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Red Flags in Your Job Search

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Helps listeners recognize (and deal with) the symptoms of depression and lowered self esteem that can result from a prolonged job search.
Helps listeners recognize (and deal with) the symptoms of depression and lowered self esteem that can result from a prolonged job search.
If you have any employment or job search questions, please call Colleen at 314-539-5481 for assistance in connecting with a career center in the St. Louis Metropolitan area.
Duration: 6:27 Audio MP3
© 2010 St. Louis Community College
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It takes longer than we would like for a manager or executive to find a new job. During the period of unemployment most job seekers will undergo a variety of emotional experiences - some high, some low.

We know that low periods are characterized by feelings of listlessness, low self esteem, and depression. High periods are full of optimism, energy, and high levels of activity. No matter how you feel, the type and frequency of activity should be managed carefully for maximum effectiveness.

During high periods, activities should revolve around other people. When you're "up," you transmit that feeling to others, transferring your energy and optimism, making others feel good about being around you. These positive responses will persist, even after you're no longer physically present, creating a mental association between their good feelings and you.

When you're feeling low, it's generally a good idea to minimize contact with people who don't know you well. Instead, spend time with people whom you know and trust - who will be on your side no matter what - such as family and close friends. Use this time to make plans, do research, and answer ads. Get involved in structured activities, where you need to make as few decisions as possible. When you're depressed, structure is comfort.

Most people have a built-in "depression detector," which kicks in whenever they need to adjust how they're feeling. This psychological governor is sometimes damaged or "off-line" when emotional trauma occurs, so you may need help from others who can give you the feedback you need on how you're coming across.
You can also be on the lookout for some telltale signs of job search burnout that should raise some red flags, even if you're feeling pretty discouraged.

  • If you've been keeping track of your activity (as you should), you might notice an overall drop off in activity level, especially involving behaviors requiring initiative on your part.
  • Over-reliance on newspaper ads, employment agencies, search firms, or mass mailings (typically low-return activities) is a signal that you're avoiding people.
  • Low telephone activity and low follow-up volume are additional people-avoidance behaviors.

Anger, when not vectored properly, can lead to depression. Some signs of ineffective disposition of anger include:

  • dwelling on the past
  • rationalization of past mistakes
  • blaming or fault-finding
  • accident-prone behavior
  • expectations of doom
  • temper flare-ups
  • loss of appetite
  • sleep disturbances

There are many other symptoms, both psychological and physical. Any departure from your usual feelings and behaviors is worthy of investigation. Rely on feedback from your spouse or others close to you. Be especially wary of the occurrence of accidents, even minor ones. Accident-proneness is especially problematic, since it can lead to personal injury or serious property damage, neither of which you can afford during a job search.

Low self esteem is a frequent accompaniment to early depression. Watch your speech for signs of self-deprecation or unaccustomed difficulty in articulating your goals and objectives. Pay more attention to how you dress, even if you're at home. Casualness and carelessness in an otherwise fastidious person are sure signs of emotional turmoil.

Your behavior is not only a barometer of your internal feelings, it can also perpetuate or reverse your feelings. If you're feeling depressed and allow yourself to act depressed, then you'll worsen the feeling. On the other hand, if you're depressed and force yourself to act as if you were happy, there's a good chance that you'll snap out of your gloomy mood.

Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected in a complex web. Remember that it's not what happens to you that makes you feel bad, it's what you think about what happens to you. While depression is often accompanied by feelings of helplessness and powerlessness, you have more power over yourself and your destiny than you may think. Use it.