Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

Maintaining Positive Self Esteem during the Job Search

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

Maintaining Positive Self Esteem during the Job Search

Article excerpt

How is it that some job seekers manage a career transition better than others? Perhaps they are more resilient in how they respond when things do not go as planned. What factors contribute to a more resilient constitution? Jennifer Crocker, Ph.D., a faculty member at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has been researching the topic of self-esteem for over 20 years. According to Crocker, most people suffer from what she describes as "domain contingent self-esteem." In other words, many are dependent on external sources of self-worth such as attractiveness, school achievement, popularity, and job performance. If we are unable to succeed in the areas where we have attached our self-worth, we are more likely to experience shame, anger, anxiety and a subsequent drop in self-esteem. Our mood is not the only area impacted by pursuing external sources of self-worth. Crocker observes that our stress levels increase and self-awareness decreases, which commonly results in sleep and exercise disruptions, binge eating, alcohol or substance abuse and relationship conflicts. Longer disruptions in sleep and appetite can often result with the onset of depression and anxiety disorders.

How Self Esteem Operates

Being depressed or anxious directly affects how we behave. For instance, when we perceive that we are in danger of failing, such as not landing a hoped-for position, we will typically procrastinate, attempt to be perfect or "self-handicap." The latter is a form of self-defeating behavior where we make excuses so we can save face in the event of failure. A job seeker employing this strategy, for example, might "accidentally" miss the application deadline for a desirable job because he is obsessed with trying to construct the perfect resume and cover letter. This same job seeker might suddenly develop a debilitating headache on the day of the job interview. Therefore, if he gets passed up for the position, he will never know for sure whether it was his interview skills or that he was not feeling up to par that made him lose the job. We are more likely to adopt a "handicap" when a dearly-held self-concept is put to the test. Self-handicapping, perfectionism and procrastination can be effective ways to manage performance anxiety. However, in the long run, adopting these strategies thwarts our goals and makes it exceedingly difficult to live up to our potential. It seems that we would rather sacrifice success at a task we are embarking on, than risk possible injury to our self esteem.

The implications for the job search are compelling. If we base our self-worth on the results of our job search efforts, we are especially vulnerable to feeling badly about ourselves every time a rejection letter rolls in. Our difficulties are compounded because with each successive "failure" we quell our growing fears and anxieties by taking fewer risks and engaging in less exploratory behavior. Ironically, these are the very skills that we need to cultivate in order to increase the probability of success in today's tight job market! Sounds like a familiar double bind? So, how do we stay motivated and continue to take risks despite uncertain outcomes?

Crocker suggests abandoning the dysfunctional sources of self-esteem that make us more vulnerable to downward changes in mood and unproductive behavior. In other words, we must shift our attention away from performance-based goals-those focused on a desired outcome. A common performance goal in the job search is to measure our self-worth on receiving an appropriate job offer or multiple offers. In this way of thinking, every time the outcome of our efforts does not match our expectations, we're setting ourselves up to experience failure, personal rejection and a sense of "scarcity consciousness." The "scarcity mentality professes that there is not enough to go around and that we had better fight to get our small piece of the pie," according to Denise Bissonnette, publisher of True Livelihood Newsletter. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.