Using emotional intelligence can help you succeed in your job search. But what is emotional intelligence, and why is it that success in life sometimes seems unrelated to intelligence? This realization may hit you at your high school reunion. The academic star who seemed to do no wrong in the classroom is doing odd jobs, whereas the guy who barely scraped by with Cs and Ds has it all 10 years later—a great job, money and a happy family.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence accounts for stories like these. About 10 years ago psychologists came up with the concept of emotional intelligence, which is defined as the ability to:
- identify and monitor emotions in the self and others;
- discriminate among emotions;
- understand the causes of emotions;
- use information from emotions; and
- effectively manage emotions.
Research has shown that these skills, even more than intellect, contribute to career and life success. It is more difficult to draw on these skills in times of stress, such as when you are unemployed or making a career change, but these times are precisely when emotional intelligence can really make a difference to the outcome you achieve.
Managing Your Emotions
Take your initial response to a career setback such as the loss of your job. Flexibility—the ability to adapt to new situations—is an essential component of emotional intelligence. When you lose your job, you have the option of remaining stuck in your sense of loss or in defining what you have to offer only in terms of your last position. Or you can take a flexible attitude, adapt yourself to your new role as job searcher and start seeing all the opportunities where your current skills and those you can develop may lead.
Emotionally Intelligent Decision Making
Next you need to decide what sort of job you are going to look for or whether to accept a job that is offered to you. Effective decision making requires a combination of logic and emotional input. Too often job searchers focus on one to the exclusion of the other. They decide, for example, to train to work in the oil patch because it is logical—there is an abundance of high paying jobs—while ignoring their sick feeling at the prospect of working out in the elements and being away from their family. To make an emotionally intelligent career decision, which has a greater prospect for long-term sustainability, you need to make yourself aware of your feelings about different career or job prospects and value this information just as much as you value labour market and salary information or results from career assessments.
Accessing Your Emotional Career Information
How do you begin to access career information from your emotions? One way to begin is to ask yourself two questions: First, when do you feel excited or curious? This will help you get at your interests and passions. Second, what makes you feel angry and why? This helps you get at your core values, a factor that often makes the difference in whether a job or career will be a fit for you.
Other components of emotional intelligence that impact your job search are optimism, stress tolerance and reality testing, particularly if your unemployment drags on longer than expected. Do you fall into unrealistic thought patterns such as, “I’ll never earn a good living again?” Or do you engage in activities and surround yourself with support people that will help you stay positive?
Don’t be discouraged if you have difficulty with some of these components of emotional intelligence. There are many books, websites and workshops to help you develop these skills. Search “Emotional Intelligence” or “EQ” on the Internet or ask a reference librarian.
Ruth Silverman, MEd, CCC is a Counsellor/Facilitator with SCCI Project Restart Ltd.