As we all know, the economy still sucks right now. You may find yourself unemployed – out of college or graduate school or out of what you believed to be a steady career with student loans, rent or mortgage, and/or childcare looming over your head.
And in our society, we too often give people value according to how much they earn and stigmatize people without jobs.
So if you’re unemployed, chances are your self-esteem is suffering as much, if not more, than your pockets.
Maintaining your self-esteem while looking for work is hard because you’re putting yourself out there to potential employers and facing rejection without knowing when you’ll be able to find work again.
Some people also have to swallow their pride and move in with parents or family to keep themselves from going under. (There’s nothing wrong with this but American society often sees this as a sign of failure.)
Though getting through a job drought is never easy, you should still prioritize maintaining your self-esteem while unemployed.
Your worth isn’t attached to how much money you make, no matter what society says.
And additionally, healthy confidence is a marketable trait that can help you land the job you want.
So here are some suggestions to help maintain your self-esteem while hunting for a job.
1. Don’t Obsess Over Missed Prospects
While job hunting, there will be those employers who overlook us, reject our applications with no explanation, or never respond to or applications at all. It’s easy to get frustrated and wonder what you did wrong, especially if it was a job that could have really met your needs.
It’s a better idea to put your best foot forward in the future instead of worrying that you made a mistake on a past application. Yes, it’s possible that some part of your application turned off the employer.
But if they didn’t offer you an explanation, it’s no use nitpicking at every little thing you could have done differently.
It’s also possible that missed prospects had nothing to do with you being inadequate. The employer may have had a suitable candidate already lined up when you applied, or they might have known someone who knew someone who was interested in the position you applied for.
There’s no 100% fool proof way of knowing why you got passed up, so just keep looking and trying out new strategies. You’ll find more opportunities if you keep up your current pursuit instead of constantly looking back.
2. Don’t Be Afraid Of Failure
This goes with the above – don’t be so afraid of messing up that you don’t try at all. You could stumble in an interview, you could mess up on an application, your freelance submission might be rejected, or your car might break down on the way to your interview.
But these things haven’t happened yet. If you’re getting paralyzed by a fear of failure, you’re worrying about something that has only happened in your head.
Embrace failure. Think about failing and imagine yourself being okay with it. Then do your best not to fail in the knowledge that you’ll be OK if you do.
This isn’t to say that failure is no big deal when you’re looking for a job that you really, really need. But you’re a lot more likely to fall into a self-fulfilling prophecy if you’re convinced that you will fail.
The more okay you are with failure, the less likely you are to set yourself up for failure.
3. Be Prepared
Prepare to be contacted. Prepare to be interviewed. Prepare to be rejected, and prepare to be hired. You will have to prepare for these things emotionally as well as physically.
Think of any jobs you’ve applied to recently and ask yourself, “Do I have what I need to follow the next steps in the application process?” Do you have regular access to email? Do you have clothes you can wear to an interview? Do you know what you’re going to say on the interview? And if the interview doesn’t go well, do you have other prospects in your back pocket?
These are all questions that you can ask yourself before you’re in a high pressure situation. You don’t want to scramble for an outfit the day of your interview (I say this from experience) and you don’t want to figure out what you’re going to say while you’re sitting in the reception area of the company you want to work for.
If you’re not prepared before it’s time to perform, you’re going to be a lot less confident than if you’d been ready.
So instead of procrastinating and being a ball of rushed nerves on your interview day, prepare yourself so you can be level headed and focused on what the interviewer says.
4. Be Patient
If your job search seems to be dragging on and on with no end in sight, don’t let that make you desperate. Employers can sniff out desperation, which will make it even harder to find a job.
Being patient means giving yourself a reality check. There are plenty of highly qualified, competent, and employable people sitting in the same boat as you are, sometimes for years on end.
If they’re struggling too, then should you really expect to get a job *snap* just like that?
There is a light at the end of the tunnel for the vast majority of unemployed people. Yes, the economy will eventually pick up, yes unemployment rates will drop at some point, yes you can do things in the here and now to make yourself more marketable in the future.
So be patient. And also, be proactive. Don’t twiddle your thumbs while you’re waiting for work. Network, make contacts, be on the lookout for any certifications or skills you can develop by working freelance.
And of course, keep applying.
5. Do Things Besides Job Hunting
Stay busy while you’re out of work. You can network with people in your field who know your skill set. This includes former employers, friends of friends, and so on.
You can create a LinkedIn profile if you don’t already have one, join a professional organization, and let people know that you’re looking for work. Being around people who can vouch for your skills is a good reminder that you are an employable person.
That being said, networking isn’t the most fun thing to do in the world, particularly if you’re an introvert.
So still keep doing the things that are personally pleasurable to you as much as your budget allows.
Volunteering is one way to continue meeting new people and staying engaged in your community.
And if you find yourself so discouraged by your job hunt that you’re getting too desperate or anxious, take a break from it if you really need one. It’s important to stay dedicated, but not to the point where you get weary and disillusioned.
So read, write, complain, go out, relax if you need the break. When you’re unemployed, the job search is always on your mind, maybe even your first priority.
But you should never let your struggle to find work make you forget to prioritize self-care as well.
Even after you find work, the basics of self-care stay the same. Rest, maintain your mind and body, don’t spend money you don’t have but don’t be too stingy about caring for you needs.
If you let your self-esteem fall by the wayside, it’ll be harder for you to have the confidence and competence needed to land a job as well as to do your job well.
But most importantly, regardless of whether or not you have a job, remember that you are still worth taking care of.
Jarune Uwujaren is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. A Nigerian-American recent graduate who’s stumbling towards a career in writing, Jarune can currently be found drifting around the DC metro area with a phone or a laptop nearby. When not writing for fun or profit, Jarune enjoys food, fresh air, good books, drawing, poetry, and sci-fi.