These are difficult times for all of us. The pandemic, the heightened focus on racial injustices, and the overriding political divisiveness we’re experiencing pushes many people into a negative mindset, or even job search depression.
Even in “normal” times, job search can be overwhelming and challenging.
Now, many have suddenly been laid off or furloughed.
If you were feeling down before losing your job, you’re likely feeling even more so now.
And many people have been unemployed since BEFORE the pandemic, which means at least 3 months without a job. Add to that group of people those who became jobless as a result of the pandemic. With so many millions out of work, it’s not surprising that many Americans are experiencing “unemployment depression” now.
It’s always best to go into job search upbeat and thinking positively. But what if, right now, you’re not in the best state of mind for job search, but you have to get a job?
You’ll find some strategies below to at least somewhat minimize your negativity, and help improve your job search performance.
Depression and Job Search
Business Insider senior reporter Marguerite Ward noted:
“Unemployed individuals are more likely to suffer from depression, with symptoms worse for anyone who is without a job for six months or more.”
She made a few points about those suffering from unemployment depression, based on various polls and studies:
- Rates of depression rise among unemployed individuals the longer they go without finding work.
- The rate of depression among older, long-term unemployed workers is much higher than the rest of the population.
- Many Americans feel isolated, and less people are engaging in group activities such as volunteering. This makes the effects of “unemployment depression” even worse.
And offered 4 ways to cope:
- Get professional help, even if finding an affordable option takes time.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, and lean in to your social networks.
- Change your narrative.
- Break down your day into small tasks.
15 Causes of Job Search Depression
- Loss of control – sudden, traumatic change of having a great job one day and no job the next.
- Constant uncertainty of not knowing when the job search will end.
- The ever-continuing quest for acceptance that is a job search.
- Backlash of commiseration with other job seekers.
- Feeling of insignificance stemming from a lack of replies to your many cover letters and resumes sent out.
- Overwhelming ratio of rejection letters to positive replies.
- The new experience of your first time being unemployed.
- Being forced into a tough situation with no choice in the matter.
- The unease of having to do something that you were never taught in school or simply aren’t prepared for, i.e. a job search.
- The strain of managing personal finances after your main source of revenue is gone.
- Having to support a family or other dependents during a rough moment in your life.
- The realization that you might be depressed and not knowing how to deal with the depression.
- The difficult need to deal with these feelings while still seeming upbeat in interviews and while networking.
- Envying friends and family head out on vacation and enjoying life while you’re required to continue the unending search.
- Unemployment embarrassment – struggling to answer one of the most asked questions: “What do you do?”
Sometimes it helps to acknowledge, and even vocalize, things that are happening to us. Jacob advises printing out his list and prioritizing it, with the items most impacting you at the top. Then brainstorm ways you can deal with or minimize each one.
How to Stay Motivated and Minimize Depression in Job Search
Here are a few suggestions of my own to help you stay motivated and minimize depresssion or negativity:
Bolster your confidence.
Revisit your job search marketing materials – your resume, other documents, LinkedIn profile, etc. They’ll help remind you of your great past achievements and the value you offer your target employers.
Reach out to other unemployed friends and colleagues.
See how they’re doing. Share a great job search tip, resource, book or lead to help them. Do this with no expectation of reciprocity.
Co-mentor with another job seeker.
Find someone you can connect with frequently to share successes and strategies. Support each other through failures.
Nip negativity in the bud.
Do something to distract yourself and shift your thoughts. When you feel it creeping up on you, make yourself think of something nice, before negativity takes hold and pulls you down that dark path. Think of all the things you’re grateful for.
Plan for the worst case scenario.
What will you do if the worst happens, whatever that may be for you? Having a plan can soften the blow if the worst actually happens, and can help you switch off the fear if you find yourself worrying too much that it will happen.
Forget about job search for a day.
Take a week day off from job search every now and then, and do something for yourself. Go on a day trip with your spouse and/or family or alone. Spend the day reading a light novel, playing your favorite sport, binge-watching comedies, tooling around with a hobby, or learning something new. Make yourself NOT think about job search at all.
Negative Mindset and Job Search
Career coach and licensed psychologist Dawn Graham suggests
“It can take some serious mental strength to weather the major mood swings of the process”:
Process your feelings.
“It’s worth taking time to address and name what you’re feeling so that you can move forward with self-compassion and understanding. Exercises like journaling, physical movement and venting to a good friend or family member can be immensely helpful.”
Know your triggers.
“We all have ‘hot buttons’ that when pressed, set us off. If you’re coming out of a particularly difficult job situation or have been experiencing months of unemployment, it’s likely that inquiries about these from your network or an interviewer will tap into an open wound. Know what your buttons are, and have a solid plan for managing them.”
Engage your allies.
“Referrals are your best friends in a job search, so don’t be embarrassed to reach out. If you’ve been laid off, ask your surviving colleagues for LinkedIn recommendations or introductions. If you’re applying online, find someone you know on the inside to shepherd your resume to the hiring manager or HR to ensure it gets viewed.”
She also suggests reaching out to your network for help uncovering opportunities in the hidden job market, where an estimated 80-90% of jobs are found.
“Take a quality over quantity approach and really focus on your target. Saying you’ll take ‘anything in tech’ or are ‘industry agnostic’ may seem like a good plan for broadening your options, but it just confuses your network, muddies your brand and makes your contacts hesitate to spend their social capital on you because you appear desperate and unfocused. Instead, be careful about the messages you share.”
She advises against putting anything like “looking for opportunities” in your LinkedIn headline.
Give yourself some space.
“Take time to create a strategy for your next steps. Ask yourself if this is still the right career path – perhaps this is an opportunity to make a change to something you’ve always wanted to do?”
Is it Time to Switch Careers?
Fast Company Assistant Editor Diana Shi has some pointers to set yourself up for success if you’re changing careers:
Consider what you know about yourself.
Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and get validation from others who know you best.
Connect with others.
Networking is more important than ever, if you’re transitioning to a new industry, or new kind of job.
Get busy on social media and begin marketing yourself to a new audience.
Improve your skill set.
In your resume, LinkedIn profile and other personal marketing materials, pare down your skills to the ones that will be most important to the employers you’re targeting.
Depending on how radical a transition you are attempting to make, you may have to take on a lower-paying position or even an internship in order to gain more relevant career experience.
Plan for potential roadblocks.
Sit down and consider what challenges you can expect, but also consider the unanticipated roadblocks that often arise. Try to frame each unforeseen obstacle as a new opportunity.