Updated: Dec 26, 2018
He camped in his backyard with his daughter the night before an interview. She asked to push our meeting out so she could have coffee with an old friend. They didn’t attend the job fair because they were leading a canoe trip. I don’t worry about these job seekers. They know when it's time to do more work and they have the energy to do it. I worry about the ones that toil alone on the computer all day, those who tell me they’re “grinding it out,” those who make any positive emotion contingent on getting an interview or an offer. You know who you are. You’re proud of your work ethic. Understandably. But if you let it go unchecked, let it overpower and overwhelm you, your job search is less effective than it could be. I worry about people who don’t prioritize happiness during their career transition.
The work of researchers like Tal Ben-Shahar, Shawn Achor, and Michelle Gielan is clear; happier brains are more motivated, energetic, creative, and successful than brains in neutral or negative states. Every indicator of success that Achor and his colleagues have measured, from sales and promotions to motivation and immunity, improves when brains are in a positive state. It doesn't take much, either. In one study, doctors' accuracy and speed of diagnosis improved after they received a lollipop. A lollipop. And the key word here is "received." They didn't even eat the lollipop.
If you want to improve the effectiveness of your job search, utilize your discipline to elevate your mental state. This not only gives you more energy to tackle your to-dos, it enables you to see more opportunities. Opportunities like going out on a limb and asking for an informational interview, having the energy to attend a pitch night that leads to a consulting gig, or taking time to chat with someone you assumed “can’t help,” and finding out you were wrong.
Drop the tactical aspects of your job search strategy? Of course not. I’m a career coach who spends all day discussing things like networking, interviewing, and negotiation. And while I’m not against pleasure (big fan of dark chocolate, red wine, and hot tubs; ideally in combination), more effective in boosting happiness, is the kind of positive mood that includes meaning. That’s where the backyard camping, volunteering, and time with old friends come in.
We're told that each of us is born with a set range of happiness. Limiting. And when there are crises on top of mortgages and mouths to feed, how do you do hang out on the upper end of that range? Ideally, not alone. Shawn Achor’s assertion is backed up by an enormous amount of research, “The biggest predictor of long-term happiness is social connection.” Start with the list below and rest assured that the items are the result of research with Harvard and half of the Fortune 100s. Bonus: Know that if you do these practices with others, you’ll boost not only the happiness of everyone involved, but as Achor addresses in his latest book, the effect extends even to people who aren’t present.
Data-Backed Daily Happiness Boosters:
1. Write down 5 new things you're grateful for.
2. Exercise for 20 minutes, ideally in nature.
3. Perform a conscious act of kindness.
4. Write about a positive event from the past 24 hours, in detail.
5. Praise someone, specifically.
Even if you did everything on the list, that's an hour at most. You still have the rest of the day to "grind it out." But you probably won't. You'll be too busy doing things like enjoying former colleagues, nerding out on what blockchain means for your industry, taking a risk and applying to a bigger role, or giving yourself permission to actually enjoy the time you spend not working on your career.
In your corner.
Emma Garrett is an Executive Coach, helping high-integrity leaders position themselves for what’s next in work and life. If you're ready for your next chapter, consider scheduling a free call to share your situation and goals.