Career advice

Searching for a job anytime is tough. But job searching when you’re unemployed is really tough. Through my work with job seekers, I’ve noticed a trend. Those who are unemployed are much more distressed by the process of job searching then those who aren’t. 

When thinking through this issue, I looked up the term “emotional roller coaster.” I was surprised to find multiple websites that claim the term was coined by Dr. N. Amundson in relation to dealing with unemployment. He published an article called, The dynamics of unemployment: Job loss and job search. 

I’d never heard of this article, but I was able to verify on Google Scholar that it does exist. In the description, it says, “We have developed an integrated model comparing job loss to the grieving process (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and job search to ‘burnout’ (enthusiasm, stagnation, frustration, apathy).” 

If you have a family member who is unemployed, you have probably wondered what is going on. Why don’t they just get over it? Be positive and have a better attitude, right? 

Sadly, it’s not that simple. When you experience other types of loss, like a death in the family, it can feel awful. At the time, there’s nothing worse. But if other areas in your life stay stable, eventually, you start to feel somewhat normal again after a certain period of grief. 

Unfortunately, with unemployment, these feelings of grief don’t resolve. The unemployed person must alter every piece of their life in order to cope with a sudden loss of income. They may buy cheaper food. They may become isolated from friends because they don’t feel comfortable with the cost of going to a restaurant for dinner. 

With unemployment, the person continues to be in the middle of an emergency. The end point is unknown and worries multiply by the day. Loved ones might assume the unemployed person is doing something wrong. After all, if they were doing everything right, they would have a job by now. 

That’s not the reality of the situation. Normally, when we look for work, we already have a job. We look passively. It can take a few years to find something that’s the right fit. Nobody notices because we are still working. When you have a job, you job search in secret. When you’re unemployed, everyone knows you’re looking. 

If you have an unemployed friend, cut them a little slack. It’s not just something they should have a better attitude about. Just because they haven’t landed a job doesn’t mean they aren’t good at what they do. It doesn’t mean they should switch careers. It doesn’t mean they need unsolicited advice. What it means is that they need your friendship and support to get them through this emotional roller coaster. 

— Angela Copeland, a career expert 

and founder of Copeland Coaching,

can be reached at