The psychology of job hunting

The emphasis on attitude in job hunting is so common that it's become a kind of ritual chant. People are told to have a Positive Attitude, a Can Do Attitude, to the extent you'd think it was some sort of game.

The psychological aspect of job hunting is extremely important, but not because it looks nice.

Psychological conditions are never anything but practical issues. You don't feel miserable in theory, or hypothetically driven up the wall.

Job hunters are people under stress, and quite often a lot of stress.

They don't need jingles, or therapy by cheerleading.

They need working propositions about how to keep their minds in working order and focused on something other than how much they loathe job hunting and the related frustrations and disappointments.

Some people suffer severely, and get actual depression, which is no joke, as anyone who's had it would agree.

Fake enthusiasm is about as useful to a job hunter as extra armpits, without the arms. It's so unrealistic it's counterproductive.

The most likely result of all this bogus brilliance is I tried having a Positive Attitude and a Can Do Attitude, and it did nothing. Great way of helping people get even more frustrated, usually quickly.

Actually, despite lousy methodologies and meaninglessly cute buzzwords, you can do something about your thinking, as a job hunter, in your own interest.

You can achieve at least a clear idea about what mental approaches do work for you. You can have a perspective you can trust.

Let's face it: If it's not practical, and useful, job hunters don't need psychology, or anything else. They need jobs.

Anything which isn't solving the problem really is part of the problem, because it uses up time and resources job hunters don't have.

So any form of psychology has to be functional in terms of job hunting. That means no more or less than a mindset which actually helps and supports people undergoing serious stress. Obviously, this is on a deep personal level, and tinkering with the thinking is working with real sensitivities.

Let's look at this as a set of definitions of what's useful and what isn't:

Personal affirmation and commitment


Lack of personal affirmation and commitment
Shallow thinking
Vague concepts
Frustration and other irritants

Obviously, on any personal level, there are things that really matter, and things that really don't. It's quite unrealistic to think you can just turn on a Positive Attitude or a Can Do Attitude, if the personal perspective thinks they're a load of garbage.

Worse, it's scoring points for the negative mindset. A real own goal. The negativity is also fully justified. Tried really hard, great attitude, crashed and burned. The more sincere people are with their attitude, the more negative they're likely to be when it blows up in their faces.

The HR culture hasn't done anyone any favors with this iron-on approach to the basic problems. It just doesn't work.

So, the alternative:

Work on the practical personal motivations.

These are the real motivations, the things the job hunter really wants. They're the things that the job hunter is quite prepared to put in all the effort and hard work required to achieve them.

They are also, not at all coincidentally, exactly what needs doing in that person's case, because that's where the best performances originate.

With genuine motivations, there are no doubts. There are no good reasons to do nothing, or get discouraged.

These are real aspirations, and usually real needs, on some deep level. The person will not give up, or even bother getting frustrated. When motivated, people will get annoyed, almost definitely, but not to the point of permitting or tolerating failure. They won't give up.

The useful mindsets are the main drivers:

Honesty: This is the key. People can be honest with themselves about what they want, and have more faith in genuine feelings, not some third party information about how they should feel. It's unrealistic to expect people to be motivated by some broad concept of an impersonal, One Size Fits All attitude.

Objectivity: Orientation is the most important navigational tool for any job hunter. The orientation is based on actual personal objectives. When you know what you're trying to achieve, you can stay on track, and keep your sense of direction firmly based on what you want.

Personal affirmation and commitment: The most likely and most acceptable ideas are those which have personal elements. Personal affirmation means confirmation of personal aspirations in this case. Commitment means the ability to sustain effort under all circumstances. That's an essential for job hunters to do the hard work.

Resilience: The ability to take life's knocks. If you have the other characteristics, you already have the resilience you need to take any setbacks and not get put off by the normal irritants of job hunting.

Determination: Determination is a quite different type of attitude. It's purely personal, and it's a reliable driver under all conditions. It means genuine intention to achieve a goal, no matter what. It's a far more useful attitude for job hunters than doing some sort of act for the benefit of interviewers.

As you can see, these are all practical considerations. Theory has to fit facts to work properly.

The negative mindsets are actually created by impractical approaches that don't work and simply discourage people.

Dishonesty, in terms of not following your real motivations, isn't a good idea, if you want some peace of mind. In many cases you're likely to be more positive when doing something you really want to do.

Impracticality was mentioned above. The last thing anyone looking for a job needs is any sort of impractical approach.

Lack of personal affirmation and commitment in particular is likely to work directly against the interests of job seekers. Lack of commitment is really lack of enthusiasm, and that doesn't achieve much positive thinking. It might show at an interview, too. Employers don't want, or need, people who aren't interested. Job seekers don't need interview problems.

Shallow thinking is certain to reduce quality of ideas, and definitely won't work on real personal feelings. An idea might sound good, but if it conflicts with your real motivations, you're less likely to have personal commitment.

Vague concepts simply do not help. There's no point in giving job seekers advice they can't use, or acting like oracles in ancient times. If it's not practical advice, it's not advice.

Frustration and other irritants are quite useless. With personal commitment, you can brush them aside. Without it, they become the basis of a very negative mindset, more concerned with what went wrong than what needs doing.

It's unfortunate that the HR culture seems to have become pretty blas about telling people to have attitude, as though they could simply wear an attitude like a suit. It's just not good enough. Much worse, everyone gets the same advice.

Real psychologists don't try and produce easy fixes based on formulas.

They tailor their treatments to the very good medical principle of producing a functional patient who can live a normal life.

Job hunters are entitled to nothing less.