In a struggling economy, are you feeling job search stress?
“I would rather have steak stapled to my body and be thrown into shark-invested waters than have to go through a job search.” – Lilith L., happily employed Senior Computer Specialist, in a posting to a networking forum.
Perhaps you feel like Ms. L. quoted above. She is not alone in thinking that job search equals job search stress. Most people find it anxiety-provoking and unpleasant to hunt for a new job. Finding and landing new employment can be challenging, but here are some ways to make it more manageable and less awful:
Reduce Job Search Stress By Narrowing Your Focus and Staying Present
An important way to reduce overwhelm and job search stress is to narrow your focus. Define what you want, write a structured game plan to achieve your goals, and then share the information with a friend. Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University conducted a study about the value of writing down goals and she found that people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.
Also, stay focused on the present. Don’t think, “I hate doing this and I’m going to have to keep doing it every week for month after month after month…” In psychology-speak, exaggerating the bad is called, “Awfulizing.” Instead of awfulizing, just follow your plan and trust that good results will come from your effort.
If you find that your anxiety prevents you from doing the step above, try one of the following proven stress reducers: exercise, meditation, yoga, listening to music, escaping into a good book for awhile, and spending time with good friends who will ask about your job search when you want them to care and leave it alone when you just want a break.
Diversify To Reduce Job Search Stress
Vary your approach. For every six resume / cover letter packets you send to prospective employers, attend a professional event in your industry. Choose events that offer both the opportunity to learn something new and to meet other professionals. If you can’t say for sure which events would be helpful for your particular circumstances, back up and spend some time clarifying where you want to go next and what you have to offer once you get there. By investing some time up front in self-exploration, you will avoid spinning your wheels by prematurely trying to implement a job search without a road map.
As you begin to implement your game plan, pay attention to the feelings that arise. Sometimes action creates momentum that fuels forward progress. But other times, action triggers resistance. Kurt Lewin, a well-known social and organizational psychologist, said that the best way to understand something is to try to change it. When change triggers resistance, explore the resistance, because doing so yields clues to feelings that may sabotage your career success. Once you know the resistance is there, you can do something about it.
Use feedback from each step of your job search to improve your efforts in the next step. If your resume is not generating interviews, ask other people for an honest critique. If there is some consensus about room for improvement, make some changes and then market test the revised version. If you are getting interviews but no offers, get some interview coaching from colleagues or an interview coach. Read more about how to conduct a successful job search at, “Job Interview Advice Hiring Managers Wish They Could Tell You,” and, “Job Search Secrets.”
Finally, pay it forward. Once you land your new job and your job search stress is ended, cultivate good karma by being responsive and courteous to prospective job seekers who contact you in your new role as a representative of your employer.