How to: Overcome the Survival Job Blues

Sad Clown

Think being unemployed is worse than having just any job?

Not according to a study conducted by the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University. In this seven-year study, researchers found that “unemployed people typically felt calmer, happier, less depressed, and less anxious after they found a job, but only if they deemed the new job to be satisfying and manageable.” (emphasis added)

In other words, the relief of getting a steady paycheck isn’t going to see you through long-term. If the job you find isn’t a good fit, the stress felt from being unemployed isn’t going to dissipate; it’s going to transfer to stress over the job you are in. And that, actually, is worse:

Even people who could not find a job fared better than those individuals who felt that they were overwhelmed, underpaid, and insecure in their employment, and they suffered less mental health decline. More important than the job itself, the working environment is what has the greatest impact on mental health…

That doesn’t stop the need for survival jobs. When a job market is tight and bills need to be paid, there comes a time that you just have to bite the bullet and do what needs to be done just to get by.

But don’t stop there. Instead, develop a plan so you can make sure that this time in your career doesn’t stretch any longer than it has to and that you don’t get bogged down by being in a job you hate.

1. Determine where you want to go next. Is it just a matter of reviewing your job hunt strategy to make sure that what you are doing is effective and the materials you are using truly show your attributes? Maybe you’ve been looking at changing careers? Identifying your direction is a big part of the plan because it makes your efforts more meaningful.

2. Break it down into specific activities. You don’t magically get from point A to point B; something else has to happen in the interim to get you there. Should you join a professional association in your industry? Take some classes? Volunteer?

3. Set a time line for when you will accomplish the specific activities, and stick to it! This part is particularly important to bringing the plan to life. Too often, plans are made, but not acted on.

The problem is, planning without executing doesn’t bring you anything but frustration — you now have dreams of what you want to do, but no way of getting there because you’re not overcoming the inertia that keeps you stuck in the same place. Not very helpful, is it? Create a time line and commit yourself to it!

4. Review and revise the plan. Things may become a bit clearer as you are on this path, so don’t be afraid to change course if you feel pulled to a different niche within the field or if life circumstances dictate a change.

By formulating a plan and then acting on it, you can look with optimism toward the future and stave off the survival job blues.

Image courtesy of Melissa Wiese

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