Six Steps To Make The Job Search Less Lonely
A BBC Loneliness Experiment sounds like it comes from Orwell’s 1984. Thankfully, though, it is in fact a timely investigation into the rising loneliness ‘epidemic’. The aim: what can we as a society do to make people less lonely?
This got me thinking. What could be lonelier than the job search?
It’s not often acknowledged, but the process of finding a job is lonely just by virtue of what it is. An autonomous search for one’s own job, based on one’s own passions, drive and aptitudes, is bound to feel isolating at times. It’s something we just have to do for ourselves.
However, that doesn’t mean we have to do it alone.
Inspired by the recent increase in awareness about the impact of loneliness in several contexts, I’ve come up with six ways to lighten the loneliness burden of the search for your perfect job.
Talk Talk Talk
I hear my friends shut down conversations about their job searches all the time, chiefly for two reasons. The first is that they say it’s boring – they think other people don’t want to hear about it.
But this approach may exacerbate the problematic link between job searches and loneliness. If we carry on thinking job hunts are only about us, and that no one else is interested, then we may actually make them isolating. By withdrawing from dialogue, we may be preventing our friends from helping out. If possible, therefore, be mindful of this tendency to shut down communication and make an effort, instead, to keep friends in the loop.
Shun the Shame
The second reason my friends give for not wanting to talk about their job search is embarrassment, or, even worse, shame. Perhaps they’re self-conscious about rejections, in which case, we all have to remember that rejections are part and parcel of today’s job market and that they don’t necessarily mean anything personal about us as candidates.
Alternatively, my friends don’t want to admit to their ambitions and the value they’re placing on themselves as potential employees. Women, particularly, are reticent about talking about themselves in a positive light. But the line between a valuable humility and a harmful self-effacement is slim. And it’s hugely affected by the negative portrayal of female empowerment that saturates our media. With this in mind, breaking the habit of underselling ourselves, even among our friends, can be a radical and political move.
Share but Don’t Compare
As I said, it can be great to share experiences and keep communicative about what’s going on in your job search. That said, however, it’s important not to let this sense of relativity slip into a sense of comparison. Yes, we’ve all been through the job search process. But that doesn’t mean we should start comparing our stories. Avoid keeping tallies of each other’s successes and rejections, or sizing up each other’s CVs side-by-side. In other words, keep the conversation open and generous instead of competitive.
Alongside a network of friends and family, developing an online community of support can lessen the loneliness of a job search. There are plenty of advice services, blogs and forums that transform a solitary search into a sociable, supportive ecosystem of like-minded searchers and expert mentors. Again, however, make sure you can trust the site and be alert to when conversation becomes competition. Sharing your experiences should help, rather than hinder, your self-esteem.
Although nowadays the job search takes place overwhelmingly online (no more pounding the streets with a pile of CVs in your hand) it can still be really positive to get out and about during your search. Networking meet-ups, recruitment fairs and any events hosted in your chosen industry are all great ways to open up possibilities, at the same time as breaking that claustrophobic relationship of you and the computer screen. Again, careers advice services can be great ways to keep you in the know about this kind of event. And, they help you be prepared before you attend.
Be like Bridget
It’s common practice to advise job hunters to keep a diary. This is generally recommended as a way to keep track of the search, and it’s certainly valuable for that. However – and to risk sounding like the author of a slightly old-fashioned children’s book (I’m thinking of Little Women here…) – writing a journal can really reduce feelings of loneliness. Simply processing the hopes, ideas and feelings that are churning around in your head as you plan your career can bring an enormous sense of relief. By spilling them out onto paper, you’ll give them a manageable exteriority, slightly aloof from your own interior life.
Ditch The Job Search Blues!
So, next time you’re planning on spending some time on a job hunt, why not tell your friends and family about it? Or get online and seek out expert advice? You could even head to a café with a friend and start doing the day-to-day activity of searching for jobs together.