During a high-stakes job search — or any job search, for that matter — emotions can run high and stress can become unbearable. However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from burn out and self-blame.
I'm not a medical professional, and if you are in distress, you should absolutely seek help from one — or from the 24/7 suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 . But, like many people, I have been there before. Here are ways you can put your mental health first during the job search.
It can be easy to take rejection personally, especially after an interview. It can be easy to take this one missed opportunity and use it as evidence that everything you do is terrible, that you're unredeemable and that you'll never find a job. To separate your self-worth from the process and rationalize the rejection, ask for specific feedback on what went wrong — you'd be surprised how willing many people are to help. Take time to actualize that feedback. Repeat to yourself over and over that you aren't a bad prospective employee — you just didn't have the right technical skills or the right cultural fit for the one specific role you received feedback on. Realize that unless the hiring manager says they didn't hire you because they hate you, it had nothing to do with your core being. And, I mean, hey, if a hiring manager does say that — they're the awful one.
One of the worst parts of the job search is that it can feel absolutely endless. It can feel like throwing rocks into the abyss, losing count of those rocks, then having one, every once in a while, come back and hit you in the face. You can counteract this absolutely demotivating feeling by setting clear benchmarks for yourself, then meeting or exceeding these expectations. This can be especially helpful if you're unemployed, because it gives you that self-esteem boost similar to nailing a work project or checking off a box on your to-do list. Tell yourself how many jobs you're going to apply to, how many follow ups you're going to send, how many LinkedIn invites you're going to pen and how many coffee dates you're going to attend. Then, do it and share your accomplishments with a confidante. Keep your applications and other benchmarks organized in a spreadsheet, and go over your progress at the end of each day. And if you don't make your benchmarks? Hey, no sweat. Find a process that works better for you and start fresh from there.
One of the easiest ways to get down on yourself during the job search is to send out hundreds of applications that barely fit your skills or passion just because they're available. You may not hear back from a lot of them — and not because you aren't a worthy candidate or, much less, human! Instead, prospective employers will see your resume isn't a great match or your cover letter lacks a spark. You'll have spent time and mental energy to prepare an application, just to get another rejection. The better way to go about this? Limit your applications to jobs that really interest you — that match your skillset and your ambitions. Pour your time into finding more of those and filling out less applications that make you feel unqualified, unmotivated or unappreciated. This will help you focus on the possibilities this chapter holds instead of staring at the red tape.
The job search can feel all consuming. But just like at other points in your career, it's important to your well-being to take time and remind yourself you're more than a money-making cyborg. Do the hobbies you're good at. Spend time with the people who value you. Spend time connecting with the core of who you are. And try to keep up with your self-care routines — or pick up ones that don't create additional expenses. Take breaks and remind yourself you deserve them.
Sometimes, when it's hard to see the potential in oneself, it can be beneficial to seek support from others. Seeking support from loved ones who value you for who you are — like a friend or family member – can be comforting. But finding professional support from a colleague who can talk up your skills or a mentor who sees you as high-potential can hit even closer to home in this context. On top of dedicating time to surrounding yourself with people who love you, seek out conversations on your direction and job search process from supportive members of your network.