We get it. Job-hunting can be a stressful, anxiety-provoking experience. Poring over hundreds of job listings with unrealistic qualifications and LinkedIn kindly inviting you to “see how you compare to 34 other applicants” can drain even the most confident soul.
Creating five different versions of your resume and customizing every cover letter to match the verbiage in the job description—while avoiding typos—is no easy task. And doing it day after day, while either hiding your job search from your boss or fretting about how much longer your unemployment benefits will last, can be a fraught experience. If you find yourself getting mentally run down by the process, here’s how to cope.
First, organize your search better
One of the best ways to manage anxiety and overwhelm is to keep moving parts well-organized, and that includes organizing your job search. Keep a folder detailing the jobs you’ve applied for (and refer back to the listing should HR call for an interview). Print and label resume versions so you don’t get them mixed up. Create a job application spreadsheet that lists the company, the date you applied, contact info, and any follow-up you’ve done—which, when done correctly, is almost always in your best interest.
Create a schedule for your job hunt
If you’re currently employed, set a time every day that you’ll dedicate to job hunting. If looking for work is your job, create a schedule for the day that includes specific amounts of time for reading job listings, submitting applications, and networking. (Note to introverts: Networking is just making connections with people. Any emails, texts, DMs or—big yikes—actual phone calls you make, totally counts.)
Set specific, measurable goals for job opportunities
When things feel uncertain, setting manageable, time-based goals can help you regain a sense of control. For example: Apply to six jobs Tuesday. Finish updating LinkedIn profile by 4 p.m. Reach out to three potential references before lunch. Never underestimate the ego boost of checking things off your list.
Take a short break when the job search is overwhelming
Though it’s easy to fixate on your job search, especially when you’re not seeing results and you really want to (like now), be sure to unplug and remind yourself life exists outside your bubble. Instead of emerging Gollum-like from your job hunting hovel once a day to hit up the bathroom, set a timer to force yourself to stand up, walk around, connect with humans, and get fresh air.
Find another way to feel productive
If you’re not getting many bites on the job front, it can feel like you’re not making progress. This is when it helps to apply yourself to another small project to feel more productive. (The keyword here is small. We’re talking about a drawer or closet re-organization, not re-painting your entire house.)
Don’t neglect self-care
It doesn’t have to be a whole spa day, but sometimes when you’re hyper-focused on a goal, it can be tough to remember to do basic things like eat breakfast, drink water, or exercise. Put time in your daily schedule to take care of your body and your mental state.
Normalize not getting immediate results
Repeat after me: I’m not going to get a job overnight. And that’s okay. In fact, depending on your industry, it can take up to five months to land your next gig. So, instead of freaking out that it’s already been six weeks, recognize that anything under six months is still within the average timeframe. (And remember to factor in time for your personal pickiness, if that’s a thing. Be honest.)
Celebrate small successes in the job hunt
Did you complete your new website or update your portfolio? Apply to that job that scared you (and asked a groan-worthy amount of extra questions)? Treat yourself to a movie, drinks, or those new kicks you’ve been eyeing. Rewarding yourself for wins along the way can fill your emotional tank and keep you motivated to push forward.
Get the right moral support for your job search
When you feel stuck, start talking to people about it (actually the best time to talk to people is before this happens, but sometimes life is about damage control). Reach out to friends, alumni groups, or that What’sApp chat you’ve been neglecting. They can be a great source of networking, unexpected job leads, and commiseration. (Because isn’t it nice just to vent and hear you’re not alone in the struggle sometimes? Yes. Yes, it is.) If you need more, reach out to a career coach or therapist.
Remember, positive change is afoot
While it’s easy to focus on the less-than-fun aspects of job hunting, keep in mind that you are on the cusp of something new, and potentially great. Try to shift some of that worry into an appreciation of new possibility.
While you may not like the insecure feeling change brings, you are about to meet new people, grow your skills, and master new challenges that will make you more confident and marketable in the future. When you think of it that way, it’s actually pretty exciting.
Screw that old job, anyway. The new one you find is going to be even better. Now get up and stretch. Go outside. Go to that soccer game or Paint ‘n Sip. This will all be here tomorrow.