Fast forward a few years when I was older and witnessed the coasters at a Six Flags park.  The Six Flags and other coaster parks have the kind of coasters designed to be impossibly high with huge drops.  I knew instantly those weren’t for me. I don’t like heights and I don’t like feeling my gut is still at the apex of the drop while my body is at the bottom, which, on these types of coasters happens again and again. 

After witnessing a friend of mine try to switch careers, I realized these two coaster experiences are a great deal like hunting for a job. In one instance, when you have a job your happy with, and just nosing around to see what’s available, it’s a bit like the space mountain experience.  You look, you have a bit of a thrill as you get close, and then it’s over, and you can go right back on.   In the other instance, it’s a series of emotional ups and downs that are equal parts nauseating and exhilarating.  

Continuing the roller coaster analogy, the first part to nearly any attraction is the line.  You wait, and wait, and occasionally you move a few steps forward.  When that happens you are thinking “the line is finally moving”, but in reality it’s just those few steps, then you have to wait again.  That’s a great deal like waiting for the job to appear in the job boards. You Wait and wait, and the wait can be really depressing. 

Eventually, a job you want appears. This is the first excitement phase, you’re really stoked. This is the perfect job, and you know you’ll love it! So you sit down, and you work on the resume.  

Sidebar – if you’re not familiar with the ideal job-hunting process, every resume, and even more so, the cover letter, should be customized to the individual job posting. If you’re doing it right, you rewrite it every time to downplay the stuff that isn’t a fit for the job posting, and you add details to the stuff that is applicable to the job posting. The positive to this approach is that it moves you more to the top of the hiring employers resume pile.  The negative is that this results in an emotional investment via time and mental effort for every job posting you apply to.

Back to the roller coaster analogy, the next phase, unfortunately, is depression. This creeps in slowly over time because you’ve applied to this perfect job, and you’re not getting called back.  Even though we know there are countless reasons for not getting called in for an interview, even if you’re the perfect candidate, it’s still hard to get over emotionally.  It could be because the requisition was canceled and HR didn’t bother to follow up with some kind of post telling job seekers that was the case.   It could be because other fires happened at the organization and it put the hiring of the new employee on the back burner.  It could be that they just promoted somebody internally.  It also could be that you are going to get called in for the interview, but their process is ridiculously slow.

The next step is this huge thrill when you get the interview.  There is the hurried preparation and research that must be done if you want to put your best foot forward.

Sidebar – whenever you get an interview a best practice is  to do as much research as you can to prepare for it. Call people who know the organization. Read about the organization online. Learn as much as you possibly can about the job, the organization, and all of the related subjects.

This is when We start to fantasize a little about what it would be like in the new job. It’s only reasonable. The new position may be a telecommuting position versus a current office job or vice versa.  The commute may get longer or shorter.  The time off may be more or less. Travel may be a consideration. Thinking about all of those things and how they impact our life gets our brains working overtime.   

There are little crashes at this point, I don’t know that they raise to a full depression, but doubt about the new opportunity creeps in.  We’ve done such a mental deep dive that we start to conclude that we may lose some stuff that we enjoy at our existing job, or former job if we were currently between jobs when we started the hunt.  It could be anything from knowing the work very well, to the people in the organization.  It could be a job structure or the fact that we are losing our seniority.  For me it was telecommuting verses having to go into the office.  I remember being scared about how I’d get along with other people in an office environment after so many years of working out of my home office.   

Then the interview. Immediately following the interview there could be a high or a low.  The low originates from finding out something about the job we don’t like and concluding the job won’t work for us. It could also come from self-doubt.   We may question the quality of our answers to the interview questions.   The high comes from the fact that for many employers, interviews are sales pitches. They’re trying to find the right person, so they’re pitching how great the position is to most of the people they interview. They may touch on the negatives, but mostly they are focused on the positive. That means often we come out of the interview feeling warm and fuzzy about the opportunity.

Sidebar – as much as we don’t want to admit it, the decision of who to hire usually happens quickly. That means 24 to 72 hours after the initial interview, the selected candidate will get the call. The other candidates aren’t notified in case there’s a problem with the first choice. Then the employer can always go to your second choice without telling them they’re the second choice.  The reality when it comes to post interviews is although sometimes it takes a long while to get told you’ve got the job, more often than not, you hear from the hiring organization or interviewer very quickly.  

