No doubt about it, job search ranks right up there as one of the most challenging life transitions you may have to cope with . . . right along with divorce, having a baby and moving.
Unless you’re very lucky, your job search will have a fair amount of let-downs and rejections. And it will probably take some time to land an executive job.
Have any of these downers happend to you during job search?
- You’ve applied for a job that you meet all the qualifications for (and more), but you never hear back from anyone.
- You do get callbacks, but they’re for jobs that pay way less than you know you’re worth.
- You make it into the last interview rounds only to lose a job to someone else.
- You internalize all the “no’s” you’ve been hearing or the radio silence after you apply or interivew, and your self-worth plummets.
This, and many other things, often lead to job search anxiety.
Although you probably can’t avoid these things, you can mitigate the impact and change how you react to them.
The More You Understand Anxiety, The Better You Can Deal With It
According to psychologist Alicia Clark:
“Understanding anxiety’s inherent motivation, and being clear about your feelings, can help us thrive, according to a German study. Deciding you can handle your anxiety, even if it’s unwelcome, is one of the most effective things you can do to limit its escalation. Just as fearing anxiety increases it, embracing anxiety dissipates it to a point where it’s useful.
What this new research and approach offers is something we could all use a bit more of when it comes to anxiety: hope. The hope rises from the realization that we are in control. Instead of being overtaken by our anxiety, we can partner with it. Not only can we control how we think about anxiety, we can actually change how we experience it. Taking charge of your mind-set, your emotional labeling and your behavior is how you partner with anxiety and reclaim control.”
A reader of the above article left this helpful comment:
“A therapist once told me that my first response i.e. anxiety was likely out of my control, being ingrained from childhood, sadly. But I could control what she called my second response. So, if/when I get anxious, I can tell myself that I can now, having responded with anxiety, respond appropriately to the situation and not feel anxious any more. This actually works. I don’t try to alter my first response because there’s no point. All the work happens at the second response, which is absolutely in my control.”
Preparation Can Curb Job Search Anxiety
The more prepared you are for the things you need to do to land a job – mainly networking and interviewing – the easier it will be to curb your job search anxiety.
That means you need to:
Have a plan for navigating the dreaded in-person networking events and activities.
And thoroughly prep for job interviews:
- Work on your body language
- Revisit your company and industry research to be an informed candidate
- Practice answering interview questions
- Prepare a list of questions YOU will ask
- Get comfortable and competent with virtual interviews
Put Things in Place To Help You Stay Sane in Your Job Search
The better you take care of yourself, the more stamina and strength you’ll have to deal with job search anxiety.
Tim Tyrell-Smith, a former career and life coach, offered advice in his post, How To Sleep Like A Baby During Job Search. [Tim’s article was written more than 10 years ago, when I first published this article, and unfortunately it no longer exists online for me to link to it.]
In particular, he spoke about overcoming those sleepless, tossing-and-turning nights – a typical problem for job seekers. I’ve added my thoughts to his 7-point framework. More than just a way to deal with sleeplessness, this is really a comprehensive action plan for whatever ails you in job search:
1. Set specific goals each day and accomplish them.
I would add that your daily goals should be realistic. Don’t set a goal like “I will land a job today”. Include several smaller goals in your day like, “I will spend 1-2 hours on LinkedIn looking for the hiring decision makers at my target companies that are on my list of people to connect with.
2. Exercise and eat well everyday.
Important whether or not you’re job searching, exercising and healthy eating promote better productivity, thinking, and more restful sleep. Eating well will probably result in losing some weight, which can diminish snoring, if you suffer from that sleep-depriving habit.
3. Find someone to talk with.
Don’t keep all your fears and stress inside. Family and friends can be very supportive and helpful in providing a different perspective, and to just unload to. You can’t keep all these things in and expect to sleep well and be prepared to tackle your job search to-do list the next day.
4. Take action.
If you’re floundering and getting nowhere each day, take the time to be introspective, determine what you may be doing wrong and how you can improve. If it’s been several weeks or several months, and nothing is happening in your job search – no interviews, no action, no nothing – you need to figure out how to fix it. If you’re completely stuck and don’t have a clue how to fix it, it may be time to turn to a job search professional.
5. Make new friends.
It’s probably asking too much of your family and current friends to be your only sounding boards. Repeatedly voicing your doubts and negativity can become overwhelming to them, especially since they’re probably not job searching themselves and aren’t going through the same things. Try turning outside your comfort zone to other job hunters. Look for job search support groups in your area.
6. Create and maintain a family budget.
Creating a transition budget, so you’ll know just what you have and how long you can stretch it, can be extremely comforting. It may also be helpful to build plans around “what if” scenarios, like “How will we get by if I don’t land a job for X number of months?” and “Where can we, as a family, cut back right now?” Getting everyone involved and rallied around the common goal will make saying “no” that much easier.
7. Work to build confidence.
Let’s face it. The rejection and setbacks that go hand in hand with job search can be defeating and cause you to question your value.
In another article, Tim provided some confidence-building suggestions, such as:
- Take a day off and help others.
- Pay attention to your small wins.
- Remember your past victories.
- Re-write your elevator pitch.
- Add some new skills.
Tame Your Job Search Anxiety Before It Takes Hold
Here are some tips to tame the anxiety that can come from social interactions and situations associated with job search by job search strategist Michelle Dumas:
- Practice deep breathing.
- Plan ahead, so you know what to talk about.
- Focus on realistic thinking.
- Stop trying to be perfect.
- Remember that it is okay if someone does not like you.
- Face your fears.
- Practice your assertiveness.
- Arrive early.
- Make the most of your strengths.
You Can Manage Job Search Stress Once it Takes Hold
Recruiter Ed Han offers this advice to manage job search stress:
Limit negative inputs.
You know the expression “garbage in, garbage out”? This also happens with the information that you consume. Stop doomscrolling sources of bad news, and similarly limit your access to people who similarly share only negative news.
Expand positive results.
The more good news you can consume, the more positive an outlook you can cultivate. One of my favorite such sources is Good News Network, which is exactly what the title suggests.
Choose positive outputs.
Identify and enact ways to help people in your network. Or you might also find a worthy philanthropic organization that can benefit from your time and skills: get involved if you aren’t already. Volunteering and helping others can be a powerful means of networking, and the ability to do some good will do you good, too.
Anxiety (a Negative) Can Coexist with Anticipation (a Positive)
Christian E. Waugh, a psychology professor at Wake Forest University who studies anticipation, says:
“Anxiety and excitement are sister emotions. Think about when you’re getting married or you’re having your first kid. It’s a jumble of both.”
It’s only detrimental
“when you only focus on the anxiety part and neglect the excitement part.”
Acknowledge the happy, positive aspect of what you’re doing along with the nervous feelings.
“When you reappraise anxious things as exciting, it actually makes you feel better about them.”
How does this work in job search?
The anxiety you feel that you won’t perform well when networking or interviewing can be tempered by the realization that you may actually land a job that you covet and deserve.
You can let yourself live in that idea and feel pumped by the excitement.
On the other hand, if a particular anxiety-ridden activity doesn’t result in a job or much of anything you’d hoped for, you WILL have the benefit of the learning experience.
Each interview and networking activity you complete will help you be that much better the next time you do it. And you’ll learn more about yourself and your career needs.