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Taking a Relational Approach to the Job Search

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

If you’re anything like me (or millions of others out there), you’ve spent significant time over the past two years (two! The COVID time warp never ceases to amaze me) reflecting on the aspects of your work and nonwork life that bring you joy and allow you to thrive, both physically and psychologically. For me, these reflections have led me to pivot toward the more fulfilling parts of my job, cut back on parts I don’t enjoy as much, and shift more guilt-free time toward the boys who encompass my world (a husband, a son, and two dogs!). For many others, however, these reflections have prompted them to leave their organizations in search of jobs that better fit their values, passions, skills, and priorities. While a job search can be an emotional roller coaster, it can also be a time of reflection and even newfound connections. Here are a few insights to help you take a relational approach to your job search:

  • Focus on Building Relationships: During a job search, you will interact with many new people, from recruiters, to hiring managers, to potential future team members. These interpersonal connections can be beneficial in prompting effective job search cognitions and behaviors as well as ultimate search outcomes. Even if you don’t end up in the role you originally interviewed for, you may develop lasting relationships with those you meet along the way—some of which may even morph into close, personal ties!

  • Use recruitment interactions to preview the organization: Interactions during the job search provide valuable windows into what your day-to-day experiences within the organization will look like. Such interactions can highlight positive organizational cultures or even red flags about the job. For example, my dissertation research indicates that women often begin experiencing workplace sexism even before they join an organization, while other research suggests that microaggressions can often surface during recruitment events.

  • See (quality) feedback from others as a gift: The job search process is replete with feedback, with interview opportunities, rejection letters, and job offers all providing information about how others perceive your candidacy and application. Unfortunately, however, this form of feedback on its own is rarely rich enough to be helpful. As daunting as it seems, (re)connecting with those you interacted with during the job search and asking for specific and relevant feedback can help reaffirm your strengths while also helping you refine your job search strategies, efforts, and goals moving forward.

  • Lean on others to boost your confidence: Research indicates that job search self-efficacy—that is, the extent to which you feel confident in your ability to succeed in the job market—plays an important role in driving outcomes. I recommend seeking out activities, routines, and people that bolster your confidence, while avoiding activities like scrolling through LinkedIn that promote social comparison or isolation. For example, look through old emails where colleagues gave you a shoutout, go for coffee with a mentor, or enlist social support to prevent self-doubts and stress.

  • Spend time with close others to recover: The job search process can be exhausting, and while it may feel counterintuitive, weve found that taking time to detach psychologically from the job search each week allows you to approach the following week feeling more invigorated and ready to invest even greater energy in your search. Make a deliberate effort to spend time with your social support network to detach from the search process.

As stressful as the job search may be, my hope is that our research can help you use make the most of your search: finding not just a new role that is the best fit for you, but developing new and existing relationships along the way while also growing through the process.

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