Applying for work is stressful, no matter the circumstances. Even if you are already working, and merely looking to see what else is out there, you still want to be offered the position. If you realize, half way through an interview, that you would be miserable working for this company and you wouldn't let your dog take the job, you still want it to be offered. If the hours are unsuitable, the job duties demeaning, and the salary a joke, you still want to be made an offer.
Why is it so important to us to have an offer made which we already know we will reject?
It is important because we are aware that we are being judged. We talk about skills and experience and prior accomplishments but that has already been outlined in a resume. A face-to-face interview is for the purpose of judging you as a person: Will you fit in? How do you express yourself? How do you look? Are you pleasant to have around? Are you likable?
If a job offer is made, we feel validated and worthwhile -they liked us. We never think "He really didn't like me but my skills are so great." We want to be liked, we want to be wanted, we want to be appreciated for what we are.
If no job offer is forthcoming, we take it personally: "I guess they didn't like me." Regardless of our whether our skills were a fit, our salary in the ballpark, or our experience applicable, we feel a personal failure. The negative messages of a lifetime, stored in our brain, start playing: "I'm just not good enough. I'm worthless. People don't like me. Why do I always mess up? I'm such a failure. Why can't I be more like . . . "
We mentally beat ourselves down by listening to those constantly recycling tapes. Our spirits sink, our energy evaporates, and our self-esteem plummets. This negativity, and its destructive effect on our psyche, can be contained by three techniques:
1. Awareness of what our mind is doing and consciously interrupting its tirade.
2. A refocus of our mental attention to prior successes and accomplishments, no matter how small, to counter the idea that we are lifelong screw-ups.
3. Reframing our value as a person from the specific employee/worker role into the total personality that we are: in our intimate and social relationships, in our family, in our community.
Applying for work sets us up to judged but we need to remind ourselves that only a small discrete portion of who we are is being examined. As a whole person, we are far more than a worker and no employer can judge us on our totality.
Virginia Bola operated a rehabilitation company for 20 years, developing innovative job search techniques for disabled workers, while serving as a respected Vocational Expert in Administrative, Civil and Workers' Compensation Courts. Author of an interactive and emotionally supportive workbook, The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a monthly ezine, The Worker's Edge, she can be reached at http://www.virginiabola.com