The Job Search Roller Coaster


In the current economy, with the slow job growth (and high rates of unemployment and underemployment) that has characterized the recovery from the (still too) recent recession, we see many articles in the media about people’s experience in the job search. None, to my knowledge, has focused on the emotional turmoil that a job search puts a person through (whether they be unemployed or underemployed). I may be wrong. There may be a great body of journalism on the subject out there, but in case I’m right, here is the perspective from my experience:

This in no way reflects everybody’s experience, but I do not think my experience is entirely uncommon. I would also like to note that for the vast majority of what I often refer to as my perpetual job search, I have been in the rather privileged position among job-seekers of being underemployed rather than unemployed.

Search: I find that my emotional state when I start to search for jobs varies depending on the status of job the job leads I have found or applied for. At the very start of my search, I started nervously, unsure whether I would find anything that would fit my skills, talents, and interests. As my search has progressed, I find that there are days when I approach searching for new leads with excitement, as I have noticed new opportunities. Other days, it is a slog that I am convinced will be fruitless. On the other hand, finding a promising lead can turn that slog into an exciting journey of discovery.

Lead: Once I find a lead, my mood shifts to cautious optimism. The initial discovery of an opening leads me to brief elation, then to caution and a closer look. That closer look can lead to either disappointment (as I discover that the position is not a good fit for me) or hope (on finding that it is a possible mutual good fit). If the position might be a mutual fit, then I move on to the stage of:

Application: My emotional state as I apply can vary, depending on how my job search is going in general. If I am feeling generally optimistic, I approach my application with cautious hope. If I am feeling generally pessimistic or desperate, I approach writing and editing my application materials with more trepidation and less enthusiasm. One of my regular fears is that this lack of enthusiasm comes through in my application.

Wait: Once the application is in, the options for productive action narrow. The wait is the most tedious and one of the most frustrating parts of the job search. Fortunately, I usually have multiple applications at different stages, so I can concentrate on those applications that I can do something about. Occasionally, I look at my file of ‘active’ applications and am surprised to see how many employers have left my applications in this limbo for months without any response — something I consider the height of discourtesy. On the other hand, if my application materials have done their job, then I will soon receive an…

Interview Offer: The offer of an interview triggers an immediate feeling of elation. This rush usually fades and is replaced with a gradually growing nervous energy. I am comfortable in my ability in the interview, and I begin to daydream about the ways my daily routine might change if I interview successfully.

Interview: Going into the interview, I feel self-assured. (Admittedly, I have had a fair amount of practice.) I usually leave the interview feeling positive about the interview and the position. It is rare that I feel that the interview has not gone well. I leave the interview feeling hopeful about the possibility of being offered the position and about my ability to do the job.

Rejection: Most of my applications have ended in rejection which almost always ushers in a funk. A fear rises in me that all my job applications will end in the same way, and that I will never be able to find a job that feeds my soul and my family.


Offer: Receiving an offer brings up a wave of elation. I feel optimistic for the opportunity and the chance to grow in my new position. I also feel a sense of relief, and look forward to taking some time away from my job search. Of course, if you have multiple oars in the water, the waves of emotion can feed off of each other or cancel each other out. Rather than this:


it looks more like this:


The depression of post-interview rejection can be overtaken by the joy of an interview offer, even within hours. Having multiple interview opportunities can send my confidence sky-high, while multiple rejections in a short time can lead me to a feeling of defeated pessimism. Extremes like that are rare, though. Day-to-day, I am more likely to feel emotions ranging from slight optimism to extreme frustration and worthlessness when thinking about my precarious financial situation and with spending hours a day at a job that sucks my soul. I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I did not have the income coming in that I do have.  

One Response to “The Job Search Roller Coaster”

  1. 1 Yoges Nathan

    It is indeed an emotional roller coaster for all of us in some way. Ever since the economy plunged, either yourself, a family member, relative or friend is going through this job search roller coaster and you cant help but feel all those feelings too. Those with jobs but work in companies that have been threatening to restructure or have restructured puts every employee through all those emotions as they are now scrabmbling to find something secure. Turning to family and friends is very important. Support groups and quality chat rooms allow us to vent our frustrations and also allow us to realize there are others in similar situations. Some people tend to spend too much time bashing themselves up.Although there is no one solution to this ( Of course it will be great if the economy picks up) it does help to remember that networking (utilizing every social media and every Tom, Dick and Harry you meet) while furthering your education will assist in reaching your goals sooner and building your self-esteem. My heart goes out to all those who are seeking !

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