Getting a Job
What comes to your mind before you graduate? I’m sure all of us will be scrambling to find and secure a job. You will face a major transition into the next stage of life which is potentially stressful. Thus, we will explore how mindfulness can help us through all dimensions of finding a job from your social environments, job application process, to securing the job.
(1) Social Climate
Through upward social comparisons, we may perceive that all our peers have landed jobs - leaving us as the unemployed friend. Navigating the social climate results in unnecessary stress, as we may experience lowered self-esteem (Collins, 1996). We can overcome feelings of frustration and dejection with the following practices:
1. Breathing meditation regulates our emotions and prevents us from reacting negatively to friends' employment (Forbes, 2016). Additionally, we can shift our perspective to see our friends as valuable connections. According to Mouw (2003), job seekers with peers inside the firm, are more likely to land the job compared to those without such connections.
2. Self-Compassion allows us to be aware of a shared humanity and realise that we are not the only ones facing hardships in finding a job (Neff & Pommier, 2012). To achieve this, it may be helpful to take a step back from the social group when stressed about job hunting (Forbes, 2016). We can instead seek out and interact with others who are similarly in the midst of job search because similar others allow for self-appraisals and self-kindness (Buunk & Schaufeli, 1993).
(2) Job Search & Application
This stage can be emotionally draining and demoralising because of the difficulties and uncertainty we face. Studies have shown that the employment anxiety we experience in this process could affect our mental wellbeing and life satisfaction (Shin, 2019). Balancing that with academic stress and demands could bring on some serious burn out (Chue, & Cheng, 2021). At this point, we may feel tense, overwhelmed or exhausted if the stress is left unmanaged, and could affect our self-efficacy in achieving our goals (Schwabe, & Wolf, 2011).
Thus, mindful movement can be a way to help relieve that tension and stress (Carmody & Baer, 2008; Yang, & Conroy, 2018). This could include taking breaks to do gentle stretches (with an audio guide if you prefer!) or a simple walking meditation. The main goal is to engage in movement with mindfulness, being aware of sensations felt throughout the practice and careful to not overexert yourself. Jacqueline mostly tried walking meditation during the semester and found that she became more aware of how she took her breaks to help herself relax, focus better and build mental resilience over time.
It can be challenging, at times overwhelming and stressful while navigating all the to dos to land your dream job. Having said that, being in an interview; highly evaluative environment may provoke certain types of anxiety (Ayres et al., 1998) due to being in an unfamiliar environment and having to communicate with strangers where personal and social value is being evaluated (McCarthy & Goffin, 2004). It is totally normal to feel overwhelmed, but the key here is to stay present, be aware of your emotions and any forms of tension in the body.
A useful mindfulness practice is to get started on journaling. The act of journaling deepens positive emotions. Written disclosure is proven to help with psychological well-being, physiological function and general functioning (Ullrich & Lutgendorf, 2002).
Through thematic journaling, it will better help to unpack the different emotions and be clear of what you need to do. The team who has a mix of people attending to the different stages of job searching, has tried thematic journaling and has also faced challenges. As this is part of your mindfulness journey, please take the time to decide what works for you (eg: written or digital journaling). Everyone has different preferences and do not need to be confined to any form just because it seems “right”.
(4) Job Rejection
Nobody likes the feeling of rejection; it is always painful but it should not be seen as a failure. Rejection hurts as much as physical pain, affecting the same brain area (Kross et al., 2011). Mindfulness allows us to be less prone to negative emotions and uses rejection as an effective tool in emotional regulation. We are more conscious of our weaknesses and when rejection comes again, the necessary mindset starts to adequately traverse the challenges. A simple mindfulness exercise such as sleep meditation can help with emotional recovery whilst feeling rejected (Keng & Tan, 2018). Sleep meditation is a state between being awake and sleeping, where your body is relaxed and also mentally aware.
Steps to perform sleep meditation (Guided session)
1. Lie down in a quiet space
2. Body scan, visit all parts of your body
3. Breathing slowly helps you feel light and relaxed
4. Think about positive emotions and happy memories
5. Visualise pleasing scenes to get rid of any tension
Over four weeks, Vincent was able to sleep at midnight and enjoy a deep sleep being well rested for the next day. But it was challenging initially, with him accidentally sleeping with the lights on. Also, being in touch with rejection again is a painful and necessary process.
(5) Adjusting to the New Job
We finally landed a job after months, but the pandemic introduces new challenges. As we begin work remotely, we may have fewer opportunities for casual conversations and opportunities to network. As a result, we may be unable to connect with other staff members and feel alone and disconnected (Blum, 2020). Additionally, this significantly compromises our learning environment as we are unable to learn from observation and collaboration. Without the social interactions that would naturally occur in offices, we may tend to feel hesitant about asking for help (Jaberi, 2021). We may also be victims of Zoom or screen fatigue (Toniolo-Barrios & Pitt, 2021), which may affect our overall well-being and productiveness. Practicing mindful check-ins and mindful listening may help us to cultivate clear and positive thoughts that help to speed up the adjustment process and alleviate the problems. Raidah practiced these exercises during her virtual summer internship and grew to be more in-tune with her body and learnt more about how to take care of herself. During her conversations with her colleagues, she practiced mindful listening by removing distractions and paying keen attention to the discussions. She felt that this helped her have more fruitful conversations and connect with her colleagues better.
As we navigate through this unfamiliar journey of finding a job, the repeated rejections and uncertainties may cause us to feel lost, dejected and unmotivated. We should keep in mind that our first job is only a pitstop in our journey towards our larger goal. There are several pathways that may lead us to our eventual goal, and we should not falter when we face obstacles. Practicing mindfulness through this process enables us to remember our larger purpose.
By Nur Raidah Binte Mohamed, Jacqueline Cheryl Lee, Natasha Teo Wan Ting, Rachel Lim Siu Min, Ho Shu En, and Vincent Li Yuliang
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