7 Useful Strategies for Managing Job Hunting Anxiety and Stress

Whether you’re a fresh graduate, seeking your first working opportunity, or someone who is trying to bounce back from a recent job loss, we can all agree that job hunting is filled with emotional highs and lows.

At first, a job search can be exciting – you see many open doors, and you just can’t help but envision yourself, unfolding the new chapter of your life in a good company with a good position and income. But eventually, you begin to feel the dread.

The clock is ticking – and the waiting game is killing you. You’ve sent a lot of applications but no one’s reaching you. You feel pressured about how long you’re going to keep looking for a job. The fear of the unknown hits you hard, making you feel anxious, frustrated, and even hopeless.

Your mind is occupied with one or a couple of these thoughts:

•    You feel like your job search is something closely associated with your identity; you link it to searching a piece of yourself and you feel unsettled and incomplete unless that piece is in place.

•    You’re overwhelmed by the high standards companies set to land a new job.

•    You feel that your unemployment makes other people, like your parents, partner, and kids, disappointed.

•    You dislike the feeling of uncertainty about how long the job hunt will take, and how it’ll affect your career trajectory and savings.

•    You fear rejection.

•    You tell yourself scary stories, like “my credentials aren’t good enough”, “no one will want to hire me”, and “there are no good jobs.”

Job search anxiety is common, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. Here are 8 ways to keep going when your stressful job hunt is getting you down.

1. Stop stressing about things you cannot control

As humans, we crave control and order on everything. We hate uncertainty. We hate the slow HR services and companies that give us false hopes. We demand urgent honest answers, whether they’re going to hire us or not.

However, you must understand that some things are beyond your control – and wasting your time and energy stressing about these things won’t make the situation any better.

2. Focus on what you can do

Next to acknowledging what’s beyond your control, it’s a good practice to redirect your energy and focus on the things you can actually do something about. What concrete steps can you take to increase your odds of landing a job?

Work on editing your resume, cover letters, and online job search profiles. Set a goal to attend job fairs and networking events. Develop your skills by watching informative videos, reading articles, and attending short-term courses.

Laid-off? Work on compiling the documents you need, like employee benefits, backpays, etc. By incorporating structure, you’ll feel like you have little accomplishments, which keeps you motivated and fosters positive feelings of self-efficacy.

3. Stay organized

Now that you have an idea of what you should do, take care of everything in a timely manner.

Create a schedule and set some boundaries for your job search. Set a particular time for prospecting tasks, e-mail outreach, updating your resume, cover letter, and profile, and keeping track of all your applications. List down upcoming interviews. Reserve one whole day for running errands, like employer requirements.

Having a plan in place helps declutter your mind and reduce anxiety.

4. Find inspiration

When you’re feeling down, it’s easy to get consumed by scary thoughts about rejection or depressing thoughts about your failure. What if I’m not good enough? What if all my applications have been rejected? How long will I ever be jobless? Am I too demanding for seeking a better opportunity? Should I take that underpaid job because I have no choice?

To help calm yourself down, find inspiration by reading success stories – people who have overcome similar obstacles to land a good job. Watch inspirational TED talks about career and success.

5. Know your triggers (and stay away from them)

Do you know any situations that make you feel the most bummed out?

It could be the silence from not hearing from an HR who interviewed you. You may also be triggered by people who keep on emphasizing your joblessness by asking unsolicited questions. Maybe it’s the social media, which keeps on displaying the highlight reel of your other successful batchmates.

Triggers can make you less motivated, or even make you self-sabotage. Identify the situations or people that trigger your anxiety, so you can create emotional barriers to help you cope more effectively.

If you’re anxious about not receiving a call from the HR department, let your interviewer know that you want to be contacted regardless of the result of your application.

6. Seek emotional support

A job search can truly take a toll on your physical and emotional well-being. Your mind feels like a bucket of negative thoughts, overflowing. One of the best ways to cope is to talk with other people.

Just talk through your emotions with a trusted friend or a family member, who may provide helpful reminders that everything will fall into place. They’ll remind you that you’re a person of incredible value despite the trials you’re currently facing.

And even if they don’t give a piece of solid advice, just having someone to listen actively, and help organize your cluttered mind, could help a lot.

8. Take occasional breaks

There’s a time for everything. There’s a time for job-hunting, and there’s a time for taking a break.

Don’t spend every waking hour focused on how you’re going to get hired. The more you think about it, the more you’ll get anxious. Don’t attend as many interviews as possible too when you’re unmotivated and burnt out.

Stick to the schedules you’ve set and detach yourself from your job search efforts every once in a while. Exercise. Sleep. Read an inspirational book. Eat good food with the one you love. Walk your dog. Turn down the phone and computer when you’re not in “job-hunting mode.”

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