Back to the rollercoaster, unfortunately, if the phone doesn’t ring right away or the email inbox doesn’t chime, then we can enter into another bout of depression. This is because we are waiting and feeling anxiety about what we should do next.  Usually interviewers call back by a certain date.  We question if we should reach back out?  Should we just wait?   After a long period of time, for the most part, it becomes obvious we aren’t the chosen candidate.   If we wait long enough, and they eventually hire another candidate, then we get the “thank you for applying” communication and even if we were expecting it, we feel depressed again.  

Of course there is tremendous excitement when we get called back with a job offer, unfortunately this ends rather quickly.   We are excited about the job but we revisit those little issues we thought about, of what we will lose and what we may gain.  Angst sets in.  It gets multiplied dramatically when there are additional negotiations for the selected candidate.   The opportunity could be lost if something goes wrong in this step.   I was recently witness to this when a friend of mine, after years of searching, found the right job, it was perfect for her.  This new organization wanted her as much as she wanted them.  Everything was a perfect match.   Then it came to salary.  The org in question, a state agency, had an antiquated compensation package and the HR decision makers would not budge.  Everyone involved agreed that the salary offered was unacceptable, including HR. It was Probably about half of what they should have been offering if they wanted to be on the low end of an acceptable salary for the job.  It was so bad I could only guess that there was something else going on, some bureaucratic budget issue.  So it all fell apart at the last minute because my friend, rightfully so, wanted to be able to feed and house herself and her kids, and honestly, the salary would have barely covered groceries and nothing else.   Sadly, this example just illustrates how these little ups and downs are like a little roller coaster just in this step alone.  

If the negotiation issues are resolved, then fear can set in.  Fear is always there when you are dealing with an unknown, and a new job is one of the biggest unknowns many of us face in our lives.  Time doesn’t stop, and eventually the first day of the new job arrives.  There are a ton of emotions in dealing with that, but that’s an article for another day.  

When looking at all this, it’s reasonable to try and minimize all of the emotional high’s and low’s of a job hunt.  Emotional roller coasters are exhausting.  The easiest way to not have the job hunt roller coaster affect you negatively is similar to my Space Mountain experience.  I’m sure there are many people, even to this day, who go on Space Mountain for the first time and who have a stomach-churning experience.   Not because of the coaster’s design, but because of the unknown of it all.  Now that I think about it, it may be especially intimidating because the whole experience is inside of a building where it’s dark and you can’t see what’s coming next.  This also, is like a job hunt, especially the decision-making parts inside of the prospective employer where we aren’t part of the decisions being made about our life.   It is possible to even out the emotions of the job hunt through familiarity.  If you’ve been through the job hunt experience many times, similar to my youthful space mountain experience, then it becomes old hat.  The entire experience is technically the same, but because I knew it inside and out, it didn’t emotionally affect me.  Going through the motions of switching jobs many times means that the effect of the job hunt simply doesn’t have as much emotional impact.    Unfortunately, for many, the job hunting experience isn’t that frequent so all the emotions are amplified.  It’s almost like having one of those massive Six Flags roller coasters inside the dark space mountain building.  

The mechanical aspects of finding a job are a challenge.  The networking, the job boards, the resume and cover letter customizations all make finding work a full-time job in and of itself.  Unfortunately, the “finding a job” job is also emotionally exhausting.  I’m sure there are some ways to help keep those emotions in check, and if I could list them all I would.  But ultimately, it’s going to be a highly customized answer for each of us because we are all individuals and deal with our stress and emotions differently.  Realistically it would be great if we could all go on vacation to help destress right after we get a new job. That way we could decompress after dealing with such volatile emotions over such a short period of time.  If vacations ever became a standard part of the culmination of the job hunt process, then my only advice would be to go to the beach or the mountains.  I figure they are the best destinations because I can’t see a reason to go to another roller coaster park when, realistically, we just got back from one and the wild rides weren’t all that fun. 

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Posted by Mike Peluso

Mike Peluso writes about the collision between between the business / professional world and life. He also writes about the journey involved with the Peluso Presents efforts including the Blog, Books, and Podcast so that others may benefit from his efforts. From Mike: I spend hundreds of hours working on these articles every year with no compensation other than support I get through donations. You can support with a tip and by Subscribing to the Podcast (and writing a review on iTunes would be really appreciated as well!) One time tips:

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