How to Overcome Job-Search Misery

Say you’re a boxer who’s been taking some serious beatings lately. You show up to each match still swollen and sore from the last. You feel slow and scared and start expecting to get your butt kicked. The more pressure you feel to win just one stupid match, the more bummed you get when you don’t. And you start thinking maybe you should just give up the whole cruel sport.

The job hunt is pretty brutal, too.

A long, arduous search can leave psychological bruises and hurl you into a self-defeating cycle. “It’s a blow to your self-esteem,” says David Reiss, a psychiatrist based in San Diego. The more confidence you lose, the worse you perform in the job search. This process “takes a half a step off your game,” Reiss says.

1. Have fun. Do you remember this concept of fun [pronounced: fuhn]? You’re still allowed to have some, even if your job search has been unsuccessful. Think about what makes you happy, and do it. “What do you usually do for fun, and what have you given up?” Reiss asks. If money’s tight, find cheaper variations of those activities, he adds. Say you used to love going to dinner and a movie with friends. Keep the sentiment, and nix the expense by inviting folks over for an at-home movie and potluck.

2. Vent. You’re right – that hiring manager is a jerk for never confirming he received your application. Yes, the job search is cruel and unfair. It’s true, the whole process does make you feel like an insignificant, unwanted, tiny speck of a person. But – but! – carry an ounce of that negativity into an interview or any correspondence with a potential employer, and you may be the one coming off as a jerk. Those bad vibes also have the tendency to drain your happiness and derail your productivity.

It’s normal to feel upset. “You can’t stop the feeling; there’s no button to push to make it go away,” Reiss says. But you can push some weight on the bench press, or push yourself up into the crane yoga pose. Try turning to exercise and meditation to vent your negative feelings, Reiss says.

3. Get some perspective. “When you’re in a prolonged job search, you start doubting everything you have to offer an employer,” says Lea McLeod, career expert and author of the 21 Days to Peace at Work email newsletter. Then, come time to interview, apply or network, “you’re not putting your best foot forward when your primary motivation is about how you’re failing versus how you’re succeeding,” she says.

You’re not failing. You’re just doing your best in the job search process, which – let’s face it – sucks and is full of rejection. It’s not personal, Reiss adds, although it may feel like it. Plus, “there are realities that the system isn’t always fair,” he says. “The deck may be stacked against you for reasons that have nothing to do with your abilities.”

It may help to curb your expectations. “People go into a job search with incredibly unrealistic expectations about what it’s going to take,” McLeod says. Here’s the reality: The process is going to be long and take more than staring at job boards, particularly for folks without years of experience or who are transitioning to a new industry or role, she says.

Now that you’re square with the reality of job searching, it’s time to toughen up. As Reiss puts it: “Look at the grief and the anger in the eye without letting it own you.”

4. Seek support. Of course, being grounded and motivated through an arduous job search is difficult without someone in your corner of the ring. Discuss the job search with a friend or family member – “someone who can help you snap out of the doldrums,” McLeod says. He or she may let you complain for five minutes, and then give you that perspective and encourage you to plan your next steps.

Not just anyone can fill this important role. “You need someone who can keep a level head and be objective but compassionate,” Reiss says, adding that this person can also help with mock interviews and tell you if you’re coming off as desperate or grim.

Sometimes this support should come from a professional. If you’re turning to drugs or alcohol​, or if the job search is disrupting your sleep, appetite, concentration or relationships, Reiss recommends seeing a mental health professional.

5. Find a part-time job. If you’re unemployed and struggling financially, McLeod suggests getting a side gig like a part-time job or contract or temp work. Not only will the job help you pay the bills, but it will chip away at the financial stress that magnifies the pressure you feel to find a job, she says. “It doesn’t have to be your career job,” McLeod says. “But have it be something that gives you a focus for your energy other than your job search.”

6. Change your strategy. Scrolling through job boards and applying online as you come across postings is a recipe for a lengthy, depressing job search. “If you keep staring at this environment that you can’t interact with, that you have no control over and that you don’t get any feedback from, your job search​ is going to get very long very quickly,” McLeod says.

Her mantra? “Stop applying, and start targeting,” she says. Brainstorm companies you want to work for, and then find ways to build relationships with their employees through your first-, second- and third-tier connections. This networking is more likely to snag you a job than sending your résumé​ through a company’s applicant tracking system.

And it’s more energizing, too. Say you make a point to reach out to 10 people a week, and a few of them agree to meet up or take your call. That positive response – hearing someone say “sure!” instead of nothing at all after you apply to a job – is motivating. “That can keep you going when you have a long, arduous search,” McLeod says.

She adds that you can even join or create a group of fellow job seekers, who would meet regularly to ask each other questions, share connections and hold each other accountable for staying on top of his or her hunt. McLeod stresses that the point of the group isn’t to ​kvetch, but to give and receive support. Plus, she adds: “It gives you a sense that you’re not out there alone.”

Did You Lose Your Job?

How do you explain how you lost your job. This article does a good job of helping you find the best way to explain.

If you’ve lost your job – or are going to lose your job – the last thing that you want to talk about is “why” you lost your job. In fact, the question

“Why did you leave your last job?”

is one of the toughest questions to deal with – especially if you’ve been let go in one form or another.

If you are among the thousands of people who have been laid off in the last year and a half, you can simply state: “I was laid off.”

This answers the question but still leaves a lingering doubt in the mind of the interviewer, – “Why were you laid off?” The more specific your answer, the more effective it will be.

