From the outside, looking for a job might seem pretty matter-of-fact and not involve a lot of emotion. For some, this is not the case at all. In fact, “job search depression” is a byproduct of the play between mental distress and unemployment. Even if you’re still employed you could be putting a lot of pressure on yourself to find a new, better, higher-paying position. Here are all the ways pressure affects you when you’re looking for a job and what you can do about it.
The pressure is real.
There are actually many emotions involved in job hunting. You can feel rejected when you send out dozens of resumes and hear back from no one. You can feel unwanted if you interview for a position and don’t get the job. It can make you feel pessimistic about what your future looks like. A lot of our identities are tied to our jobs, so it’s no wonder that emotions can run high when dealing with so many unknowns or things we don’t have direct control over (like how an employer really feels about us.)
The long-term effect.
Eventually, all of this pressure and perceived rejection can impact your self-esteem. Take it too personally, and you’ll start to question who you are at your core. Unfortunately, this is self-defeating because as your confidence wanes, so does your ability to nail that next networking interaction or job interview. These feelings feed upon themselves so that the longer you’re searching or without a job, the less excited you feel for what’s possible and the harder it is to put your best foot forward in an interaction with a potential employer.
The perfection trap.
It doesn’t take long to fall into what’s known as the perfection trap. When you are stuck here, you are overly critical of yourself and worry too much about if someone else thinks negatively of you. When you get lost in perfectionism, you set unrealistic and unachievable goals for yourself and are then disappointed when you don’t attain them. If you spend too much time expecting perfection, it can immobilize you when you need to make decisions because you may feel no decision is good enough.
Some of this tendency for perfectionism comes from societal expectations. Ever since we’ve had to deal with social media on a daily basis, we are more likely to compare our lives to the realities of other people. While we may know intellectually that this is unrealistic and that people are likely only showing the best highlight reel of their lives, it makes an impact. It may increase your anxiety to be at the same level, or have a similar job or level of success, as your peers.
Here are a few tips for managing the pressure a job hunt presents and how you can deal with the resulting anxiety:
1. Realize it won’t last forever. Even the most frustrating job search experience typically ends in being offered some kind of position. It may not be what you originally looked for, but keeping the perspective that looking for a job is a temporary situation is key.
2. Keep your chin up. Sometimes more easily said than done is to stay positive. If you’re getting frustrated, make it interesting. Pick a time of the day to do a regular search for new jobs and congratulate yourself for sending out a resume. Make time to talk to a friend, work in your garden, or do a little shopping as a reward.
3. Stick to a plan. You’ll feel in more control if you make a plan and stick to it. Break goals down into more easy, manageable tasks. Not only does this make the process easier, but it also gives you more “wins,” which will keep you motivated.
4. Be patient. Almost no one finds a job overnight or has one handed to them. It’s a longer process few people escape. If you’re not getting interviews, go over your application materials with a trusted colleague or career advisor to see what you could change to achieve a better result. Ultimately, be patient with yourself and any shortcomings you have as well.
5. Give yourself a break. If you’re stressed to find a new position, you may be at the job search all the time. You might be looking at job boards during your lunch or while you lay in bed trying to sleep. At some point, you have to take a day off and do something else to change your scenery. This is a healthy coping mechanism for too much pressure and stress.
When you stay focused on the end result of this great new opportunity waiting for you, it’s easier to manage the pressure of finding a new job.
While you wait, seek out that career advisor to get tips on things like resume preparation, networking tips, and job interview skills.
This will make you feel empowered and better equipped to deal with any stress that comes your way.