Being unemployed is a drag. Tales of “funemployment” aside, life after a job loss – especially one that comes without any warning – is often rough both financially and emotionally. In the days after you’re let go, you’re likely busy updating your resume, adding contacts on LinkedIn, and sending out cover letters. But after an initial spurt of activity, you may get frustrated if your job search efforts don’t seem to be yielding results.
After a few weeks of unemployment, your resolution to meet up with your old co-workers for coffee turns into a commitment to keeping up with the Kardashians. Your goal of applying for two or three jobs per day suddenly seems too ambitious — now you’re barely applying to two or three jobs per week. And you can’t remember the last time you put on real pants (no, pajamas don’t count) and left the house.
Welcome to the job search doldrums. The longer you’re out of work, the harder it is to stay positive and keep your motivation up. The unemployed are more likely to report being treated for depression than people with full-time jobs, a 2013 Gallup survey found, with the rate of depression increasing the longer someone has been out of a job. Those who’d been unemployed for half a year or more also reported being less happy and were more likely to be socially isolated than people who had jobs or hadn’t been out of work for months.
It’s not clear whether unemployment triggers depression or other psychological problems, or if “unhappy or less positive job seekers are less likely to be able to get jobs in the first place,” according to Gallup. In either case, job seekers who are struggling to keep their spirits up need a way to turn things around. Now, researchers at Ohio State University have pinpointed specific skills that might help depressed job seekers find work.
Unemployed people who used skills taught as part of cognitive behavioral (CB) therapy for depression were more likely to find a new job, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.
Depression Can Hamper a Job Search
“Searching for a job is difficult in any circumstance, but it may be even more difficult for people who are depressed,” Daniel Strunk, an associate professor of psychology at Ohio State and a co-author of the study, said in a statement. “But we found that there are specific skills that can help not only manage the symptoms of depression but also make it more likely that a person will receive a job offer.”
Seventy-five unemployed people participated in the study. Each took two surveys, three months apart, completing a variety of questionnaires designed to measure symptoms of depression and other psychological variables, like brooding and a “negative cognitive style.” They were also asked how often they used cognitive behavioral skills, like rethinking negative thoughts or breaking up overwhelming tasks into smaller chunks.
The more a person relied on cognitive behavioral skills, the greater the likelihood of their depressive symptoms improving in the months between the two surveys. The unemployed people who used CB skills were also more likely to have received a job offer in the intervening months than those who didn’t draw on those coping techniques.
“The people who got jobs in our study were more likely to be putting into practice the skills that we try to teach people in cognitive therapy,” Strunk said. The study didn’t ask whether people had learned their coping skills in therapy or not, but Strunk said most of them likely came by those skills without additional help or guidance.
“Some people just naturally catch themselves when they have negative thoughts and refocus on the positive and use other CB skills,” he said. “These are the people who were more likely to find a job.”
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you how to overcome negative thinking so you can respond more effectively to life’s challenges and stressors. While it’s frequently part of the treatment for conditions like PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression, the techniques practiced during CBT can “help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
In the case of the unemployed, relying on CB skills may make it easier to deal with common job search frustrations like hearing, “Thanks, but no thanks,” from a prospective employer. “Rejection is so much a part of the process of job seeking. Using cognitive behavioral skills are an important way one can deal with that,” Strunk said.
The researchers want to conduct more research into the link between CB skills, depression, and job search behaviors. For now, the study results suggest that job seekers, especially those who are depressed, may benefit from either drawing on their natural coping skills or working with a therapist who can help them learn new strategies to manage the stress of being unemployed and find a new job.
“Using cognitive behavioral skills, people can overcome some of the negative thinking that may be holding them back and making it less likely to succeed in their job search,” Strunk said.
[Editor’s Note: If you’re concerned about how your credit is being impacted while you’re unemployed, you can check your free credit reports once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. If you’d like to monitor your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card provides you with an easy to understand breakdown of the information in your credit report using letter grades, along with two free credit scores that are updated monthly.]
This article originally appeared on The Cheat Sheet.
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