Expressive Writing Will Improve Job Prospects

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

It is true.  Expressive writing does help unemployed men and women find a job faster.  Perhaps you will say, "I understand.  Expressive writing helps to improve resume-writing skills.  When your resume stands out from the pile of other resumes, your chances of getting a job are sure to improve."  The fact is that the resume plays only a small part in the job finding process for everyone; if you lost a job and are looking for another, a resume is not what may  be holding you up from getting rehired.  You may have a psychological barrier to overcome.  

When we have a job, we say, "Oh! it's just a job," but if we ever lose a job without a job in hand, job loss is more than a loss of "just a job."  For many of us, it is a crisis of identity of sorts, of who we are and what our worth is in this world.       

Expressive writing helps deal with the feelings related to job loss.  Unemployed persons who write about the circumstances and emotions surrounding a job loss are likely to find another job faster than those who don't.  Perhaps, the former get rehired faster because they have come to a better understanding of why they lost the job and have got a handle over their negative feelings about the job loss.  

It is not unusual for people who lose jobs through no fault of their own to often feel ashamed, humiliated, or angry.  They may not feel like discussing these emotions and issues with anyone, not even their partner, let alone their friends or relatives.  These bottled-up negative feelings may interfere with how applicants present themselves in a job interview.   Lack of hope and confidence on one hand, and cynicism and resentment on another, may prevent a job seeker from giving his or her best shot in the job-finding process.  This is referred to as "self-sabotaging" which can occur without the individual being aware of it.  

In one study, researchers tracked for several months the participants' success or failure in attaining employment after a job loss.  They divided the participants in three groups.  One group consisted of participants who were asked to write for twenty minutes, each day for five days,  about their deepest feelings related to their job loss, more specifically, of anger, hostility, and rejection, and about the consequences of job loss on their finances and family relationships.  We will call it the "expressive writing" group.  The second group was asked to write about certain non-personal topics but with the same frequency and duration as the first group.  We will call it the "writing group."  The third group was not asked to write about anything.  We will call it the "non-writing" group.        

Expressive writing is a winner for reemployment.  Although all participants had mailed comparable number of resumes and made a similar number of calls, 68% of the participants in the expressive writing group got jobs compared to 48% in the writing group.   In the non-writing group, only 27% got jobs during the study.  

It appears that writing about anything is beneficial but writing specifically about feelings surrounding job loss and how it affects you and your family is definitely more beneficial.  Perhaps expressive writing helps to get a handle on the negative emotions.   

Expressive writing may also help to reduce the level of stress.  After all, unemployment is an extremely stressful time, accompanied with anxiety, nervousness and excessive worries about the future.  Writing may hold some merit for stress reduction.  Expression of inner-most fears and feelings reduces stress.  

Writing may also help to reappraise the unemployment situation more realistically.  Putting it down on paper and seeing it in black and white makes us question the validity of our fears.  For example, after writing everything about ever present difficult times, bleak prospects for job-hunting, and the "heartless companies which lay off people right and left," it might spontaneously occur to us to question, "Is it really true that there is not even one job out there?  All I need is one job."  Your thought process may then direct you to looking at other possibilities, changing the method of job searching,  renewing the personal contacts with people in influential positions, etc.  You may at this point, for example, recall that Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones had once told you to contact him/her if you were ever looking for work.  

In summary, when a person loses a job, shutting oneself in and shutting everyone else out is not a very helpful thing.  Write about it, talk about it, and make it a point to share your feelings, concerns, hopes, and prospects with your loved ones.  It can create a new energy in the whole process of a job-search.              

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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