Receiving constant knockbacks can be soul destroying for job seekers. Brisbane Psychologist Dr Terry Olesen offers tips to help you cope …
Dear Jobseeker, may I suggest you take this quiz? Please answer Yes or No to each and sum them up:
- Still looking for work after lodging 30 or more “no-go” applications, for which you receive either a rejection or non-reply?
- Struggling to sit down and even bother applying for possible jobs?
- Panicking to the point you cannot even attend an interview by phone or in person?
- Worrying so much about proving your work or your abilities that you sleep badly?
- Finding you are getting ‘bites’ but these arrive from ‘precarious’ or lower-end jobs, usually discontinuous, hourly, non-benefitted or casual in nature?
- Unable to consistently organise yourself?
- Unable to manage to complete most of your daily or weekly to-do tasks?
- Feeling depressed or anxiety stricken for more than two weeks at a run?
If you answered YES to three or more of these, you may have Job Knockback Syndrome.
Job Knockback Syndrome can be a head-kick to your confidence; it can damage your self esteem; and even your mental health.
In the most recent year (2017) for which ABS figures are available, 2.8 million Australians were vying for but 178,600 jobs. That’s a ratio of 16.6 job seekers for each job.
What is Job Knockback Syndrome?
It’s estimated most seekers experience at least 50 or so rejected or ignored applications, before a long term ‘freeze’ (resignation, hopelessness) starts to settle in. This I term “Job Knockback Syndrome”, and it can present like any other chronic disease you see a doctor for. It’s a disease of the mind (for which I include the spirit and the will).
Although getting ‘knocked back’ is common throughout life, with job rejection you get double the pain: because you are putting so much effort into it; you need the money/income; others may depend on you as breadwinner; and you most often receive no feedback, or too little and too late in the game, to be successful.
I have noticed in my work as a psychologist, that my client load in the last few years is again shifting to the frequently ‘knocked back’ and the discouraged.
The rejected job applicant may (falsely) conclude that failure to land a job within the first month (or even six months) or so of their job search, is a personal failure. But in reality (as the statistics above show), the fault may lie more with the current world’s economic and political systems.
These all impact upon both job seekers and their search processes. Often unseen far reaching social trends can alter the landscape. These include:
- the continuing decline of blue collar industries;
- job formation stagnation;
- the money supply;
- changes in workplace relations laws;
- and norms in hiring.
Then there are the public perceptions towards the under-employed, single parents, and the longer term unemployed.
Is Your Past Affecting Your Present and Future?
Job Knockback Syndrome can be exacerbated by focusing solely on one’s problem-laden past history. Perhaps you left high school early, went astray with substance abuse, or your best friend died in an accident. Maybe you had a tough upbringing, with constant put-downs or criticisms?
Did you come into the work world with some existing predispositions toward anxiety, or reactivity to loss or rejection? When the Nth job rejection arrives in your inbox, are you one to fall into a heap or get super angry?
Distress over more than say 4 weeks can lead to non-helpful, even destructive ways, of seeing your self and your situation. Over time, a cloud of sorts hovers over you, taking the form of anger, exhaustion, anxiety, sadness, helplessness and hopelessness.
Thus there are many old ‘tapes’ which you can play back in your mind, and you can find that adopting Anger is your best buddy – and then showing your best buddy to the world. You may not even be aware of it, ‘the old chip on the shoulder’.
Sometimes as a serially rejected job seeker you may come to feel anger is justified and helpful, or somehow automatic and beyond control. However, I would urge caution.
In the short term and if done privately you might find it a good ‘release’ and a temporary salve for hurt feelings. However in the long run, such an automatic mood and mental habit can lead you to dig even deeper into a hole of despair.
Job Knockback Syndrome can develop into anxiety attacks, body aches or pains, ‘bad attitude’, and even depression.
Job Hunt Coping Strategies
But you need not succumb – arm yourself! As a Career Coach I have found the following to be useful job hunt coping strategies for my clients:
- Change your belief – know that job rejection is not a rejection of you.
- Take stock of how you deal with planning and changes that occur. Talk to a therapist, get advice from a job coach, or enrol in a job hunters’ support group (often offered via not-for-profit or job network agencies). Here you will learn how to uncover your values, set goals, use time management, and interact wisely with people.
- In unison with the above I recommend you purchase (or borrow) a copy of Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, now published worldwide and nearing its ninth printing. I often use this as I guide people in my Job Coaching.
- Conduct a systematic, planned job search. Set weekly job search goals and targets and when targets are met, reward yourself. Record all contacts in a folder, diary or database; this includes informal ‘interview’ contacts too.
- Take periodic rest stops (mini-holidays) during your job search. Consider small wins as good (just scoring an informal interview over tea with someone is a win).
Emotion regulation strategies:
- Allow for private time to release emotions; crying, raging, and laughing in private settings are excellent release mechanisms. Exercise, hobbies, and rhythmic movement (music, painting, dance) are good balancers.
- Seek out friends/family/mentors, pick ones who listen well, who can give perspective, and who won’t judge you. Avoid aggressive, cynical or pessimistic people.
- Be on guard for signs of depression (and anxiety), such as recurring bouts of sadness, loss of energy, disturbance of primary drives (sex, hunger, sleep). In these cases, be ready to consult a GP or psychologist.
- If wishes of suicide arise, contact one of the following 24 x 7 agencies: Crisis Care, Lifeline, or Good Samaritans. (Note: most people have thoughts of suicide at some time in their lives; so don’t automatically think yourself ‘abnormal’).
The majority of job seekers change jobs 11 times during their prime years of 18-44, and 25% of these held 15 or more jobs – that equates to a job change every 7 months!
Using the above Job Knockback prevention strategies can stop you from flying off the job brumby-horse you’re on. It’s just a matter of taking control of your mount. As a psychologist with a passion for working with people facing career challenges, I would love to help you.
Author: Dr Terry Olesen, BA (Hons), M Psych, PhD Psych, MAPS.
For over 25 years, Brisbane Psychologist Dr Terry Olesen has been helping people via psychology-based counselling. He finds it particularly rewarding to work with people with a ‘life situation knot’: feeling stymied, distraught, sad or angry, while facing external challenges such as job loss, health issues or a death in the family. The topic of his doctoral research was work-life adjustment and mental health, which, in addition to his years of clinical practice, gives him the expertise to help people with career transitioning and related difficulties.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129
NB Terry Olesen is not currently practising at M1 Psychology, however if you call us on (07) 3067 9129 we would be happy to suggest another psychologist at our practice with experience in this area.