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Are you dealing with job search stress?
Everyone deals with stress on some level, at any given time in their lives. When you’re actively job hunting, your stress level is probably heightened.
Job search stress is a given when you’re job hunting. It comes with the territory, unless you’re very lucky and land a job you covet as soon as you start looking.
Job search ranks high on the list of major life events people dread because they come with such stress. It’s right up there with divorce, moving to a new area and public speaking.
Today’s search landscape is complicated and typically fraught with challenges, worries, setbacks, rejections and fears. Your stress level is likely to be elevated more often than not.
You may find it hard to concentrate on even the littlest (but still important) things, let alone the big issues impacting your ability to land a job.
Or maybe you just had a great interview, it’s been several days or more, and you haven’t heard anything. You find yourself fretting about it. You can’t stop ruminating about your performance. “Did they like me enough?” or “Oh boy, I really blew that important question!”
Is money giving you the most job search stress?
For most job seekers, money is a main concern, especially if you’re unemployed, of course.
But Ken Sundheim, CEO of recruitment firm KAS Placement, suggests that, beyond money worries, job search stress often stems from less noticeable sources:
“It begins with control. There is an inherent lack of control any individual has during the recruitment process. I’ve noticed that the people who suffer significant stress during their job search are the people who tend to have more controlling personalities. Consider the following:
a. While searching for a job, you receive no feedback on why you are not invited to interview for a position, or why you don’t achieve a second or third interview.
b. You don’t know who your competition is.
c. You are kept in the dark during the phases of interviews. HR and hiring managers keep many cards close to their chests.
d. When dealing with a job search, hundreds of uncontrollable events can occur: economic shifts, internal hiring freezes, unexpected mergers and buyouts, etc.”
How good are you at decompressing and dealing with job search stress? Do you have some good tried and true tactics to distract yourself and regain focus?
I’ve pulled together advice from some experts on dealing with job search stress:
How To Deal With Job Search Stress
Alison Doyle, job search expert at The Balance, advises getting organized to ease the stress. To keep track of applications, networking outreach, and career events you’re planning to attend, she offers 10 ways to organize your search including:
- Creating a job application spreadsheet in Excel
- Using Google Spreadsheets and Calendar
- Creating a table in Word
- Using a job search management app and/or widget
Acknowledge disappointments and setbacks
Unless you’re very lucky, your job search will probably include setbacks.
Such disappointments can easily throw you off balance and cause stress.
Based on things mentally strong people do to get through tough times, consultant in clinical mental health Tracy S. Hutchinson, Ph.D. suggests these strategies:
Convince yourself that these things are bound to happen. They’re just part of job search.
Use positive and resilient self-talk to get through disappointments. “Changing your narrative about a setback allows for new cognitive reframes and self-narratives to be created.”
Be honest about your feelings
“Mentally strong people do not bury their feelings, nor do they wallow in them. They acknowledge them and give themselves time to process the setback. Feelings of sadness, disappointment, devastation, or rejection are normal and nothing to be afraid of.”
Make meaning of the setbacks through a spiritual lens
“Resilience — the ability to bounce back from disappointments — along with spiritual or religious beliefs, can help make meaning of each experience. Individual spiritual and religious frameworks can help promote both meaning and positive emotions such as gratitude over time.”
Prepare for the worst-case scenario
I’ve always found it helps to anticipate the worst result and make a plan for how I will deal with it, should it happen.
As noted by social scientist and leadership expert Frank Niles, resiliency can be key:
“Exploring and preparing for possible negative events helps you spot opportunities to head them off. It starts with a different mindset. Accept that change is inevitable. Look at the situation realistically and understand that you get to choose how you react to and how you think about it. People who look for positive aspects or opportunities — or, at least, who don’t always focus on the negative — tend to have greater resilience.
When you think about the risks you face from a “worst-case scenario,” you can begin to lay the groundwork for recovery before you need to, like keeping your skills up to date and building savings in case of job loss or investing time and care into your relationships, which can give you support during tough times.”
Avoid interruptions from your devices
Work-life balance and stress management leader Joe Robinson advises setting rules on how often you check your devices:
“The more you check email, the more you have to check email, because you lose your ability to regulate your impulse control. Disruptions erode your impulse control, and interruptions make anything you do seem more difficult and aggravating than it is.
Interruptions shred [impulse control] and make us self-distract and lose ability to regulate impulsivity and stay on task. Managing interruptions, then, is key.”
A Harvard Business School study of employees found that:
“Having a no-interruption zone in the morning from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. increased productivity 59% and a no-interruption zone from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. increased productivity 65%.”
Interviews generate lots of stress
According to Brian de Haaff, co-founder and CEO of Aha!, a provider of roadmap software, 73 percent of job seekers say that,
“Looking for a new job is one of the most stressful things in life. But it does make you wonder about the other 27 percent — how come they are not stressed? Maybe it is because they are the ones who are getting the second interviews.”
“When you are consumed by stress, it shows. You really, really want the job. So, you spend the interview searching for the right words to express this. You are focusing all your energy on what you think the hiring manager wants to hear — rather than telling the truth of your career experiences.”
And here’s what he advises doing differently in your next job interview:
- Do your research
- Tell a story
- Avoid canned responses
- Give it straight
Ease job search stress with self-compassion
Rebecca Muller, Assistant Editor at Thrive Global, cited organizational psychologist and career coach Adrienne Partridge, Ph.D., who advises being mindful of your self-talk, to boost your resilience and avoid negative thoughts when you face those inevitable setbacks:
“Continue to build self-compassion while on the job hunt — whether that means writing down your strengths on paper, or keeping a confidence mantra in mind throughout the process. It’s natural to feel disappointed that you didn’t get a specific interview or that you didn’t get the offer you wanted. Instead of beating yourself up, consciously shift your inner dialogue.”
Don’t let self-care increase your stress
Since self-care alone doesn’t relieve the root cause of stress, it may actually increase stress.
Especially if it becomes just one more thing to fit into your already tight schedule, and it adds to your already overwhelming to-do list.
“True self-care is considering what you need, what energizes you, and how you can expand your well-being physically, emotionally, and cognitively.”
To that end, consider these things when defining what self-care means to you:
Speeding up vs. slowing
“As you’re planning your day, you might take five minutes to meditate in the morning, or you might realize that for you, activity is more helpful in rebuilding your capacities.”
Spending time with others vs. alone
“Spend time with people you value, and reduce the time you invest with those who may sap your energy.”
Saying “yes” vs. “no
“Taking on new challenges and empowering yourself to do things that stretch your skills and provide the opportunity to build your network can be energizing. Extending outside of your comfort zone and learning new things is often linked with happiness.”
Investing in high-quality experiences vs. things
“Research has demonstrated that people are happier when they spend money on experiences rather than things, and that people have a greater sense of joy when they invest time in others rather than only themselves.”
Time outs and other ways to deal with overwhelm
Bill Murphy Jr, contributing editor at Inc.com, described 17 things to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed that easily apply to job search stress:
- Take an emotional time out.
- Take a physical time out.
- Breathe deeply.
- Be mindfully thankful.
- Pray or meditate.
- Phone a friend.
- Talk things over with your significant other.
- Write stuff down.
- Take a nap.
- Map your progress.
- Drink (water).
- Turn stuff down.
- Accomplish something different.
- Clean things up.
More About Executive Job Search
20 Ways to Stay Motivated in Executive Job Search
10 Steps to Executive Job Search Success
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