“There were six rounds of layoffs at my last company. I survived five rounds, but when it came to round six they had to cut deep. My position was eliminated along with half of my group because the project we were working on was cancelled.”

Not everyone will have such a definite statement to make. Whatever your situation is it will be helped by including facts and figures to explain the circumstances surrounding your layoff.

“10% of the workforce was let go,” or “One out of every ten jobs was affected, company-wide.”

When you quantify a statement it has more depth. When you tell the interviewer whether it was 10 or 1000 people were laid off helps put the situation in perspective.

Fired

If you were fired, you probably dread being asked this question. Not only have you been fired, you have to talk about it – over and over. How you deal with questions about being fired will depend on how you have resolved the issue with yourself.

Here are examples of how two candidates answer the question:

Candidate #1 “I had a great boss, but he left. From the very beginning it was clear that my new boss and I were going to be at odds. We just had different types of personalities. She kept changing the rules. One day she would want it this way, and the next day another way,” rambled Karen. “I don’t usually have problems with bosses but this woman was really overbearing in her management approach.”

This is not the best way to present the situation. This candidate could be classified as a “whiner.” Badmouthing former employers during the interview is a bad idea. No one wants to hear about someone else’s shortcomings, particularly someone they don’t even know.

A better example of how to handle the situation:

Candidate #2 “I was let go after a major reorganization. The merging of different cultures had caused a major change in the way things were done. There were some differences of opinion between my boss and myself and, in the end, I was fired.. I take responsibility for my part in the way things turned out. I learned a lot from the experience, and in retrospect, I would have handled it differently. But, that is behind me now, and I am ready to move on with a new perspective.”

This is a much better answer because it demonstrates strength and self-confidence. Candidate #2 takes responsibility and deals with the question honestly.

Whether you were let go under unfair circumstances or for something you did and regret, scripting your answer ahead of the interview will help you. You don’t want to bad-mouth your former employer or sound like a victim (even if you were). Practice your answer with someone in a mock interview and obtain feedback on your comfort-level while discussing your situation.

Lying

Probably the worst way to handle this question is by lying. One lie usually leads to another, and before you know it you are in over your head. You always take a chance whenever you put a lie on an application. The application usually has a signature line on the back where you sign, stating that the above is true, and that any false statements could be grounds for termination.

Perspective

It is a fact that “people lose their jobs everyday.” They move on and get new jobs. And, you will too. No matter what the circumstances, put it behind you and move on. Deal with your feelings about the lay off or firing, and prepare your answer to the question before it is asked. Being prepared will make you feel more confident and less emotional about the situation.

5 Phrases You Need to Stop Saying to Your Employees

Employee feedback, especially the negative kind, can be difficult to give and to take, which is why so many people dread the performance review process.

It doesn’t help that when employers say one thing, employees hear another thing entirely. Employers need to think about what they’re trying to communicate and how it might sound to employees to avoid any confusion or resentment.

Related: 3 Phrases That Kill Intrapreneurship

To make the process of providing and receiving employee feedback more productive and less dreadful, here are five things no employee wants to hear, and what employers should say instead:

1. “You’re doing a great job, but …”

What the employee hears:but …”

It’s never a good idea to begin a piece of constructive criticism with a compliment for the simple fact that the praise will go in one ear and out the other. Instead, focus separately on what the employee does successfully and what needs a little extra TLC.

Recognizing employees for their achievements will soften the blow of any constructive feedback they might receive — regardless of when it’s said. But focusing on their achievements apart from that criticism will ensure that employees don’t miss out on feedback that encourages them to continue doing what they do well.

2. “I need you to be more like [blank].”

What the employee hears: That person “is a better employee than you.”

Always focus on the employee receiving the feedback. Throwing other employees into the mix — whether it’s to demonstrate their superiority or inferiority — can do more harm than good. Employees will begin to see their peers as competition, which can lead to increased tension and a lack of teamwork in the workplace.

Instead of comparing employees, evaluate performance in comparison with the company’s mission, vision and values.

Related: Be the Benevolent Dictator Your Company Deserves

3. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to start training you soon.”

What the employee hears: “We’re going to start training next week.”

Words such as “hopefully” and “soon” fall on deaf ears. To avoid any misconceptions, it’s best to hold off on sharing development plans until those plans are closer to coming to fruition. Sharing company expectations and then failing to deliver can have a negative effect on management, the company and the employer brand as a whole.

As an alternative, consider discussing the employee’s expectations for the future and how the company can help fulfill those expectations.

4. “How do you think you’ve been performing?

What the employee hears: “I already know how you’re performing, but want to see if you’re aware.”

Not only does this question come off as a trick question, but it also fails to elicit truly honest answers. Employees might think they’re doing amazing jobs, but they may not be willing to blow their own horns. On the other hand, they might be aware that their performance has taken a hit, but probably won’t want to point that out. Don’t ask, tell employees how they’re performing and focus on moving forward.

5. “I’m cutting you some slack since …”

What the employee hears: “If you were anyone else, you’d be fired.”

Whether it’s during a formal performance review or a casual check-in, employee feedback should be constructive. This isn’t the time to discipline employees, but rather a time to identify areas for improvement and come up with a solid plan to address and improve on any issues.

Avoid saying anything that could be subject to negative interpretation by employees. Instead, opt to provide criticism in a constructive way, and offer ways to help employees improve.

What are some other phrases managers should avoid saying when providing feedback? What should they say instead? Let us know in the comments section below.