By Melody J. Wilding (Published for The Muse)
Looking for a new job is filled with constant emotional highs and lows. Battling the fear of the unknown (will you ever find a job?) is enough to make anyone feel frustrated, anxious, and downright bummed.
Job hunting is an intense process that can seriously mess with your mood. For most people, your career is closely linked to your identity, so you may feel like searching for a job is like searching for a piece of yourself—and until that piece is in place, you can feel unsettled and incomplete.
Or you may feel that by being unemployed, you’re letting others down—like your parents, mentor, or significant other—which only exacerbates the roller coaster of emotions you’re on.
And to add to all that, looking for a new job is a constant lesson in dealing with rejection. No matter how many people tell you not to take it personally, rejection stings every time and can take a major toll on your motivation to move forward with your job hunt. You can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with you that’s preventing you from getting hired.
It’s normal to feel additional stress and anxiety during the job search process—but it’s also a difficult cycle to break. So when you’re feeling down about your job search, how can you cope? The good news is there are proven ways to better manage your mood during your job search, so you can rock your interviews and land a new role you love.
1. Create Structure
As humans, we naturally crave order and control, so it’s no wonder why the uncertainty associated with job searching can make us feel uneasy.
Creating a schedule and boundaries for your job search can help add that sense of control to your life, which can sustain your motivation and keep you thinking positively. For example, you might set aside one hour each morning specifically to work on updating your resume or set a goal to attend three networking events per month.
By incorporating structure into your daily job search, you’ll accomplish small wins each day, which helps foster positive feelings of self-efficacy—that is, a sense that you are capable of finding a new job. Knowing that you’re able to accomplish goals you set for yourself can help revive your waning motivation and flip your mindset around.
2. Stay Organized
The more organized you are, the less likely you are to become overwhelmed and fall victim to worst-case scenario or defeatist thinking (e.g., “They’ll take one look at my resume and laugh me out of the room” or “Why bother, I won’t get this job anyway”). So, create step-by-step plans for tackling each piece of the job search like it’s any other work assignment.
For example, for one opportunity, you may need to find contact information for setting up an informational interview and then draft an email to send. For another opportunity, you may have already landed an interview, so your next tasks would be to research the company, organize your notes, and lay out your interview outfit.
Breaking down the job search into smaller, more manageable tasks can help a big, daunting process feel less overwhelming and more within your control. (If you’re looking for a way to keep track of everything, try this job search spreadsheet.)
3. Take a Hiatus
Lining up as many interviews as you can fit into a short period of time may seem like the best strategy to land a role quickly, but when you’re feeling unmotivated and burnt out, it’s important to pace yourself.
In fact, you may even want to take a break from interviewing or job searching altogether. The length of your recovery will vary depending on your individual circumstances, but generally, the more detached and listless you feel, the more time you’ll need to disconnect and recoup. By taking occasional breaks, you’ll give yourself time to do an internal audit of your physical and emotional well-being and replenish your reserves as needed.
Use this time to physically rest and work on other priorities that may be tangential (but still beneficial) to your job search, such as setting up coffee dates (or Zoom calls if you can’t meet in person) to deepen networking connections or investing effort in finding a mentor who can support you when you pick your search back up again. While getting a job is important, keeping yourself healthy in the process is also an essential long-term investment.
4. Seek Out Emotional Support
The job search can stir up challenging emotions, fears, and limiting beliefs that can keep you up at night. If you bottle up those reactions, you’ll perpetuate the production of stress hormones throughout your entire body, which will continue to bring you down.
Instead, take these emotions as a signal to make a change in your behavior or outlook. A great way to do this is to turn to a friend or family member, who can provide a helpful reminder that you are loved, cared for, and a person of tremendous value despite the challenges you’re currently facing.
Simply talking through things with another person can be an effective way of processing messy, challenging emotions. Engaging with a trusted friend, family member, or therapist can also help you uncover limiting beliefs that are holding you back and learn how to turn those around.
5. Know Your Triggers
Ask yourself: What situations make you feel the most bummed out or trigger stress? For example, maybe you’re sent into a tailspin of uncertainty when you don’t hear back right away after an interview. The longer you experience the silence, the less motivation you have to continue your search—and you might even self-sabotage by canceling other interviews.
If you can identify situations or people that trigger your frustration, you can anticipate your reaction and create emotional buffers to help you cope better. For instance, you could ask your interviewer directly when you can expect to hear back—which can lessen the impact of that trigger.
The road to landing a job can seem endless and can take a major toll on your emotional well-being. But just like you wouldn’t go into work if you had the flu, you can’t go through the interview process without caring for your physical, mental, and emotional health. By following these tips, you can weather the storm and expedite your path to employment and happiness.