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Four Options for Easing Job Search Pain

Career Corner is a program produced by the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network, part of State Services for the Blind, and it is recorded for people who are blind or have reading disabilities. You can listen to the stream of the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network at www.mnssb.org/rtb, and the password is RTB. Your host for Career Corner is Anne Obst.

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Next we turn to the Working Strategies column by Amy Lindgren titled “Four Options for Easing Job Search Pain,” from the April 26th issue of the Pioneer Press.

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The good news is that the job market has been improving. The bad news?

That kicked-in-the-stomach feeling you may be experiencing if you're not one of the people benefiting from the upturn.

It's one thing to be unemployed when unemployment seems like the norm; it's entirely different when you feel like the last kid picked for the softball team.

It's normal for me to see people who are hurting from a frustrated search, or from the job loss that led up to it.

Pain is to be expected and it can even be helpful.

But too much pain is a problem. It can morph into a psychic burden that threatens to stay with a person even into the next job.

One way to know if you've slipped into this zone is by checking your inner monologue.

Do you generally feel hopeless or hopeful about finding work? Have you slowed or stopped looking for work?

Are you still looking, but with only half your attention? Do you feel defeated?

None of these strike me as abnormal reactions to the situation, but they can get in the way of a productive search.

If your emotional state is holding you back, it's time to do something about it.

Following are four options to consider. 

SELF TALK 

Yep, we're talking Stuart Smalley here, the timeless goofball from Saturday Night Live who used to look in the mirror and declare, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!" (If you need a refresher on Sen. Al Franken's 1990s alter-ego, you'll find hilarious snippets on YouTube.

To put a practical spin on positive self talk, examine your history to find challenges you have overcome.

Whether you're recalling an illness you weathered as a child or a project at work you salvaged, the point is to remind yourself that you have successes in your background.

Now look again in your personal toolbox to see what attributes and strengths you have stored in there. Humor? Problem-solving? Extroversion? Analysis? 

Whatever the list, now is the time to not only remind yourself of these positive points but to leverage them in solving the problem at hand. 

CONFIDENCE BUILDERS

Positive self talk is good, but it can take you only so far.

You need to rebuild your confidence if you're going to present a can-do image to others.

I recommend that downtrodden job seekers rebalance their schedules to include a mix of training, part-time work and volunteering. These activities will help you build achievements, while also enhancing your networking and marketability.

Exercise is another great confidence builder.

Even a daily walk can be enough to make you feel better about yourself while giving you the known benefits that come from movement. 

STRATEGY

Regular readers of this column know that I recommend a targeted job search method, where you choose a job goal, then build a list of companies that use people in those roles, then contact managers of the relevant departments to request a meeting. This can be scary at first, but it's far better for self-esteem (and effectiveness) than throwing yourself into the soulless chasm of the online job boards.

Whatever your strategy, be sure you've broken it into steps and assigned a deadline to each step. This keeps the job search bite-sized instead of gigantic, which is important when you're struggling.

SUPPORT 

Simply put, I advise that you get help wherever possible, even if you feel perfectly capable of doing a task yourself. For example, if you need to build a list of companies, why not engage a friend to help you sort information online or at a library? It might not go any faster, but it will definitely be more fun.

At some point you should be asking yourself: Do I need professional help for this emotional pain? If you're already seeing a therapist, tell him or her that you're struggling with the job search. If you're not seeing someone, consider adding a therapist to your support team.

Job seekers have told me their therapists helped them learn to take risks, approach tasks that seem overwhelming, and deal with rejection -- all essential parts of job search. And of course I've talked with job seekers who have worked with a medical professional to start on medications for anxiety or depression. 

The emotional fallout of unemployment is just another problem to solve, albeit a difficult one. You can do this. Whether you rely on positive self talk or make an appointment with a professional, change something so you can move forward. It's your turn to win at the job search game.

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That concludes the April 26th Working Strategies Column from the April 26th issue of the Pioneer Press titled “Four Strategies for Easing Job Search Pain” by Amy Lindgren. I’m Ann Obst.

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