Preserving Self-Worth While Job Hunting

Joella Ranaivoson

March 12, 2023

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. --Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I have a dear friend who, in the second year of the pandemic, applied to over 40 jobs. All the positions were well within his field of experience and expertise. He made folders of highly organized cover letters and resumes in his laptop. He spent hours polishing and adjusting his CV for each position. It was a highly impressive operation. Yet, less than ten of the postings contacted him for an interview. Only two went beyond a first interview. Zero led to a job offer. 

Job-hunting can be soul-sucking and despair-brewing. But here’s how you can keep yourself up through it all.

There is a time for everything

When you’re applying for jobs or searching for a new job, it’s important to remember that there is a time for everything. Allow that truth to settle over you and give you comfort.

Perhaps you’re in a job where you’re unhappy, or don’t feel fulfilled, or you’re not using your gifts, or not walking in your calling. Perhaps you’re currently not working and are beginning to job-search again. Perhaps you're wondering what the next season of work will look like.

Wherever you find yourself, trust the season that you are in. Trust that God is present with you and working through this time. If you’re feeling the stirring to move into the next thing or away from what you’re currently doing, trust that this has been stirred up in you for a reason, and that things are being worked out and ordered for you. It may not unfold or come about in the timeline or manner you would prefer, but that’s where releasing comes in. Trust that you are loved, trust that you are being watched over, trust that you will be provided for, trust that your needs can and will be met. God is in charge of all the money and employment in the world, and you are loved by God.

Planting season

Job-hunting is planting season. When you are filling out those applications, answering those short answers, putting yourself out there in resume and cover-letter form, you are sowing seeds in all different kinds of ground, looking to see what will spring up. Sometimes, the seed germinates and grows quickly: you get an interview, then a second, then a final one, then a job offer! Next thing you know you’re negotiating salary and PTO. Congratulations!

Yet, other times, the seed looks for all intents and purposes to have died underground. You applied for jobs and not even a response comes back: no interview, no callback, no prospect. Or, you get an interview, make it all the way to the final round, and the other candidate gets offered the position. It's discouraging. It’s disheartening. 

But the thing about seeds is they’re the only things that can be buried and not die. In fact, the compacting, the darkness, the stillness is where they grow. You may feel your seeds sown in good faith are just not bearing any fruit. This is a reminder to trust the timing of your harvest.

Don’t over-identify with your job

It is difficult not to over-identify with our job in a work-forward and work-centered society. Our days are so taken up by jobs that we feel a gap when we’re not working—but it is important for us not to over-identify with our jobs or careers. You are not what you do. You are not your work. You are someone who does your work. You are a human being first, made in the image of God. You’re not a human doing. You are endowed with dignity and worth no matter what your work status might be. You do not need to prove your worth by working any certain type of job, no matter what anyone says.

Yes, work is dignifying: it affirms our inherent dignity, our God-given giftedness, and it feels good to wake up and have a sense of purpose and structure to our days, especially if we feel our work is aligned with our life purpose and vocation. But despite what our culture enforces, employment is not the center of your being. Your being-ness in God is.

When we over-identify with our careers, our self-worth tanks and our sense of self unravels when unemployed for a time. The more grounded you can become in who you are, irrespective of any labels or identifiers (including your job title), the more steady you can feel through the changes and turbulence life brings, including career change and job status shifts.

Do you believe that you are still worthy even if you can’t earn a cent? Because you are. Do you believe your worthiness does not change, even if you are earning streams and streams of income? Because it doesn’t. You are worthy because you are God’s. That’s it.

Trust God and don’t take it personally

Did you crack that interview like a boss and they still didn’t offer that position to you? That’s a bummer, and I’m sorry for the rejection. But you know what? It’s okay! It wasn’t the one for you. Consider rejection as God’s protection and redirection. Practice not taking it personally, and you can have so much more peace and ease surrounding this process. When you’re not selected for a job, it’s natural and easy to think, "oh my goodness, I’m just not good enough, they didn’t want me," when it’s far more likely that it’s not the right fit. They had their own reasons that likely had little to do with you. It’s not personal. This can be difficult to do, but if you can practice separating your sense of self from a rejection, that will serve you far better than questioning your goodness every time you receive a no.

Feel your feelings, tend to your wounds, and identify what triggers may have come up in being faced with rejection. Do the things you need to do to move that energy and emotion through your body (cry, move, create), and then: Let. It. Go. It wasn’t the one for you. What is for you will not pass you by, no one can take it away. Similarly, what is not for you is for someone else, and no amount of effort or force on your part will make it yours.

Know when to push and when to rest

You may have responsibilities on you, like a family to support, a mortgage or rent to pay, student loans to repay, etc., so that you feel double pressure to find a job. That is perfectly legitimate. Yet, it’s important to know when to give yourself a break from the grind of job applications. It’s taxing and depleting, so practice listening to your body, your heart, and your soul well enough to know when you need to pause to give yourself a rest from it. Rest in the job application process is as important as doing the applications themselves, as it gives you the space and time to process and heal from any rejections, so you can get back up and keep going. Take care of yourself.

Gather the lesson

This season of seed-planting that is job hunting is also gathering season. Observe what is happening within and around you as you process success and rejections and make decisions about which opportunities to pursue and which to let go. What lessons are being offered to you through this time about your self-worth? About who you are apart from work? About what aspect of work attract or repel you. This growing in self-awareness is a really important, beautiful time, though it may not feel like it. When you have passed this time, may you be able to look back on this time with kindness and growth.

In conclusion, remember: you are not your employment status. Repeat it with me. I am not my job. My work is a part of my life. My work is important. But it cannot be my whole identity. Work is dignifying. And, I can exist beyond my work. I am worthy whether or not I am employed. And, I look forward to when I can work again. May it be a job that is nourishing to my soul and aligned with my purpose and what God is inviting me to grow in my time on earth. There is a season for everything. This is my planting season.
You got this.

About the author — Joella Ranaivoson

Joella is an artist using words in writing, songs, and acting to convey truths about being human. Storytelling is the joy. Everything feeds everything, so take it all in and let it feed your creativity.

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