Three weeks ago, I attended a Crisis Prevention and Intervention workshop where the class discussed a range of topics, including: How do we handle a situation where a youth was fired from his placement?
For the next five hours, participants were contributing their ideas, thoughts and personal experiences on how they would handle the situations. Naturally, these discussions were all framed from the perspective of an employee with the Career Foundation, such as an Employment Specialist. For me, what was troubling as a learner was the fact that we did not discuss or hear about these challenges in detail from the perspective of job seekers. And I wondered if the training session would have been a different experience if this perspective was shared. However, in reality, when you share that story, there is a moment of vulnerability. Some people shine in those moments, while others take a step back.
So, why is it important for job seekers to tell their story? Perhaps, by having greater self-awareness it leads to your ability to facilitate personal development. Since, data, at the right time empowers us to make better-informed decisions.
For many job seekers, it is very easy to lose hope when you have been seeking employment only to face rejection and disappointment. Naturally, we become pessimistic about our abilities and futures. Yet, one question we must ask ourselves is this: Are we the ones creating these unrealistic expectations? Have you ever thought the following: I should get a job by the end of the month or should have gotten at least five interviews. For many of us, we spend time thinking about our job search every day. And so, we place additional pressure and burden on ourselves, which acts as a source of stress. Combined with expectations from family and friends can result in self-destructive behavior, such as self-punishment.
Imagine Anna, a 23 year old job seeker who has been seeking employment for 6 months. She has been unable to find sustainable employment and is now thinking “I’m a failure. I’m a disappointment. All my friends have found a job, and I’m sitting at home doing nothing.” As a result of her negative thoughts, she is less motivated to find a job and she begins to submit fewer job applications per week, decreasing the likelihood of being invited to an interview and accordingly, negatively affecting her motivation level. And so, Anna sabotages her job search efforts creating a vicious cycle. Does this sound familiar?
According to expectancy theory, motivation is influence by 3 factors: expectancy, instrumentality, and valence. In particular, expectancy refers to the probability that a specific level of effort will result in a specific performance level. On the other hand, instrumentality refers to an outcome or reward being presented if the performance level is achieved. Lastly, valence is the value you place on the reward. As such, using the earlier example, since Anna has been unable to obtain employment for a period of time her perceived expectancy and instrumentality may be low, which is having a negative impact on her motivation to find employment. (Of course, depending on the position of interest, valence can range from low to high.)
To that end, what can we do to remain a healthy job seeker? We can begin to assign simpler or fewer tasks until we master them, for example: instead of telling ourselves we should complete a resume by the end of the week, we tell ourselves the following “I want to complete the accomplishment statements for this specific work experience by the end of the week. But, if I do not then that is okay. I’m going to try my best.” Alternatively, avoid using the word ‘should.’ You are not writing a resume because you have to but because this will help you ensure you are effectively seeking employment in the future and it is an accurate representation of your qualifications.
It is important for us as job seekers to critically examine our own assumptions on why we believe we cannot find employment. By doing so, we can take the most appropriate action to facilitate our long term success.
With this in mind, as an Employment Specialist with the Career Foundation, it is equally important for me to self-reflect on what I say to job seekers that can put pressure on them. It is essential to acknowledge and recognize my own biases and assumptions that can perhaps hurt a person. But the point I am getting to is to remind you to not remain complacent. Self-reflect and grow from your personal encounters.
In short: Take a moment and self-reflect on your job search! What are you doing that is having a positive or negative effect?