The Zero-Tolerance Job Search
By Marty Nemko
Especially if you’ve been to a shrink, you’ve been exhorted to: “Let it out.” “If you bottle it up, it will only come out somewhere else.” “You need time to process, to grieve.”
For the vast majority of the 2,500 clients I’ve worked with, I’ve found that’s not true. Especially in a job search. My unsuccessful job search clients are likely to say such things as “I hate rejection.” Or, “I was so right for that job, how could they have given it to someone else?!” “Or, “At my age, I so resent that I have to look for a job again?!” Or, “I put so much effort into that application. The nerve of them not to even respond!”
Key to a successful job search is to not let it out. It’s the opposite: to have zero tolerance for any negative emotion. That may sound hard-hearted, but I’ve found that every moment of negativity pushes you further down toward the misery pit, which makes it ever harder to climb out and make progress toward landing a job.
But let’s say you’re prone to negative emotions. What’s the solution? The first second you feel anger, resentment, sadness, or self-pity, say “Stop. That feeling will hurt me. What’s the next positive baby step I can take?” For example, if you sent out ten job applications and got no responses, after one second of lament, move on to, “I better show my applications to a smart friend and beg for honest feedback or call the 10 employers to see if they’ll be honest with me. Or maybe my job target is wrong—perhaps too few jobs come open in that field, or my skill set is not competitive for such jobs.”
Men are often indicted for being unemotional: “They’re afraid of their feelings, uncommunicative Neanderthals, still in their caves.” Many men don’t spend much time on emotions, not because they can’t express their feelings, but because they realize it usually doesn’t get them anywhere. I challenge you to ask anyone whether being emotional has brought more benefit or liability to their worklife? To their life in general?
The best management advice I ever got came from Phil Daro, when he was my boss at the California State Department of Education. One of my colleagues was upset, unreasonably, and Phil said, “Let it alone. Keep focused on the project and her annoyance will probably go away.” Not only was he right then, I’ve found over the years, that for the most part, that’s the most effective way to deal with emotion-based problems.
Of course, positive emotions such as enthusiasm are a big plus, but in my experience and with my clients, I’ve found that suppressing negative emotions is wise on the job and especially during the job search. Call me a Neanderthal if you wish.
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