Rejection Letter Overload

By Lynn Friedman, PhD.
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, June 29, 2005; 2:57 PM

You didn't plan it this way. In fact, you didn't plan much at all. But, now here you are living at home or living in a should we say, "parent-subsidized" apartment without a job. You've been out-of-college for several weeks and your parents are starting to nag you, "Get a job. You have to get a job." You're looking. You're trying. But, there's nothing good out there. Good jobs are hard to find. And, as for the bad ones, the pay is awful and they are dead-end positions. So, why are they bothering you and what can you do about it?

No doubt your parents are probably worried, worried that you won't find a job and won't grow up. Odds are they think that you should be doing more on your own behalf. If they are paying your way, maybe they even have some smoldering resentment that they are working hard while you are -- uh -- sleeping in. Here's how to reassure them and reduce the nagging. Approach them adult to adult. Ask them about their concerns. Do your best to patiently listen and clarify their anxieties. Most likely, they'll tell you how worried they are that you won't find a job. Admittedly, this can be difficult to hear (it hardly sounds supportive) especially when your still smarting from the latest rejection. Tell them that you are serious about finding a job. If they are able and willing to provide some financial support (and, room and board is, indeed, financial support) while you look for a job, agree on a time frame for your search. Agree that if, at the end of that time, you haven't found a job you will accept any position no matter how menial. And, do that! "I'm a college graduate you say, I shouldn't have to wait tables." No. You shouldn't. But, it's a starting point. It will allow you a beachhead from which to look. Beyond this, it will allow you to become self-sufficient.

During your talk with your parents, thank them for their support. Tell them about the steps you are taking to find a job. Finding a job is a full-time job. So, put yourself on a full-time work schedule, 9:00-5:00. Devote 40 hours a week to this activity. Don't just passively send out resumes or e-mails. Network. Set-up meetings with anyone who might be helpful. Attend networking events and participate in relevant listserves.  Describe your efforts to your parents (and, follow through). This will assuage their anxiety. If you are living under their roof, ask them how you can help out. Don't leave a mess. Do more than they ask. Be respectful of their home. These behaviors will go a long way to helping your parents to calm down. Often, parents nag when they feel helpless. If possible, tell them how they can be helpful. If they have contacts, don't be shy about asking them to help you network. Just be sure to be as professional and courteous with their contacts as you would with a stranger.

Finding a job can be hard work and hard on the ego. A persistent effort aimed at following the steps outlined is likely to be successful. But, what if it isn't? If you have had several job interviews and have not been successful, then, you need to find out what sorts of obstacles are standing in your way. Try to identify ways in which you might be undermining your own efforts. If possible, diplomatically approach those who decided not to hire you and ask them for suggestions as to how you might improve. Ask how you might make future applications more competitive. If they are unwilling to provide feedback, do a simulated interview with someone from your college career center (even if you have to do it on the phone) or with a knowledgeable friend of the family. Ask for feedback on everything, your dress and your demeanor as well as your qualifications. Make sure that your qualifications match the job that you seek. If you still are uncertain as to why you are having difficulty, seek career coaching. If your college career center isn't helpful, consult a career coach. You may want to read this article on selecting a career coach http://www.dcwebwomen.org/lifeatwork/000917.html.

If you are having trouble devoting 7 or 8 hours a day to the job hunt, seek help. If you are having trouble focusing or you find yourself feeling lethargic about your search, you may want to consider counseling or therapy. Many people have trouble with the transition from student to employee. These difficulties typically yield to good treatment. If you have a good relationship with your parents, talk with them about your concerns. If you'd prefer to keep it private make use of the plethora of low fee resources available in the Washington community. In any case, the key is to get help with any obstacle that stands in the way of your job search.

Lynn Friedman, PhD, is a clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst and work-life consultant in full-time, private practice near the Bethesda Metro. She can be reached at drlynn@mindspring.com. More of her work be found at http://www.drlynnfriedman.com/.


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