People who have not themselves tried to be unemployed, or searching for a new job, often point out how nice it must be with so much spare time, and how the jobseeker has lots of time to do other things besides looking for a new job.
However, when one has been in the position of looking for a new job, the experience is quite another. The feeling of despair and loss, as well as for some people stress, is most often the feelings felt, instead of the feeling of having a lot of time and energy for all kinds of plans and activities.
The identity changes
There are many theories on how people are affected by major life changes. One of these were developed by Van Gennep in his 'Rites of passage' (1960), and further developed by Nobel and Walker (1997). It's basically about how one is affected when going from one life situation to another (see the illustration below*).
*This illustration is my interpretation of the models. Reference can be found in the end of the article.
Looking at this from a jobseeker's perspective, the figure could look like this:
In the first phase, one is content with their job, and is identifying with the role they have. When realizing that the situation one is defining oneself by (partial at least) is about to end, phase two begins and a feeling of despair will emerge. A feeling of no longer being aligned with the old self. From here on one goes into a state of limbo, the feeling of not fitting in anywhere is overwhelming.
From this point on, phase four brings about an adjustment towards the new situation and identity as a jobseeker. Lastly, phase five emerges where one has adjusted to the 'new' life and situation of being a jobseeker, and have also started identifying with this new role (even if it's perceived as a negative situation).
When getting a new job this process will happen again, though probably with a change in attitude as a new job often creates excitement.
How this affects you!
To write the best cover letters and be attractive for the company you apply with, there is a need to learn a lot about both the position and the company – you start identifying with the potential job and the new situation this job would create for you – You feel excited. This means that every time you apply for an interesting new job, you start the process described above.
As a jobseeker you most likely will be in an unstable and mentally challenging situation, more or less, all the time. This is explained in the model below.
Every time you familiarize yourself with a new position and company, you start letting go of the jobseeker role. To write the best application, you need to get to know the company and what the position is all about. You need to be able to identify with these things to figure out if the job will match your profile.
The further in the application process you get, the harder the re-adjustment back to the job seeking role will be. This is because during the process you will start identifying more and more with the new position in the new company.
When getting rejected, the feeling of despair will emerge again, and the adjustment back to being a jobseeker will start over.
The degree of feelings related to the process will probably depend on how much you would like the job in question. Even if this is only 1 job a month (often I suspect it would be more), it is a lot of role adjustments in a very short time, which is very hard.
One of the reasons this is so hard, is because we have a tendency to place so much of our identity in the job we have (or in this case apply for). Below is a suggestion on how to make this process a bit less draining.
Find something else to hang on to!
To get out of this unproductive way of feeling and thinking, my suggestion is to find something else to focus on. Use some of your time differently, maybe spend less time on actually applying for jobs (yes, I said it).
This sounds pretty easy, right? It might not be, as most people have a lot of their identity based in theirs job and the positions they hold. However, if you start seeing yourself as something else, something more, the feeling of being rejected from a position you applied for might not be as bad. It won't influence your mood as much and make you feel bad in the same way, because now you have something steady in your life. You have something else to identify with.
This is not saying that it does not suck to get rejected, I'm just saying it won't suck as much, because you now have something else that is also important to you, which is working great!
The job seeking process will stay the same, the writing of applications, the interviews and the rejections, but you won't be as rattled by it, because you now have something else to focus on as well. You might call it a steady baseline, if you will.
As an added bonus, this will also affect your mood when writing the applications and going to the interviews, for the better, giving you a better chance of actually making a good impression.
A few suggestions of things to do:
- Volunteer – just a few hours a week (this has lots of benefits – google it ;) )
- Write at blog (or make a vlog), choose a topic you find interesting, and tell others about it. It could even be within your field of work, to stay on top of your game (and help you in finding a job).
- Be creative, start a new project (but something long lasting), paint, write, or whatever you find joy in.
- Meet new people, and get inspired!
I hope you'll find a job soon, or find a project that will help you keep the spirit up.
References and related reading:
Noble, C. H., & Walker, B. A. (1997). Exploring the Relationships among Liminal Transitions, Symbolic Consumption, and the Extended Self. Psychology & Marketing, 14(1), 29–47.
Schouten, J. W. (1991). Selves in Transition: Symbolic Consumption in Personal Rites of Passage and Identity Reconstruction. Journal of Consumer Research, 17(4), 412–425.
Turner, V. W. (1969). The Ritual Process: Structure and anti-structure (1st ed., pp. 1–213). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Van Gennep, A. (1960). The rites of passage (1st ed., pp. 1–198). Routledge.
Written by: Diana Lund Andersen.
Diana Lund Andersen is a podcaster and blogger at jobeksperten.dk. Her mission is to help jobseekers to land their dream job, and make the process of applying for jobs a positive experience. Diana holds a Bachelor in Service Management, and a Master's degree in Brand and Communications Management.