after a long period of unsuccessful job-hunting.
The fact that job-hunters seldom get feedback about their efforts and therefore do not know whether it is their job-hunting strategies that are handicapping them is a contributing factor, and the longer the search lasts, the bigger the effect on emotional stability and the more difficult job-hunting becomes. It becomes a cycle of hope, disappointment and depression.
Research also found that people who have an inclination towards learning, growing, personal improvement and mastery have greater motivational skills than people with a personality inclined towards the avoidance of failure.
Job-hunting depression is wrongly ascribed to financial loss and uncertainty. It is rather caused by the loss of identity that comes from the perception that we are what our job is. Constant job denial confirms to the job-hunter that he is not what he thought he was.
How does one survive this cycle of depression? Recreate your identity. You have a wide range of other experience, skills, interests and values on which you can build and rely.
See your job-hunting efforts as normal work. Establish a fixed pattern of job-hunting with fixed hours and work on it as if you are at work. Remember, you are now working for yourself. Take a fixed lunchbreak and relax after “work” with your family and friends as usual. Do your usual sport because in that way you build and maintain good mental health.
Set achievable goals that you can work on outside your comfort zone, for instance a game of tennis against an opponent stronger than you, or walk a certain distance under the average time. This will make you feel good about yourself. Be careful not to be overambitious or overcompetitive so that you do not fall into a pattern of losing. If you can play a musical instrument, think about improving your technique and to teach somebody else, or consider joining a choir; do not underestimate the healing power of music.
Learn new skills. Offer to help with coaching at the local school, learn a new hobby and, if possible, improve your qualifications because you may be asked at a future interview what you did during your period of job-hunting.
Keep on being social, stay in contact with friends and family to stave off isolation and loneliness. Perhaps you feel stigmatised by being jobless and therefore avoid social contact. Explain to your friends that you can no longer compete at a high social or commercial level but that you are still the same person. Go for a healthier lifestyle and find a new circle of friends with the same outlook on life.
When people want to know what you do for a living, say that you’re looking for your next opportunity!
How to Deal with Job-search Depression
Higgs, Michaela. May 2019. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com