Job Search Stress: The Effects and Solutions

Lets face it, if you’re job searching you’re probably stressed! Increased levels of anxiety and uncontrollable worries often emerge during job transitions. Negative feelings are natural after being laid off or going through a job search. Despite ones level of experience, compensation, or industry the majority of job seekers struggle with some form of stress during their pursuit. As a matter of fact, anxiety and worry tend to become bigger problems than the job search itself.


We all identify at least some part of ourselves with what we do; therefore, being out of work can lead to questioning our sense of identity. As a result, we may feel like we have lost our grounding in certain ways. We find ourselves asking the questions, “Who am I? What am I going to do? What do I do during the day? Do I stay in bed?” With extended job loss, our self criticism and guilt can lead to questions such as “What’s wrong with me?”.


As individuals become worn down by frustration, disappointment, and stress many find themselves spiraling into depression. Ultimately this may manifest itself within an individual’s job search performance. Lack of motivation, poor attitude, or loss of sleep are a few of the factors that can lead people to postpone or ignore the process altogether.


We all feel stress; the shift towards anxiety and depression comes when we start to believe our worrisome thoughts. For example; ‘I only have six months left to find a job, what if I don’t find something”. Those thoughts can set in motion anxious and depressive symptoms that are uncomfortable.


Ultimately, staying mentally healthy throughout your job search becomes just as important as the context of your applications. In order to operate at your peak, it’s beneficial to gain an understanding of why job seekers experience increased stress and the solutions that one can implement to prevent anxious and depressive symptoms. 


Why Are Job Searches So Stressful?

  • Money: Often job seekers most reported source of stress is money. As financial circumstances have a direct impact on an individuals most basic needs, this is a natural response.
  • Control: From the lack of feedback individuals receive to the lack of knowledge on who the competition is, there is an inherent lack of control felt throughout the job search process.
  • Lack of practice: Individuals who are new, lack experience, or have not searched for employment in a significant amount of time must develop or recall the process. The lack of practice or experience of searching for a job can lead to increased stress and questions of competence.
  • Consistent Rejection: When seeking employment individuals are faced with rejections more often than not. This may lead individuals to form more pessimistic thinking patterns or increased recall of past failures.  
  •  Lost sense of self: Individuals often place a large amount of their sense of self on their job. A person's employment may influence how they see themselves as well as how they perceive others to view them. Ultimately, the loss of employment and the job search itself may lead individuals to start to question their identity. 
  • Loss of structure: Individuals' jobs often provide them with a daily routine, work-based social networks, and purpose. Therefore, job seekers may struggle with the lack of defined routine they once felt.


What Effect Can Job Search Stress Have?

  • Depressed mood
  • Increased or decreased sleep
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Withdrawal from activities
  • Distancing oneself from friends and family
  • Increased substance use
  • Increased aggravation
  • Feelings of shame
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Increased headaches or stomachaches


How Does One Cope?

  • Take one day to feel terrible and then make a promise to yourself to get moving.
  • Maintain a regular schedule and daily routines.
  • Set daily goals for yourself; for example, reach out to two people on LinkedIn.
  • As there are many things out of your control right now focus on the things that are; how many emails sent, phone calls made, or applications filled out.
  • Reach out to other professionals; for example, indviduals on LinkedIn who have a job title that interests you to see what steps they took to get there.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Seek additional support; connect with other individuals within your personal and professional networks or community.
  • Consider volunteering.
  • Allow yourself to expand your options on what your job may be, by not putting all of your hopes in one basket you increase your odds.
  • Remind yourself of what you are thankful for, and seek gratitude in what you do have!

All in all, it is natural for individuals to feel stressed, vulnerable, sad, or angry while seeking employment. Despite the added mental stress of job loss or unemployment there are many things that you can do to take control of your situation. Most importantly, seek a positive attitude and outlook. By reaching out to others, using your situation to contemplate your career goals, and reevaluating what truly makes you happy you can get through the job search!

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it." 
                                                            ~Steve Jobs
Author: Stephanie Ballard, CADC
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