Adele has just been informed that she was not selected for a prized position at a leading financial services firm. She is immediately angry and disheartened, blaming everyone and everything, including herself, for her not being hired. She is unable to come to terms with the loss and is in a funk for the rest of the week, blaming, gossiping, writing disgruntled e-mails and spewing forth angry epithets. She is unable to see the larger context within which the rejection took place.
One way to view a student, or any human being, is as an amalgamation of four components: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. Much has been written about the physical and intellectual components in the Career Services world. For clarity’s sake, by “physical” we mean writing a resume, interviewing, networking and showing up at work. “Intellectual” refers to having the “smarts” to work in a particular field.
When we go to work we are expected to show up with our physical bodies and intellect. It is understood that we will check our emotions and spirituality at the door. Most employers are not interested in how we feel about the job or in anything spiritual related to getting assigned tasks accomplished. They just want us to use our intellect and corporeal capabilities. It has been said that your employer is only getting half of you. This article will explore the emotional and spiritual realms.
Let’s first focus on the emotional component which refers to the feelings and psychological frame of reference through which a person views his/her world. Peter Senge of MIT in his book, The Fifth Discipline, refers to these as “mental models.” These are the (usually) untested beliefs and assumptions we acquired as children from our family of origin. Emotional health is defined as having the wherewithal to know yourself, your goals and to make decisions based on your personal awareness and, when necessary, with appropriate advice from outside experts. People who are not emotionally evolved may make choices that are not in their best personal interests and end up living someone else’s (like their parents’) dreams, or choosing careers that are not a fit. Most students do not realize that their emotional state has such a strong bearing on their career choice.
Choosing a career, getting ready to graduate from college and finding a job involves very significant life changes. These types of transition can cause students to be pushed over their emotional threshold and bring up all sorts of emotional resistance. Some of the more common and potentially distressing emotional challenges are:
Codependency – becoming dependent on others to make our own decisions.
Lack of self-confidence – feeling I’m not good (smart, attractive, thin, etc.) enough to succeed.
Lack of control – over who I am or where I’m going.
Using early childhood survival strategies that are no longer applicable or beneficial.
Fear – making decisions based on any number of fears, e.g., fear of failure, not measuring up, etc.
Les Brown, a noted motivational speaker, said, “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”
We are not therapists, but we believe a career service professional can spot an emotional block and do the student a tremendous service by referring him or her to an appropriate professional.
Self-knowledge is the major antidote for avoiding the emotional pitfalls of which we might not even be aware. Students can achieve emotional health by working on their self-development by reading/studying about and enrolling in workshops on personal development, being involved in support/recovery groups and therapy.
Therapy can be a highly effective way for students with “disorders, relationships, stress, grief, childhood trauma, etc. to figure out who they are and learn to live life to the fullest,” according to psychologist Ryan Howes, Ph.D. Contrary to popular belief, seeking personal understanding in therapy is a sign of strength. It is taking action to achieve personal insight to live a better life, and there is no shame in wanting to develop personally. Note that in this article we are trying to raise awareness, not to explore the subject in depth or provide an all-inclusive set of solutions.