How To Stay Positive In A Challenging Job Market

07/02/2009 08:20 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Dear Christine,
I have been unemployed for nine months and I feel myself becoming more depressed about it every day. When I was first laid off, I was able to see it as an opportunity. But now after looking for a job every day with no success, I am getting really scared I will never find one. I am doing everything I know to do in terms of being proactive in my job search, but how do I change my attitude? The trite advice of "think positively" is fleeting and not working. Help!
- Unemployed, 28

Dear Unemployed,

I've addressed a question similar to yours in a recent post called "How to be jobless without feeling useless." I am sure hearing that you are not alone in your situation and the feelings that accompany it probably helps as much as telling you to think positively. So instead of giving you additional fleeting advice like "this is a blessing in disguise," I'll offer you an attitude shifting assignment. If you choose to accept it, I am asking you to commit to it 100% and not evaluate it's effectiveness until the week is over.

The intention of this assignment is to get you out of the habit and pattern of negative thinking that you are in as a result of nine months of what you perceive as unsuccessful. The other requirement to taking on this assignment is to open your mind to the possibility that it could be successful in de-funking you. I am not asking you to believe whole-heartedly that it will work, but be open to the possibility.

Step One (Day 1): Get really funky.
This may sound odd, but I'm encouraging you to do the complete opposite of thinking positively. Spend one day really in your funk - let it rip. Call people you can complain to. Allow yourself to indulge in your negative future fantasizing and fears. Do not do anything proactive or uplifting. Fully allow your chronic depleting thoughts and daily fears to run their course with the intention of releasing them. At the end of the day, notice how you feel. Chances are you will be so sick of talking and thinking about your situation in a way that makes you feel funky.

Step Two (Day 1): Assess the Worst Case Scenario.
You mentioned you are scared of never finding a job. I hear that and understand that it feels really real for you and you think about it a lot which causes additional anxiety. So instead of just thinking about what could happen, I want you to write out a worst case scenario. Write down all your fears and concerns. Describe how bad you think things could possibly get. When you are complete, burn the paper. Make this a symbolic release of all your concerns and fears.

Step Three (Days 2-7): Take a vacation from job searching.
It sounds like your job search has become a full-time job - and you have accrued some vacation time. So for the next six days, stop looking for employment. Of course respond to any interview or follow-up requests, but take a step back from your job search. Sometimes the most effective way to create a shift is to step out of the situation that is perpetuating your condition. And trust me, taking one week off will not create a catastrophic set back

Step Four (Days 2-7): Attitude Shifting Activities.
Think back to when you were working full-time, were there activities and goals on your to do list that you wished you could get to but didn't have enough time for? Has there always been something you've been "meaning to get around to"? Now is the time to do it! Do something every day that brings you joy, makes you feel happy or at peace in some way. Get creative and give yourself permission to play! Paint, go out to a long lunch with a friend, dance, spend time in nature, read a book you can get lost in, or treat yourself to a massage. Even small things like taking yourself out for ice cream go a long way. In doing this, you will begin to realize that choosing to engage in uplifting behavior actually naturally creates different thoughts - all of a sudden you may realize that you are thinking positively without even having to think about it.

Step Five (Days 2-7): Focus on Abundance
Every night before you go to sleep, write a list of everything you are grateful for that day. Record what you really enjoyed about what you did that day. Your judgments about being unemployed for nine months may have created a sense of lack in your consciousness which can feel very depressing. Focus instead on everything that you do have and recognize all the many ways you are indeed abundant.

If you fully commit to this five step process, I guarantee you will begin to experience a shift in your attitude. I cannot guarantee you that it will lead to immediate employment; however, I suspect that if you are able to create a shift in the way you are relating to this issue, the issue may start to resolve itself.

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