I’m looking for a new job. My last (very successful) freelance contract finished, and a potential mortgage on my first apartment looms. I need to find something full-time and permanent, which means doing what I hate most: job hunting.
There are few things on God’s green earth more depressing and degrading than job hunting (except Internet dating, which is an equally romantic and remarkably similar process).
It’s not that I’m bad at it. I’ve written my cover letter. My CV is nice and shiny. I’ve rehearsed potential interview questions and answers, and my friends send me five job prospects daily while I apply for another 10.
I don’t expect my dream job to just land in my lap like my cat. I know it’s a numbers game, but one with real emotional and personal consequences. And after a few weeks of applying to anything sounding remotely interesting, it’s getting to me.
Job Hunting with Purpose
A job means more than money in the bank and something to do on weekdays. A job gives me status, pride, purpose, and self-respect. It challenges me, and I can excel at it. I can learn from co-workers and vice versa. Jobs bring stability and security. (I’ll finally be able to afford to fill my car to the top with petrol!)
Here at Square One, as with online dating, the process is automated and impersonal when finding a new position is actually a very personal thing. I wake up at 8 a.m. and work for 10 hours (thank you, hyperfocus). I jump through bizarre hoops for companies I’ve never heard of that aren’t paying me for my time. Or I sift through purposely vague job descriptions that always sound similar on behalf of some mystery client.
Each bite I get gives me hope. I picture myself in the role, doing something useful for society and living the life I want, rather than the limbo I’m in now. I spend countless hours researching companies and learning about potential co-workers, just as I might for a date. I’m initially intrigued, then grow more interested as I progress through the interview stages. I start to care. I even dress up for Zoom calls and regularly check my emails.
Job Hunting and RSD
I resent the little tricks of the job-hunting process, like having to name my own wage as if I’m a product. I’m tired of telling strangers that “I’m a creative, dynamic team player with leadership qualities and a can-do attitude.” It’s humiliating. I’m a human being with skills, thoughts, opinions, and emotions.
I often find myself in the living room sitting in my suit at 9 a.m., with my camera angled perfectly. I’m waiting for the interviewee to click a link, and they don’t show up. It’s obnoxious.
Not getting a job offer triggers my rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD). It gets worse when I receive a callous email from a company that I interviewed with multiple times:
“Dear Lee Stead,
(My name is Les Steed! It’s even my email address! You just typed it in the email!)
After careful consideration, we regret to inform you….”
After weeks of these rejections my RSD builds up over time, like Chinese water torture, slowly eroding my self-esteem, little drip by little drip.”
There’s no feedback these days either, so I ruminate about where I went wrong. Did I talk too much? Was it because I paused in the middle of an answer for a sip of tea? I hate not knowing how I’m being judged.
The longer I go without a proper job, the more pressing the financial squeeze becomes. After a few months, I can’t even afford to let off steam at a pub. I will inevitably undersell myself the more desperate for a job I become. Or worse, I will have to ask my family for money to not starve. (The long-term effects of that will be horrible.)
As our society becomes increasingly impersonal and digital, too many smiles never reach our eyes. My generation is the best-educated and most tech-savvy in history. Yet, we seemingly all have mental health problems. You can’t help but wonder why.
Job Hunting and RSD: Next Steps
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