How to Manage Your Emotions in the Job Search

By David Shindler

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You apply for multiple jobs without success. You rarely hear back from employers. You feel disillusioned, desperate even and life seems unfair. Sound familiar? The job search is a roller-coaster of emotions. Just like the big dipper, you can move rapidly from excitement and anticipation to anxiety and disappointment. How do you manage your emotions so they work for rather than against you? That's not something many of us get taught at school, but it's never too late to learn.

What you think and feel affect each other and impact on how you behave. Pay attention to what drives your thoughts and emotions. "Name it to tame it," says Robin Stern. As Dale Carnegie put it

"There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it."

Here is a range of ways to be emotionally intelligent if you want to manage yourself well during the job search:

How you see yourself

Emotional Intelligence abilities: Respecting yourself (self-regard). Understanding your emotions when you are at your best and when you are not (self-awareness).

How to use them in the job search: Self-reflect and get feedback on how others see you - "name it to tame it"  Know your achievements, talents, and strengths, and how and when you have used them with success. Avoid applying for jobs that don’t feed your values. Notice how you are feeling during different stages and activities during the job search and adapt accordingly. Accept that some days are better than others. Make the most of the days when you are energized and give yourself space to recover when energy levels are low.

How you express yourself

Emotional Intelligence abilities: Openly expressing your feelings, beliefs, and thoughts verbally and non-verbally. Standing up for yourself taking account of other people’s rights and needs (assertiveness). Self-directing and free from emotional dependency on others (independence).

How to use them in the job search: Ensure your online and offline expression align. Don’t mouth off on social media and claim you’re responsible and trustworthy at the job interview. Consider your tone of voice, choice of words, and timing. Own your views rather than feel pressured to express what other people expect you to say. Check your own and other people’s assumptions. Get feedback on how you come across so you can adjust your behaviour if necessary. Practice how you express yourself at every opportunity.

How you interact with other people

Emotional Intelligence abilities: Developing and maintaining mutually satisfying relationships characterized by trust and compassion (interpersonal). Recognising and appreciating how others feel through how you articulate your understanding of someone else’s view and respecting their feelings (empathy). Willingly contributing to society and to the welfare of others (social responsibility).

How to use them in the job search: Put the social into getting hired! Practice your interpersonal skills when meeting employers informally. Be curious and ask questions about their concerns and their world. Put yourself in the recruiter or employer’s shoes for a different perspective. Undertake small acts of kindness with no expectation of return. Volunteer. Listen to the needs and pain of others. Develop a listening mindset that seeks to understand other people first. These are the building blocks of building rapport.

How you manage stress

Emotional Intelligence abilities: Adapting your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours to changing circumstances (flexibility). Coping with difficult situations and believing you can manage or influence them in a positive manner (tolerance). Remaining hopeful and resilient despite setbacks (optimism).

How to use them in the job search: Pause or take a break in interactions with others where you feel you are losing control of your emotions. Relieve your pressure valve by finding an outlet to let off steam outside of the situation. Be deliberately rational by exploring the pros and cons of your situation. Identify your learning and insights from failures and successes. Focus on the present. Practice mindfulness. Be insistent, consistent, and persistent - if one door closes, try another. Describe the positive emotions you want to feel in a job and work environment. Find the balance of realistic optimism.

How you make decisions

Emotional Intelligence abilities: Finding solutions to problems where emotions are involved and understanding how emotions impact decision-making (problem-solving). Remaining objective by seeing things as they really are (reality testing). Resisting or delaying a temptation to act or decide rashly (impulse control).

How to use them in the job search: Seek out your raving fans who will genuinely support and challenge you. Don’t let other people make decisions for you. Be informed (do your job and career research). Be alert (spot and seize opportunities). Be proactive (create options and choices). Then own your decisions by following your heart, checking with your head, and trusting your gut (in that order).

Managing your emotions is about self-control and acting intentionally to achieve the result you want. Don’t sabotage your job search through a lack of emotional intelligence and letting your emotions control you. And that doesn’t mean being unemotional. It does mean noticing your emotions and harnessing them for success.

Committed to lifelong learning? Check out this bite-size online course for more tips to develop your emotional intelligence! 

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