Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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Almost 15% of people who are unemployed believe they are out of work because of their mental health problems, according to a recent survey by McKinsey. This is up two percentage points from a survey in March 2021.

It probably comes as no surprise that mental health challenges have been on the rise during the pandemic. But when you’re job hunting in the midst of depression, anxiety, stress or other problems that affect your psyche, how do you cope?

1. Be prepared for rejection.

One of the most difficult parts of job hunting is dealing with the sting of rejection. And it’s something practically anyone who has ever looked for a new position has experienced.

You simply won’t land every job you apply for. For some people, it’s easy to bounce back. For others, it’s more painful, and the rejection hurts all the more when you’re coping with mental health challenges during your search.

What if there were a way to curb the hurt? While you will inevitably feel disappointed when you don’t land the role you want, it’s important to recognize that this is normal. Set up a plan to cope with the rejection before it happens, so when it does, you will be prepared. Perhaps it involves immediately applying for a new job. Or maybe you’ll do a self-care activity that always makes you feel better. The point is to know how to numb the pain before it happens.

2. Schedule in breaks.

When you're feeling stressed, you may decide that the best way to cope is to continue putting in maximum work and effort toward ultimately reaching your goal. That's not wrong — but it's also important to give yourself a much-needed break. Don't simply leave them to chance ("I'll take a break when I feel ready"), because that chance may never happen. 

Instead, schedule your breaks, even short ones. Give yourself, say, half an hour to take a walk, read or whatever helps you relax. This will take some of the stress out of your life when you're job searching.

3. Avoid isolating yourself.

During the pandemic, it's been tempting to hole ourselves up. That's not to mention the fact that it's not the safest idea to be around large crowds. But it's also psychologically unhealthy to isolate — especially when you're already coping with mental health challenges and job hunting simultaneously.

You can, for example, engage in one-on-one activities outdoors. Right now, it's about your level of comfort, as well as that of your companions. But even if it's just touching base on the phone, make sure you have some contact with others. We're social creatures and we need that comfort.

4. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. It's important to know ourselves well enough to be able to identify them. Start by making a list of what you're good at and what needs work. This will help guide your job search, ensuring that you're applying for jobs that align with your talents.

This way, your job hunt will be better informed, and you won't waste time applying for roles for which you're unqualified — which will only make you feel worse about yourself. Plus, it will serve as a reminder that you do have qualities that will allow you to excel on the job.

5. Set achievable goals and milestones.

Your job search will be more manageable when you set goals and benchmarks — ones that are actually attainable and will allow you to better manage everything on your plate. Avoid setting objectives that are too lofty (this will make you feel worse when you can't reach them), but do make them ambitious. The SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) framework can serve as a great tool for assessing the quality of your goals.

6. Take it one step at a time.

Finding a job takes time. It can feel incredibly exhausting and overwhelming, and you need to understand that this is entirely normal. That's why you need to take it one step at a time.  Don't try to do it all at once. Be realistic, and make time for yourself — not just your job hunt. Commit to self-care, and be there for yourself — a job will come if you put in the effort, but you can't rush it.

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for job searching with mental health challenges? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

About the Career Expert:

 Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.


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