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You Don't Deserve to Be Angry

We have a lot to worry and be angry about during these uncertain times. But letting anger drive our approach to life, health, and job search just punishes us even more.

A couple of weeks ago, my coauthor, Duncan Mathison (Unlock the Hidden Job Market) and I wrote an article for AOL/Careerbuilder, called “How to Network Without Sounding Phony, Lame or Desperate.”  At last count, there are 66 comments, most of which are variations on the theme:  “Business is so unfair, no one will hire me, and who wants to work for fill in the blank anyway?”   Many of the responses to the original commentaries were pretty much along the lines of, “yeah!”  The most succinct of all the emails that I read was the commentary, “blah blah blah.”  Now, that’s a helpful contribution to the conversation, don’t you think?

As I read these comments, I couldn’t help but wonder if these attitudes seep through the pores of resentful applicants – sort of like the smell of alcohol seeps through the pores of someone after a bender. You think you’re standing up straight; you think your smile is appropriately friendly; you think your hair is brushed, teeth are clean, and buttons buttoned. And they just might be. But still, there’s no mistaking the stench of a very bad frame of mind. And so all these complaints become self-fulfilling.

So you might be wondering about the headline of this post.  “What do you mean I don’t deserve to be angry, damn straight I do!” Okay.  So are you any closer to finding a job with that attitude? I’m thinking probably not. It’s not that you don’t have any (or every) reason to be angry. It’s that you don’t deserve the damage that your anger is doing to you. It’s important to have someone you trust and respect confirm that your anger is justified (believe me, I know that one first-hand).  But once you have that confirmation, it’s important for you to put that anger aside and get on with things. Here’s why:

An angry frame of mind is going to cause you to see only additional evidence to stoke that angry fire:  We find what we look for (except for jobs, it seems).  And when we look for additional evidence that hope is futile, by gum, we’re going to find it.  Then stories pile up, driving us deeper and deeper into the pit of despair under their weight.

You will attract only people who want to go there with you: It’s human nature, we seek our kindred spirits. If you look at the responses to the comments  on the AOL/Careerbuilder article, it will drive you to your own flavor of desperate thinking and behaving.  A couple of brave souls had the nerve to speak up and challenge the comments writers on their attitudes. But I’m guessing those comments will go ignored – maybe even invisible – to the crowd bent on beefing.  No one who is emotionally or mentally healthy is going to want to hang out with you very long. And you’ll be left with people who are happy to wallow with you.  They will help you feel less alone, but they won’t help you find a job. They’re not about helping you – or even helping themselves, for that matter. They’re about finding partners to justify their own miserable frame of mind.

A negative perspective drastically reduces your options.  There has been some very interesting research into the real, measurable impacts of positive psychology.  When you have a positive explanatory style, for instance, you are able to tell yourself that even these terrible economic times will eventually pass – or maybe even hold a hidden benefit (you know the joke that ends with, “there’s a pony here somewhere?”  If not, email me and I’ll tell you the whole thing).  

And positive emotions broaden what psychologists call your momentary thought-action repertoire. This means that positive emotional give you more resources for coping – access to creative thinking, for instance, more energy for persevering on those darn job boards a few more hours, more confidence when you call strangers asking for informational interviews. That kind of thing. Plus you could be making yourself more attractive to potential employers who are only looking for candidates they can count on to be resourceful, innovative, and basically pleasant to be around.

So, what are you supposed to do with all that anger? Just stifle? Nope. That’s bad for you too.  Feel the rage you want to feel, but don’t wallow in it.  Recognize it for what it is – a very legitimate reaction to a truly sucky time in our history – but don’t let it determine your entire outlook on life.

There is still plenty to appreciate about being alive in these times. Go there in your head. And then only hang out with those people who would agree with you. If for no other reason than making the passing of this time that much more pleasant.

You deserve nothing less.