Depressed and Unemployed: The Six Phases of Your Job Search
Looking for a job can be discouraging, especially in this economy. If you’re depressed, you get discouraged more easily than most people. Chances are that you’re discouraged before you even start looking. I’ve been in this position a few times (including times I was depressed), so I want to give you a bit of a leg up on the competition with some job search coaching, including some tips that I got from a friend who’s a Human Resources professional. Here are the six phases of a job search:
Deciding what you want and what you can live with: The very first step in your search will be to target both the jobs that would be perfect for you as well as those you would be willing to accept. By clearly defining these limits, you will make your search easier and take a lot of the anxiety out of deciding whether to apply for a specific job. This step also forces you to think about where you want to go with your career. If you’ve been a salesperson, do you want to be a manager and could you be good at it today? Or, would you be happier as a stock clerk with less customer contact? Remember that growing in your job can often be a way to increase your self-esteem and reduce your stress. Remember, reward is commensurate with risk and you should consider reaching a bit further if you can handle it.
Preparing Your Resumes: It is a good idea to have several resumes, each with a different focus on your skills. There is nothing dishonest about this, and it allows you to closely target your resume at specific jobs in different market sectors. If you were a secretary for the IT Manager in a large company and set up all of the staff training sessions, you might want to look for a job as the IT Training Manager at another company. Build on what you know, and then go back and take another look at the job you want. Would you be better off as the IT Training Manager or as the secretary to the Senior VP of Operations? Do you want your career to move in a straight line, or move in a slightly different direction? The 3-4 resumes you create will frame your future, and don’t forget to create a separate cover letter for each resume. Also, if you are submitting a digital copy of your resume to an online service, don’t miss the opportunity to add in a few of those obvious “key words” in the job posting.
People with depression tend to be pretty negative about their abilities, so have a friend read your resume before submitting it to make sure you’re not downplaying your skills and experience.
Passive vs. Active Searching: Passive searching is responding to print and online ads. Active searching is reaching out to people you know, not to ask them for a job, but to let them know that you are looking and seek out their advice on where to look and what direction to move in. There is nothing that makes a person more uncomfortable than a friend asking for a job, however; that is the very reason that most people will put a lot of thought and insight into giving you good information if you are just asking for ideas. Passive searches will often require you to submit as many as 100 or more responses before you get a single inquiry. This type of searching takes a lot of time, but it is relatively easy. List the companies that you would be willing to work for and look at their websites for job postings. Visit a few of the few job search sites, but be careful. There are those who would be happy to take advantage of your employment needs for their own gain.
Your Active searching should begin with creating a list of your resources. These are people you know who work in your industry; they may even be your past or present competitors. Reach out and ask for information and advice, not a job. You might even reach out to the CEO of a company that you have met peripherally. But above all, don’t forget to happily thank everyone profusely for their time. Remember, you want to be the one to get a call if they hear about a great job tomorrow.
That First Call: Almost every job interview is preceded by a phone call intended to make sure that you are someone who would fit in with your new employers’ existing team. You will be asked questions that are impossible to anticipate. Just keep a simple thought in mind - that you want to contribute to the success of the team. It’s okay to be excited, but the key is professionalism. You are so happy that they called, their company has such a great reputation, you can’t wait to learn more about the job and perhaps there is some preliminary information they are willing to send you before your interview.
The Interviews: There have been a whole library of books written on how to manage job interviews. Be sure to allow enough time before the interview to research the company and contemplate the ways you will be able to contribute to their success. If you can find out who will be present at the interview and are able to research them on the internet you will be able to anticipate their area of expertise and what they are likely to ask. Don’t forget the guy on the other side of the table. It isn’t always just about the job and your skills, but if you listen carefully your interview team will tell you precisely what they are looking for by their questions. Make sure you make a list of standard job questions and what your answer would be, and practice, practice, practice.
Don’t be honest about your depression. Legally, it can’t be counted against you, but there’s no way to prove that someone else got the job because they don’t want someone with depression.
The Offer: If you are offered the job, when the question of pay comes up, you might just say that all you want is what the job is worth. If the job is going to have you cleaning toilets you cannot expect much more that minimum wage, but if you will be a paralegal in a field you know well the salary and terms of employment are clearly defined by the job. In these time you can not appear to be greedy or so anxious that you appear to be desperate. A clever man once said, “he who makes the first offer loses.” You want to avoid naming a number first, if possible.
The first month: It is not uncommon for a new employee to doom their career at a new company in the first month of their employment. Be attentive and hard working. Avoid getting too close to anyone until you understand the local politics. Listen carefully to your boss. Spend some time looking at how they do what they do, and not just doing your job. If you have creative ideas for change, bring them only to your boss. Lastly, remember the “Prime Directive”, never embarrass or let down the boss.
Deborah Gray wrote about depression as a Patient Expert for HealthCentral. She lived with undiagnosed clinical depression, both major episodes and dysthymia, from childhood through young adulthood. She was finally diagnosed at age 27, and since that time, her depression has been successfully managed with medication and psychotherapy.