Sweating out the job search? Here’s why digital wellness is important for job seekers, and what you can do about it.

Rachel Stewart Johnson, Ph.D.

Psychologist | Driven by communications about human behavior in Psychology

 The importance of “digital wellness” has gained increasing attention in the tech sector in recent months. Industry leaders have introduced tools to help users gain insight into their screen time and catch a break from the addictive scroll, scroll, scroll. Although using technology to limit our use of technology may seem like fighting fire with fire, the trend is undeniable: digital wellness is a growing priority.

In the effort to achieve balance in the use of technology, a question remains: how does searching for a job, a task that often involves link after link and is heavy on screen time, impact our digital wellness? Whether one is seeking an entry-level position, has decided to pursue a career change, or is urgently responding to a job loss, the process can be fraught with emotions. The pursuit of a paycheck is a defining feature of adulthood, yet may be one of its most stressful.

Job hunting often involves disappointments

Looking for the right job is often marked by a hard truth: rejection. And science has revealed that we humans don’t fare well with rejection. Duke University professor of psychology Mark Leary wrote: “People not only react strongly when they perceive that others have rejected them, but a great deal of human behavior is influenced by the desire to avoid rejection.” Numerous emotions are often associated with rejection, such as embarrassment and anxiety, and Leary proposed that humans have a hard-wired “sociometer” that reads social cues to check for signs of exclusion by others. Rejection often spills over, leading to other generalized emotions like sadness or anger.

But why does this matter for the job seeker? You’ve carefully cultivated the right qualifications, crafted a sharp-looking resume, and clicked “Apply.” When nothing happens, not this time or the next or the next dozen either, an individual can begin to feel that uncomfortable combination of rejection emotions. And science has taken this a step further: we know those feelings make our brains respond in certain predictable ways. The sociometer Leary described uses parts of our brain that are also associated with physical pain. One might say: rejection hurts.

Learn who you are

Both job seekers and employers can take steps to address this reality – and can make tech tools an ally. For those on the job hunt, understanding oneself is a good place to start. Completing a science-based digital personality assessment can be a way to gird against the hit to self-esteem involved in putting oneself out there for consideration. Think of the value in rehearsing these positives: I’m good at guiding others. I’m a natural innovator who can dream up the Next Big Thing. I get through tasks in less time than most.

The importance of fit

Understanding your personality can also help by making rejection less likely. By targeting positions that are good fits for your combination of job skills and personality characteristics, you avoid applying to -- and likely being passed up for -- jobs you wouldn’t have enjoyed anyway. In short, you want your search to be focused, personalized, and mindful of finding the best match between your strengths and the demands of a typical day on the job. Employers now use more and more data to make smarter hiring decisions. Why shouldn’t job seekers do the same?

Less is more

Job seekers should consider limiting their methods, similar to how smartphone users might schedule Do Not Disturb periods. Scrolling endlessly through lists of job openings is likely to dampen morale. Instead, move toward specific goals, such as a set number of jobs to identify during a search session. Take a break from searching databases and devote time to writing cover letters or reach out to your network. And take breaks from the entire process too.

Employers can promote digital wellness

Digital wellness in the job search isn’t solely the responsibility of job candidates. Leading employers are smart to consider the role they play. By approaching the marketing of open positions as one in which employers help job candidates become better candidates, they invest in their long-term talent acquisition efforts. Searchable databases of open positions can include evidence-based content about traits that are well suited to a given job, for example, and a short, enjoyable personality assessment can be added to get the conversation started. Employers can approach this as a long-term investment: providing access to assessment tools represents a gift to the talent pool. Sample this Traitify personality survey to envision what personality-driven wellness measures for your candidates could look like.

The job search doesn’t have to be a drain on one’s mental health. It can instead be an energizing quest. Psychology is a catalyst that can bring the right candidates and the right organizations together -- and bring on a new era of digital wellness while doing so.



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