Psychology of the Job Search: Emotions at Play  

Our emotions play a significant role in our job transitions, yet I’ve not seen many people paying close attention to this topic as they enter into a job search. Most of the time, they’re focused on resume verbiage, interview preparation, networking, and filling out applications. All good items to work on, but without proper focus on the emotional side of the transition, many people hit difficulties they’re ill-prepared to handle. 

In fact, in every google search I did on the topic of “What are the top ten stressors in life?”, job loss hit the list. And, since our finances are closely related to a job loss, you could chalk up two of the top ten stressful events hitting us most of the time. Other topics commonly hitting the lists are death, divorce, moving, illness, jail, and marriage. 

Waves of Emotions

If you’ve ever been through a job loss, whether it related directly to your lack of performance, or even if it was just an overall downturn in the organization’s well-being which caused a layoff, waves of different emotions can hit us. Try some of these on for size: grief, anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, shock, depression, sadness, disappointment, shame, guilt, desperation, helplessness, despair, numbness, and hurt. Whew!  I’m feeling bad just typing them out! 🙁 

The other very challenging aspect of dealing with the myriad of emotions that may affect you is that they can hit you out of seemingly nowhere in a matter of seconds. Even if you’re very conscious of the emotions, their source, and your triggers, managing emotions is a difficult task. And if the wrong emotions surface at the wrong time, the job interview or networking meeting you’ve been hoping would be the key to landing you the dream job is now at risk. 

Look Upward

As you can imagine, Scripture is filled with guidance toward the need (and the solution) we have in managing our emotions. Here are a few: 

  • Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” 
  • Philippians 4:6-8, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” 
  • Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” 

For those of you familiar with us here at Crossroads Career, you’ll recall that after looking Upward in Step #1, Step #2 of our 7 Step process is Attitude, where we primarily address the emotions of fear and anger. You can get our workbook, “You Are Created for Good Works” HEREwhich contains the content for all 7 Steps. 

Preparing for the Emotional Side of the Job Search

Additionally, here are some ways to prepare for the emotional side of the hiring process. 

  1. Find Support – Congratulations on reading through this blog and coming to Crossroads Career. Our mission is to support you in every way we can through this transition. Like many difficult challenges in life, going at it alone is the worst possible way to approach the challenge. Teaming up with like-minded, competent people who can help encourage and equip you is the right way to start this journey! You can immediately get personal support by talking with one of our Crossroads Guides (CLICK HERE).
  1. Set Realistic Expectations – I’ve shared with people before that I could run an HR department with 1 person or 100. The difference is that you’re going to get very different outcomes. The same goes with your job search. If you have unrealistic expectations for the length of time a search will take, the compensation someone with your level of experience can attain in the market, or your skills in navigating through a job search, then you’ll have a very bumpy ride through the journey. On one hand, you want to visualize success, but on the other, you want to avoid skirting through the facts that need to be addressed along the way. 
  1. Know the Market – This topic also lends itself very closely to #2.  If unemployment is 10%, for example, versus the current rate of 3.9%, you should reasonably expect it to take a longer time to find a job. In today’s market, if you have Artificial Intelligence skills, your length of time and compensation will probably be at your beck and call. Additional general stats you should be aware of include knowing that only 4-6 interviews will take place from approximately 250 applicants (on average), and that the odds of landing a job when you’re called back for a second interview are between 25-50%. 
  1. Neutralize Triggers – Raising your awareness of what triggers you to experience certain emotions is key to managing them.  For example, if you were fired from your job, and whenever you talk about it, you find yourself getting angry, then you’ll need to practice talking it through enough to manage an interview because that is an inevitable topic that will need to be addressed. Practicing out loud with another person listening is key. The other key thing to remember here is that just because you’ve managed through the trigger once doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be able to do it again. Consistent practice (and prayer) is needed. 
  1. Be Accountable – There are many things outside your control through the job transition journey, so it is very important that you control or influence whatever you can. Remember, the primary item you can influence or control is yourself! And the biggest area you can control is your time. For example, choosing to spend time networking far outweighs the success rate of applying online for jobs when you have no contacts at the organization. The reality of the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) that most companies employ for managing their hiring process is that about 75% of the applications are immediately weeded out. Also, be aware that most hiring managers are not very good interviewers, so don’t let that fact negate your ability to properly communicate why you’re the best choice for what they need most. That takes some skill and practice to do properly.   

Remember, rarely are things as they appear. Homework and preparation are necessary to navigate through the ups and downs and all arounds of the job transition journey. Rarely are things black and white (many gray areas), and almost never is there a “sure thing!”   

We’ll be covering more about the emotional side of job transition throughout the rest of this month, so please stay with us. Blessings! 


Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.

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