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Ask Alina – Job Seeker

Dear Ask Alina,

I am devastated and frightened. Earlier this year I was laid off from a company only a year after joining them, and have been job hunting for months with no offers in sight. I was so sure of myself when taking that job. It was great money, good title, lots of responsibilities. I left my former job feeling on top of the world and confident. Now I am angry, deflated, questioning my worth, and scared that I will not find a job before my emergency savings runs out.

How do I keep showing up for interviews while feeling that I am not good enough? How do I rebuild my self esteem?

Job Seeker

Alameda Post - wadded up paper in and around a metal wire trashcan on the floor. Job seekers may find a lot of dead ends as their ideas don't pan out.

Dear Job Seeker,

Looking for a job in this market is humbling. Last time you were on the job market, we had more opportunities than candidates, and managers had bigger budgets, which allowed them to be open-minded and diversify their teams by hiring people with different skills and experiences.

Now companies are looking to cut expenses. The job market has more available candidates than jobs, and when a position opens up managers are looking for a unicorn—one person to fill multiple roles. In addition to a narrow skill set, teams are looking for a personality fit, something for which no one can study and prepare.

After multiple rejections, even the most confident person can lose their mojo. A good approach in this situation is to use your feelings of anger and fear as power tools.

Fear is here to protect us. Every time you enter an interview, envision yourself wearing a FEAR cape. This cape is your superpower, your protector. No matter what questions they throw at you, remember that you have the answers, and you have experience and years of accomplishments.

Research shows that anger activates the left anterior cortex of the brain, which is associated with positive behavior. Thus, anger can provide you with the energy and motivation to keep going, applying, and interviewing.  Use your ANGER superpower as a survival tool and view each interview—or rejection—as a lesson and a dress rehearsal.

Take time to focus on self-improvement. After an interview, do not rush to the next to-do on your list. Take 30 minutes to decompress. Grab a pen and a notebook, write down how you feel and what you learned about yourself. Write down five positive messages about your performance during the interview.

Every night before you go to sleep, open the notebook and read at least three of the positive messages you have written about yourself.

Another exercise I want you to try is Visual Sensory Memory. Write down in a list form why your last employer hired you in the first place, the skills you brought to the company, and your accomplishments while you were there. If I were to speak with your peers and your former supervisors, what would they tell me about you? What are you most proud of in your career? Write these down.  I imagine your list will be at least 20 line items deep.

Now, take this list and get some post-it notes. Write one line item from your list on each post-it. As you write it, say it out loud so that you can hear yourself. Place the first five post-its in visible areas around your house—mirror, front door, refrigerator, coffee machine, and so on. Every time you pass a post-it, say the message out loud, or use your internal voice if others are next to you. Hear this message!

Keep the post-its in their place for one week, and then take them down and place the next five post-its in those spaces. Keep them there for seven days and rotate new ones. Don’t discard the post-its which have already been used—save them for their next rotation. Continue to read the messages out loud every time you are next to them. Keep this going until you start believing what you are reading and you no longer need a reminder of the great qualities and skills that you have.

Create a schedule and a routine. Aside from your job search, work the following into your daily schedule: exercise, healthy meals, at least 15 minutes of sunlight, and at least 15 minutes for self-reflection. Spend at least 5% of your overall time on networking groups and reaching out to past colleagues. Maintaining human connection is very important for your well-being.

Lastly, please remember to be patient and kind to yourself.

Alina Baugh is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Ask Alina is for informational purposes only. This article does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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