The War on Discouragement: Staying Motivated During a Long Job Search

MotivatedIllinois has been particularly hard hit with long-term unemployment, with more than 40 percent of job seekers out of work for more than 27 weeks (the third highest in the US behind Washington, DC, and New Jersey). While the current job market has lowered unemployment to 4.2 percent, numbers for the long-term unemployed have barely budged. Successful job searches are also more long-term, with the median search taking eight weeks. Six and a half million people who wanted full-time jobs had to work part-time last month, with another 2.5 million who were capable of working and wanted to not bothering to look for a job.
Job Search Blues
It can be tough to keep your spirits up in a job market like that, according to Rosalie Greenberger, a clinician with Jewish Child & Family Services who for many years has co-facilitated a quarterly four-session workshop with JVS Chicago’s Roberta Glick called “Staying Motivated in a Tough Job Market.”
“Looking for work is especially tough if people have been in a search for a while and they are discouraged,” said Greenberger. “The process can slow down and even come to a screeching halt. People get so discouraged that they can feel depressed about the situation. Without a positive sense of themselves and of possibility, the job search doesn’t happen in a productive way.”
What Greenberger recommends to people as a first step towards staying motivated is “finding the support they need. It’s also important to acknowledge that looking for work is very difficult. They need someone who understands that they are not being lazy—they can hear that from a lot of people. The right kinds of support can get the whole job search system moving again, and that’s where our group comes in.”
Joining a Group
Greenberger is not alone in her recommendations. US News & World Report’s number one recommendation to staying motivated is “Join a job-search group.”
Greenberger’s co-facilitator Glick, a Career Counselor and Strategist with JVS Chicago, is candid about what their workshop is not.
“It’s not therapeutic, and it’s not a workshop on how to conduct a job search,” said Glick. “We focus on the motivation piece. We get into the job search area, but it’s not ‘How to do a Job Search.’ We like it when people have done the job search a while and already have that component. The workshop is not a gripe or therapeutic session. But the group dynamic is always interesting; it’s a group process.”
Greenberger stressed the positive effect of the group process.
“The group members offer many different perspectives,” she said. “They hear from people of varying circumstances. The only commonality is that they are looking for a job—there is a wide range of professions and careers. Once they start talking, they often realize that they are having the same emotional responses and feelings about what is happening to them. That can be extremely validating. It can help them to not be as hard on themselves as they have been.”
Glick, who said she brings more of the practical job search aspects to accompany Greenberger’s clinical expertise, said that the workshop uses “smart goals”—“they’re specialized, attainable, time-limited goals about looking for work and about self-care. We want attendees to have a balanced life. You don’t have to feel guilty about having fun. I email a copy of the goal sheet to them at the end of the series so they can continue to use them.”
You can Google “how to stay motivated during a job search” and see list after list of recommendations. But joining a group, most experts agree, is taking your motivation to another level.
“We were one of the first organizations addressing the emotional factors of unemployment in a group setting,” said Greenberger. “The nice thing about this group is that we mix the group-sharing aspect with the very practical job search elements that Roberta is an expert on. Our goals are toward a career and towards self-care. It’s really rather amazing, the amount of change that can happen.”
After a long stretch alone in front of a computer screen, joining a group allows a job seeker to talk with others in a safe environment, ease up on self-criticism and practice networking with others.
“If you’re connecting with people, you’re creating positive energy,” said Glick.
The Fall 2015 session, Staying Motivated in a Tough Job Market, is held on Thursdays (October 22, 29, November 5, 12), 2:30 to 4:30 PM, at 5150 Golf Road, Skokie. Registration required. Call Roberta Glick at 847.745.5462 or Rosalie Greenberger at 224.625.2819

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