Job Search Stress: How To Conquer It

No doubt about it, most people hunting for employment experience job search stress.

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. Every day, I meet people who tell me they hate their jobs but they hate job search more so they stay stuck, and I meet people who are unemployed and job search stress is making their hunt for new employment even worse than it otherwise would be.

If you need to find a new job, here are some proven strategies to make the process less awful:

Narrow Your Focus and Write Down Your Goals

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 thought about their goals.

Stay In the Present and Avoid “Awfulizing”

Stay focused on the day’s tasks rather than letting your mind drift to future anxieties. Think, “Today I will do these three things,” rather than, “I hate searching for a job and I am don’t want to be doing this for day after day after day and what if I can’t get a job by next year…?” 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.

Woman Overcoming Job Search Stress

Use Stress Reduction Practices

If you find that your anxiety is overwhelming you, try one of the following proven stress reducers: exercise, meditation, yoga, listening to music, reading escapist books, spending time in nature, and enjoying the company of good friends who will agree to talk about something other than your job search (unless you specifically ask them to talk about it). If you find that you are experiencing anxiety that is debilitating, seek treatment from a professional who specializes in anxiety reduction.

Employ Variety

Vary your approach. For every five specific jobs you pursue, 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.

Leave Your House

Don’t just sit at home and apply for jobs online. Doing job search that way is likely to make you feel really bad because this is the single best way to get rejected a lot. Get out of the house and do volunteer work, freelancing, or consulting. Federal research found that people who volunteer are 27% more likely to land a job than people who don’t volunteer, so in addition to giving back to the world, you actually improve your own odds of landing a job, too. it is a win-win.

Tackle Resistance

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 important feelings that will likely affect the outcome of your job search. Perhaps the resistance is because you really don’t want the types of jobs you are seeking, or deep down you really want to go back to school, or you are embroiled in a family conflict about what you should do and you need to work through that before job searching. Once you figure out what is going on, you can do something about your feelings rather than let them sabotage your job search.


Use feedback from each step of your job search to improve your efforts in the next step. If your resume is not generating interviews, read about effective resumes and ask other people for an honest critique. Improve your resume and then market test the revised version. If you are getting interviews but no offers, get some interview coaching from colleagues or a career 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.

Pay It Forward

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. Remember what it was like to be going through a job search and try to be kind to those who are still in the hunt.

Do you have any other recommendations for people going through job search stress? If so, please comment below.

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