Why do most candidates think that job search has the most anxiety-provoking situations? Why do even employed job seekers find a long job search stressful and anxiety-inducing? Growing numbers of candidates report that a job search makes them depressed. Indeed, finding a job is not a matter of days. It can take some applicants three-four months or more of constant resume-sending and interview-attending to get a decent first offer.
The problem is not only that job hunting can take weeks and months, it is also emotionally difficult to be rejected without much feedback while repeatedly jumping back into the fire. Modern people spend so much time working that they self-identify with their professions and jobs, causing extreme frustration when something challenges their self-image.
Thus, uncertainty, lack of control, and identity threat are among the main causes of depression during a job search.
Be Aware of Job Search Stress
Before you even get yourself into the stress of job hunting, prepare yourself to play the long game. Don’t expect to land a new role within a few weeks. Those people who protect themselves from job search frustration by staying in their old place of work may think they are keeping their job search anxiety under control, but is it worth sacrificing career advancement and a better life just to avoid stress? Meanwhile, those who quit or get fired often mistakenly believe that their improved mental health after leaving their old work will last a long time, but after 10 to 12 weeks of unemployment, they see their motivation dwindle and report a decrease of a sense of well-being.
If you cannot get ready for a period of unemployment financially, at least be prepared for its mental and psychological hardship. Knowing that a difficult patch is ahead of you, will help you avoid getting trapped in a vicious cycle where “The worse your emotional health is, the harder it is to find a job.”
Major Causes of Job Search Depression
1. Loss of Control
Forbes contributor Ken Sundheim points out that those people who have more controlling personalities tend to experience increased stress during job hunt. They are unable to exercise the amount of control of their life they get used to and feel highly uncomfortable when they do not know their competitors, have little information between rounds of interviews and get unmotivated rejections.
Not being equipped to manage job search effectively will take a toll on anybody. Even great professionals will feel stressed out and lose confidence if they are lacking job-hunting skills.
The job hunt truly is a job in itself and requires specific skills. The majority of job-seekers do not have the proper skills to play the long game.
A lack of control over job search results should not compromise your job search performance. Shifting your focus from what you can do to what your results are can create a snowball effect. The stress and anxiety start to erode your confidence. You are less focused at interviews, your answers get superficial, and ultimately you cannot impress prospective employers. As a result, you get more and more rejections, causing you to feel even worse. The cycle repeats ad nauseum.
To change the mental attitude that intensifies your stress during a job search, Ken Sundheim suggests the following:
- Focus on solutions rather than problems. If you see that your resumes remain unanswered, revise them. Create at least one copy with the help of professionals, such as GetCoverLetter templates website, and create a winning application package.
- Subscribe to proven websites for jobs and career opportunities.
Stop catastrophic thinking. If your candidacy gets rejected, don’t take it personally. You send out dozens of resumes, you cannot get invited to each vacancy.
- Start reading-related cognitive behavioral therapy materials. It will help you address negative thinking and negative self-talk.
Grounding your identity predominantly in your profession and job makes for a stressful job search. You get rejected a lot and get an impression as if there is something wrong with you. Your personality, per se, has nothing to do with the job rejections. It is difficult to open up and shine within fifteen minutes of seeing a new interviewer.
The New York Times suggests support for identities of job-seekers:
- Recognize that your job does not determine your personality. We all are made of our interests, desires, experiences, dreams, etc.
- Find a hobby or draw energy from other areas in your life that bring you happiness. They can be your sources of confidence for this time.
3. Job Search is a Job
To help yourself not to get dragged into the pool of dark thoughts and depression, career counselors advise job seekers to follow some rules.
1) Create a structure for yourself.
Regardless of whether you currently have a job or not, job seeking is a demanding process that can result in burnouts if you do not take it under your conscious control. Psychologists advise making job hunting a scheduled process. Block off a set time each day when you look for job offers and send out your resumes. Establish simple rules like “Not more than one hour of LinkedIn a day” or “Job offer checking in-office hours.” Remember to take breaks to have a meal and coffee. Thus, you will have enough rest and free time to yourself personally so that you do not feel overwhelmed. Use detailed checklists and mark off things done.
2) Use your time wisely.
Setting up a schedule will point out that your time is not endless. You should say no to some things and welcome others. Maximize your time by researching potential employers and using resume writing companies. Search for jobs on LinkedIn during a set scheduled time. Do not check job boards and social media constantly. Rely on job alerts and notifications. Also, search for specific industries first rather than ‘the right job’ right away.
3) Don’t overwhelm yourself.
You may feel tempted to staff as many job searching activities as possible into one day or a few days in a row so as to just be done with it. But in fact, such an approach can be distressing and demoralizing because the to-do list seems endless or too difficult. Mix ambitious goals with simple ones so that you do not get stuck on a particularly difficult goal and feel a failure because you cannot accomplish it. Even if a task is less related to job search, using it as a small win will help your emotional well-being.
4) Remember to reward yourself.
Be kind to yourself and praise yourself for doing things on your scheduled list and successfully reaching important milestones. Getting an important job interview is a reason to be rewarded even if you do not get the job offer. Reward yourself with a treat or watch a new film or meet a friend for good cheer. The power of small pleasures can boost your feeling of well-being.
5) Turn for help when you cannot control your job search stress.
Be attentive to your mental and emotional health. Recognize signals when your job hunt anxiety gets too serious. If you notice that your nighttime sleep patterns get disrupted too often, you are tense, snappy, and worried all the time, and if you develop panic attacks, you need to seek professional help from a therapist.
4. Tips for employed job-seekers
Schedule interviews carefully.
If you do not want your current employer to find out that you are in full-blow new job mode, schedule job interviews for your days-off or vacation time. If it’s impossible, pick a less hectic time at work to step out for an interview. For example, early in the morning or late afternoon on a Friday.
5. Tips for unemployed job-seekers
1) Stay active.
This is the most important advice for the unemployed. You may feel that if you stay mostly at home and send out your resumes wearing your comfy pajamas, you will be saving your energy by not taking care of yourself. That is a strategic mistake. By failing to dress properly, eat healthily, and engage in physical activity, you are setting yourself up for bad moods and social disengaging. To stay in the right mindset to be successful in your job hunt, keep seeing your friends and visiting local cultural events.
2) Learn new skills.
If you are currently not working, you cannot spend all your free time on job hunting. Try a new hobby or start taking a free online class or two. First, it will give you more energy. Second, it will be a new source of your identification. It should not be something completely new. Instead, supplement the knowledge you already have. As a manager, you may find it rewarding to coach your child’s sports team. As an ambulance technician, you can take a public safety course.
How to Find a Job When Depressed
- Remember your situation is temporary
- Realize you’re not alone
- Set a routine and stick to it
- Take care of yourself
- Don’t shut down in the face of rejection