Last week, as part of my finding-work journey, I attended a “Moms Returning to the Workforce” presentation given jointly by my community career center* and our local library. It brought up a number of questions for me; some I asked, like how do I work around my age, and others I didn’t.
You can probably guess what I didn’t ask. I know my age is a ding against me; and I know my honesty about my mental health is, too. But the biggest question is this: how am I supposed to stay motivated to keep at a task that is both arduous and filled with rejection?
A career counselor can blithely tell you to stay motivated and expect that most clients will be able to bounce back from a lousy interview. I’m still ruminating over an interview I messed up four years ago. I have a friend who is a Senior Vice President of Very Important Stuff at a Really Big Company. In the early days of her career, I asked her how she handled the repeated rejection working in sales brings. She said, “It’s a numbers game. If one in every 100 pitches leads to a sale, then every ‘No’ gets me closer to ‘Yes’.”
I applaud her optimism, but know that for me every “No” gets me closer to wanting to crawl in a hole and hide.
Clearly, if I am going to achieve the dreams I’ve recent set, I need more than a positive attitude.
As I do with all questions, I looked for an answer on the Internet. Most of the answers I found didn’t specifically address the needs of a neurodiverse job seeker. Then, I found this article on mindbodygreen.com by Megan Bruneau, a Registered Clinical Counselor in Vancouver, Canada. Because everything on the Internet has to be numbered, Bruneau outlines six tips for those of us with mental disorders who get what we’re supposed to do, but don’t have the tools to get it done. I’ll comment on three today and cover the rest next week.
Lower the bar.
When Bruneau says to set the bar low, she means really, really low, According to Bruneau, when you’re depressed you are working at something like 20% of your potential. When you’re trying to find a job and still take care of your kids, twenty percent doesn’t go very far.
She recommends setting “small and specific” goals, like unloading only part of the dishwasher. On really bad days, why unload it at all? Right now, I’m able to set my bar pretty high. But, when I’m down, I’m going to give myself permission to ease off the internal pressure.
Envision how you’ll feel after the task.
Not only can it be hard to do something when you’re depressed, even if you have the desire to do it, you may have to get over your lack of self-confidence that you can do anything. “People who are depressed generally have low self-efficacy, which means they have lost confidence in their ability to perform tasks,” Bruneau says. Envisioning how you’ll feel after doing the task—like writing a cover letter—may get you through the actual doing.
Unless I have some sort of accountability to someone or something else, I can be a little too easy on myself. That’s when we need to reach out to friends, family and professionals. Recently, I joined a Facebook group to help me accomplish my goal of writing every day. I was successful in achieving that goal for 28 days. When the group moved on to working on health commitments, though, I bowed out. My writing output dropped. Bruneau suggests paying for professional support—career counseling and support groups—ahead of time. Money can be powerful in upping motivation. I spent $85 to register for a half-marathon and I’m sticking to my training plan because I don’t have nearly $100 to throw away. My community career center offers professional counseling that I’ll be checking out.
I don’t think I hate anything more than looking for work but I know I have to make progress with it everyday. Having kids makes it difficult for anyone, but throwing in ups, downs, anxiety and self-criticism and job-hunting can become nearly impossible. Bruneau’s tips just may help me put a flame to the spark of motivation I’m able to find.
*I’m fortunate to have the Community Career Center as a resource in looking for work. Be sure to check for similar resources in your own community. The local library is likely to know what’s available.