10 Ways to Prevent Burnout During Your Job Search

woman at work frustrated in front of her computer

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Taylor Tobin
Taylor Tobin1.84k
  • Job burnout occurs when an individual experiences an emotional slump or motivational lapse that threatens their ability to continue job searching.
  • To avoid burning out during your job search, set daily goals (and limits) for your job-search pursuits, network in a way that works for you and ask someone you trust to offer feedback on your resume and cover letter.
  • To give yourself occasional breaks, take “mental health days” as needed and find other constructive ways to use your time between applications.

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Few career-related situations evoke as much stress and unease as the process of searching for a new job. Whether you’re currently employed and keeping an eye out for a better opportunity or you’ve recently left a previous job and need a new position, this particular hunt requires significant effort, considerable time and at least a little bit of luck. 

Because job searches prove so challenging and unpredictable, experiencing the occasional emotional slump and motivational lapse makes complete sense. If job-hunt burnout threatens to derail your end goal of gaining satisfying employment, try these 10 tips for handling the down swings and keeping yourself and your search on track.

1. Set daily goals (and limits) for your job-search pursuits.

“Take it one day at a time” may sound like a cliche bit of advice, but when it comes to the hunt for a new career opportunity, this mantra can help you stay focused and motivated rather than overwhelmed. At the start of each morning, decide on a few goals — whatever number is manageable for you — that you’ll accomplish by the end of the day. And make a promise to yourself that you’ll press pause on the job search when your goals are complete and/or when you start to feel the unpleasant symptoms of burnout (waning energy, a negative outlook, careless errors in resume-formatting or cover-letter composition, and so on). 

2. Find a form of networking that makes sense for you.

Career advisors love to tout networking as the single most essential element of any successful job search. However, many of us have an image of networking that’s pretty outdated, and it’s easy to feel less than confident if your talents and interests don’t line up with the traditional “go to a networking event and schmooze until you hit pay-dirt” networking method. But nowadays, networking can come in a multitude of forms, from company happy hours to industry Facebook groups to alumni mixers, so it’s much easier to persevere and find a format that works for you.

3. If possible, gear your search toward quality over quantity.

Depending on your financial situation (and whether you’re currently employed or not), you may find it necessary to keep your job hunt broad and to apply for a high number of positions in order to lock something down as quickly as you can. However, if you have the ability to focus on the quality of your job applications and to lessen your volume of submissions in the interest of crafting impeccable materials that strongly represent your skills and serve your professional goals, you’re more likely to end up with a job that fulfills you in the long term.

4. