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Job Searching is PAINFUL: Top 3 Band-Aids to Heal Search Wounds

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

It is 6:00AM…(who are we kidding) it's 11:30AM and he awakes.  In anticipation of immediately reading an avalanche of “You’re Hired” and “Interview Scheduled” emails, he sleeps with the phone underneath his pillow.  One eye opened, he reads from the company of No-no Inc. led by Mr. Do Not Reply, “Thank you for your interest, but…” and “Unfortunately after careful consideration…” which adds to a painful myriad of 653 job applications in five months.  Does this scenario sound familiar?

Let us face it; according to the United States Depart of Labor  (Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017), although the jobless rate is at a 10 year low, the political climate and economic downturn has led to a steady unemployment rate of 4.3 percent.  The workforce is saturated with damage lingering from the financial crisis and recession resulting in large pools of unemployed, underemployed and recent graduates often on a quest to dive in the same ocean of opportunities. Affectively, the job search process can be painful.  The following will provide three Band-Aids or tips towards healing the social and emotional pain of job searching.

BAND-AID ONE: Turn ON the NO: Employ the Motivational Self-Determination Theory

My mother often states, “What is meant for you, no one can take it away”.  So, take the emotional energy and frustration from the rejection (NO) and turn ON your self-determination theory (SDT) of motivation. Scholars Deci and Ryan’s (2011) refer to SDT as events or life moments that increase perceptions of competence.  The theory focuses on the degree to which individuals are intrinsically self-motivated or in ownership/control of their motivations.  In response to rejection, you have autonomous choice to control behaviors and act with a sense of volition (e.g., I received a rejection from No-no Inc. because there is a better opportunity more suited for my professional goals.) (Gagné and Deci, 2005).  Take control of how you respond to job search rejections by celebrating every phase of the career journey.  Mere determination, exertion and initiative to research job opportunities is noteworthy.  Rest assured and motivated by the notion that your efforts will not be in vain.

BAND-AID TWO: It’s Not You, It’s Boolean: Do Not Take It Personal

It is difficult not to take personal or internalize a rejection during the job search process.   Human nature causes the need to rationalize the decision.  A job rejection is similar to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, negotiating, depression and acceptance. Shhh…here is a secret: In reality, many recruiters utilize Boolean Logic or keyword algorithm/Search Engine Optimization (SEO) technology to identify and initially screen candidates.  Boolean search technology highlights and boost higher rankings for candidate resumes that match keywords featured in job postings. While Boolean searches do not paint a full picture of the candidate skills, it allows the recruiter an opportunity to narrow, often large volumes of resumes, to a small subset of candidates.  Recognizing the job search process is often muddled with technology should support in not taking a recruiters rejection personal.

BAND-AID THREE: Relax, Relate, and Reflect: Uphold Your Possible Self

Take moment to mediate on your job search strategy.  Heightened confidence is evident when you are relaxed during the search process.  You are able to relate and identify how your skills align to the position.  Suitably, it is important to reflect and envision your possible self in the role and how you would add value. Possible self is the promotion of feeling good or self-regulation (e.g. I may not have received an offer, but to ensure I stand out during the job search process, I will think positive and remain proactive by adding relevant keywords from the job posting to my resume) (Oyserman, Bybee, and Terry, 2006). This introspective or metacognitive process allows awareness and control of one’s cognitive processing (Mayer, 2011).  Remove thoughts related to the negative outcome by refocusing energy towards ways to improve your search strategies.

By employing these three tips, the pain will subside and reveal healed wounds. Therefore, go ahead and remove the job search Band-Aid!


June 30, 2017 by Dr. Airies Davis


Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2011). Self-determination theory. Handbook of theories of social psychology, 1, 416-433.

Gagné, M., & Deci, E. L. (2005). Self‐determination theory and work motivation. Journal of Organizational behavior, 26(4), 331-362.

Mayer, R. E. (2011). Applying the science of learning. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Oyserman, D., Bybee, D., & Terry, K. (2006). Possible selves and academic outcomes: How and when possible selves impel action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 188-204.

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