Job Search: The End of the Line

Virginia Bola, PsyD
 


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There is an end to the job search tunnel!

It has been a long, hard road: layoff, unemployment, fear, depression, and occasionally panic or despair. Beyond the trauma of losing your job stretches the uncomfortable, stress filled nightmare of looking for work. Emotionally reeling from the blows of joblessness, you picked yourself up and cast yourself out into the mind-numbing, ego-destructive, judgmental world of the job seeker.

Now the nightmare is over. The offer has been made and accepted: you are going back to work.

Do you feel elated? At times, probably so. Do you also feel deflated? Again, probably so. When we are actively involved in looking for work, we tend to feel that once we are offered a position, all will be right with the world, the long-borne burden will be off our shoulders, and our mental outlook will be bright and positive.

Don't be surprised or upset if you don't experience an unalloyed sense of joy and optimism. It is not unusual to encounter feelings of disappointment and apathy, Your family and friends are totally delighted for you, so you develop feelings of guilt for not being as happy and relieved as everyone else appears.

Be kind to yourself. Become aware of what you are experiencing so you can accept it for what it is and become your own primary source of support. Consider these events:

1. You have just been through a harrowing ordeal that required you to marshal all your resources to focus on one goal: finding employment. You harnessed your anxiety by pouring out adrenaline to keep yourself active and fighting fit. You buried your concerns about other aspects of your life in order to concentrate on one single priority. Now that you have attained your goal, there is no more focus for your emotional and physiological energies, they simply swirl around in disarray. When such an all-encompassing goal is accomplished, there is suddenly a temporary vacuum. For the moment, you don't know what to do with yourself, a predicament that leads to mood swings, a sense of loss, a vague but powerful restlessness that is as unpleasant as it is unexpected.

2. Although most of us abhor the agonies and drudgery of looking for work, there are emotional elements that are provocative and pleasant. We may hate being jobless and yearn to have a known routine and a specific position, but the unknown with its endless possibilities and immense potential can be seriously seductive. No one job is ever going to fulfill all of our fantasies. It can only circumscribe our limitless dreams.

It is rather like planning a major vacation trip. The excitement is in deciding where to go and what to see, as if the whole world were our personal oyster. Once we have selected our destiny and then completed our trip, we look back in enjoyment and treasure the memories but never quite recapture the level of excitement of that initial anticipation.

Confronting the unavoidable limitations that any one position will impose on our inner vision leads to a nagging sense of having been cheated out of some of our expectations. No matter how wonderful the Christmas present we receive may be, it never quite matches the thrill of seeing it sitting under the tree, brightly wrapped and incredibly desirable necause it could be absolutely anything.

3. A period of time without work destroys much of the ordinary structure of our lives. Despite the unexpected free time it provides, we tend not to make productive use of much of it. One reason we lose time is our emotional distress which leaves us drained, listless, and disconnected. Another cause is that there are no time pressures or deadlines. If we don't get it done today, there will be time tomorrow. We no longer have to squeeze in extra chores between the demands of work and our everyday lives so we don't fit them in at all.

If we reproach ourselves for our lack of action and poor motivation, we rationalize that our energy needs to be conserved for the demands of job search. Once the job hunt ends, we are confronted with the knowledge that we have squandered vast amounts of time and will now have to take action when our available time will be limited by work demands. Guilt and self-disgust further deflate our mood.

Give yourself time to gradually wind down. Allow yourself to get rid of the tension by refocusing on relaxation: sleeping, exercising, shopping, walking, meditating, just doing nothing - whatever seems to work for you. Accept that your intermittent distress is a natural consequence of your unemployment experience. Watch your changing emotions with understanding and affection. View your inner turmoil with patience and compassion and with the sure knowledge that your own industrious efforts led to your success and have earned you a well-deserved period of self-indulgence.

As you gradually regain your physical and emotional balance, you can start to truly bask in the enjoyment of reconnecting with the world of work.

Virginia Bola operated a rehabilitation company for 20 years, developing innovative job search techniques for disabled workers, while serving as a respected Vocational Expert in Administrative, Civil and Workers’ Compensation Courts. Author of an interactive and emotionally supportive workbook, The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a monthly ezine, The Worker's Edge, she can be reached at http://www.unemploymentblues.com

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