Written by Mitch Jacobs, M.Ed., LPC
Published on August 7, 2020
Being unemployed or furloughed brings uncertainty. For most people, during this pandemic, employment circumstances have been thrust upon them without warning. This also brings many questions:
“When will it be safe to return to work?”
“When will I obtain another job?”
“Will I be able to pay my bills?”
These uncertainties about work and finances may have only become heightened because of so many unknowns and feeling less in control. Seeking a return to the workforce can seem like an “emotional roller coaster” ride!
My first experience on an emotional roller coaster ride, was on a roller coaster ride. When I was 10, I invited a friend to join me on the The Cyclone Roller Coaster at Coney Island, NY for the first time. We didn’t know what to expect, and our feelings of anticipation were palpable as our car wound its way over the wooden tracks, along the straight and curving wooden tracks, and climbed the first hill.
Our feelings of excitement grew, and we felt elated when we saw the breathtaking view at the top. Just then, the car descended and accelerated down the hill with its two anxious passengers inside now flush with excitement.
We wound our way to the top of the next hill, and on the way down, my friend turned pale and began to feel ill. I saw the look of desperation on his face as he took slow, deep breathes to find relief. As the car slowed to a halt and the ride ended, he jumped up and exclaimed, “Let’s do it again!”
The Highs and Lows of the Job Seeker
You may be aware of experiencing some or all of these feelings in your past and current circumstances:
- feelings of anticipation when waiting to hear from the employer
- excitement at any indication a return to employment may be upcoming
- elation after a receiving a message from the employer to discuss working
- anxious about how the discussion will turnout
- desperate, if money is running out (or ran out a while ago), for financial stability
- relief when employment and financial prospects are looking up
These feelings are common to many people in such circumstances.
How this emotional roller coaster ride is handled can make the difference between making progress or being thwarted in attaining goals.
When you can project feelings of enthusiasm and confidence to contacts it can help magnify those feelings in them. It can help them envision you as the positive force they need on their team. Positive feelings you convey can also be the glue that helps solidify the great impression you want to make.
On the other hand, if you lack energy and positivity, you risk leaving contacts with a lackluster, forgettable impression of you. They can mistake this to mean that you lack confidence and the competencies they seek.
If you are typically down about the results of what you have been doing, then the valleys of your emotional roller coaster ride may have put a damper on your enthusiasm and energy. It may be time to pause long enough to review and understanding how you are doing so that you can act on a plan to get back on track.
Getting Back on the Track
So, where do you begin when you want to create your best impressions with others? Begin by asking yourself these self-reflections questions:
- “Am I demonstrating enthusiasm, confidence and pride when discussing topics related to my work background and contributions?”
- “How have others reacted to me in the moment? Do they see, hear and feel enthusiasm, confidence and pride?”
If you are not sure of the answers, you may obtain them by video recording and reviewing a role play of an important discussion you want to have. Or role play with a trusted friend or family member and obtain their feedback. If your role plays do not depict the enthusiasm and confidence you imagine, then read on to learn several steps you can take that may help you get back on track.
Travel the Road of Optimism to Opportunities:
Realize that looking at the glass as half-full will serve you much better than a half-empty outlook. Optimists are among the first to look for the opportunities that are becoming available as the labor market shifts. For example, you may be able to take advantage of the increases in the number of work-at-home or on-site jobs and positions in “essential businesses” and their thriving business partners.
Build Savvy Supports & Bridges:
What kind of support do you need at this time? Referrals to needed resources? Cooperation of family members? Understanding and encouragement? Talking with friends, and business, faith, alumni or hobby group members? Plan and implement your plan to strengthen and expand the kinds of support that can provide you with the sustenance you need at this time.
Adjust Expectations and Routes:
Be more patient with yourself and the process. Realize that, in these extraordinary times, your journey may take a little longer than expected, and prepare for it.
- Make a list of career steps over which you can take some control.
- Make and adjust your budget and plans accordingly.
This can be a sobering process and the solutions you generate and the productivity you can gain may improve your mood while feelings of frustration may decrease.
Be an Armchair Athlete and Drive Your Intentions:
If expressing noticeable pride and confidence about your work accomplishments has been challenging, then learn from professional athletes. They use visualization to rehearse their craft, and improve confidence and performance.
- Practice remembering and feeling great about small or big goals you attained for 10 minutes, 2 times a day for at least 10 days.
- To improve job search performance, clearly define several steps of a job search activity that gained you or someone else some success. Then, begin taking those steps. Every morning, practice visualizing taking these steps and accomplishing the goal, and take that first step!
Let Go by Holding on:
If ill feelings towards past employment circumstances “leak out” in your conversations with others, realize that such feelings may be one of the reasons for unwanted results, and holding you back. It can be easier to gain greater control over those feelings or to let them go when you can identify what you learned or gained or can gain from the difficult circumstance.
- Journal about the experience several times.
- Write about what you did well, would change and will do differently going forward when in similar circumstances.
- Find the silver lining, and hold onto the fact that you grew as a person or that ending the situation freed you up to pursue better opportunities.
Elevate the Lows of the Roller Coaster Ride:
Many studies suggest that there are several things you can do that can lift your mood fairly quickly:
- Moderate Exercise. If even regular moderate exercise does not excite you, move more. If you can, start with walking around the house, your neighborhood or up and down the block (wearing a mask and social distancing is recommended by the CDC).
- Connect with Nature. Being out in nature on a sunny day, even for an hour a week, tends to relax, invigorate and lift one’s mood. Some studies are investigating if looking at pictures of beautiful scenery or your house plants can have similar effects. It seems that it can!
- Practice Good Will. Daily. Begin with spending 5 minutes a day thinking about and wishing other people well. Sincerely hope that the person or people you have in mind do well, experience happiness or good health. When feeling good about others, you can feel a sense of connection and experience feeling good yourself.
- Help Others. Volunteering to help others directly or indirectly can help you feel better as your brain gets a little boost of “feel good hormones”. If you use work-related skills while volunteering, then you can list the experience, skills and accomplishments on your resume to help satisfy potential employers who may ask, “What have you been doing over the last months?”
- Eat, Sleep, Pray (or Meditate). Getting sufficient nutrition, sleep and feelings of connection to our inner being, others and a higher power can have a significantly positive impact on our happiness. You may also benefit from the many free meditation and relaxation apps available online.
The “Course Corrections” advice provided in this article are not meant as stand-alone substitutions for employment coaching, or medical and mental health assistance.
Many job seekers experience challenges that are unique to them. I recommend obtaining the assistance of a profession Career Coach in order assess and assist you with your particular situation. If feelings of anxiety, depression or other conditions may have consistently thwarted progress or completion of activities or goals, please seek the assistance of a professionally trained mental health worker or medical Doctor.
Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas provides Career and Financial Services Coaching and individual, couples and family counseling as part of a continuum of effective and affordable community services that promote lifelong self-sufficiency and well-being to anyone in need.
Career and Financial Coaches are here to assist you in developing plans and making progress towards reaching financial and career goals. Licensed, experienced mental health professionals are available to discuss if you may benefit from counseling services. For more information, call 972-437-9950, extension 340 today, and go to www.JFSDallas.org.
Mitch Jacobs, M.Ed., LPC