Balancing Work-Search and Home

Forget work-life balance – I can’t even figure out how to balance searching for work and my life.

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Forget Work Life Balance! I can’t even manage to balance searching for work and my life!

Photograph: Jake Wyman/Getty Images via the Guardian

Up until 2 months ago when people asked “What do you do?”  I said “I’m a Graduate Student in the Industrial Organizational Psychology program at Salem State University.”  Then we’d talk about the program, and what the heck I-O psychology is. Those were fun conversations because in my unofficial study of the population, about 1 in 20 people knew what Industrial Organization Psychology was – or even let me get all those syllables out of my mouth.

However, now that I’ve finished the school work for the program, I’m in a surprising limbo of job opportunity hunting, mixed with Stay at Home Mom responsibilities.

If you’re scratching your head and wondering how this could be harder than being a grad student and stay at home mom. We’re in the same boat.  I’m totally confused too.

Since I used to spend about 15-20 hours a week reading, writing, and studying for class, I thought I could easily turn that into time spent job searching. Ha.  It turns out a big part of my motivation was turning up in class and having intelligent discussions, being well-prepared, and oh yeah… impressing my peers and teachers.

This type of gratification isn’t exactly readily present after you’ve sent your resume and cover letter down a half-dozen black holes of online application platforms.  I’ve got a lot less motivation to keep working after the clock hits 9:00pm and I could be using my Netflix account.

This is a problem of motivation and reinforcement that performance management expert  Aubrey Daniels talks about in his book “Bringing out the Best In People.”  If you want to set people up to thrive, you need to create environments that reinforce the behaviors you want them to demonstrate. Reinforcement can be either Positive or Negative, Immediate or Future, and Certain or Uncertain.

The reinforcement for job hunting is definitely Negative, Future and Uncertain.  I can’t know when I’ll get a job, which of my actions are contributing the most to my success (is it the informational interviews? The networking events? The number of resumes submitted?), and for submitting any applications the only response is a frustrating automated reply!

On the other hand, being a SAHM has Immediate, Certain consequences, even if they aren’t always Positive.  For example, I tell my preschooler he can’t have candy for breakfast and the consequence is immediate – yelling and screaming.  Or I can spend time with friends at the park on a gorgeous sunny afternoon.

It’s so much easier to cross off “Do the dishes” from my to-do list and so much harder to find the perfect answer to the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

I’m tired at the end of the day. Without the extra motivation to impress others at tomorrow’s class, applications seem so much easier to just do tomorrow, when I might have more energy.

So, I’ve thrown myself into being solution oriented – what’s worked for me in the past, and how can I make it work for this particular situation?

  1. I’ve found an unemployment partner. In order to keep myself accountable for setting realistic weekly goals I found someone else in the same stage of job hunting as myself. We swap advice, share helpful articles about how to avoid self-sabotage and maintain a marathon, not sprint,  approach to job hunting.
  2. I’m making my search social. Most good job hunting advice will recommend that you network, conduct informational interviews, and talk about your job search like it’s a favorite hobby of yours. So, I’m trying to balance the computer application part of the work with these much more fun, much more social elements of job hunting.
  3. Remind myself that the length of my unemployment isn’t a measure of my worth, or my skills.  It will happen when it happens, and being flexible and trying new things is a key part of any job or job search.’

How about you? Any tips for this job-hunter?  Any moms out there have good solutions that worked for them when they were job hunting? Weigh in with your comments below!


Changing careers and figuring out what to do with my life has been a key part of this blog the last couple years. Here are some of my other posts people loved. 

A lament on finding that perfect position: Single People I hear you!

Some old thoughts on how messed up it is that we expect kids to know “what they want to be” where they are 17 or 18.

Author: Beth M

Life Lessons, Parenting, Books, Sustainability.

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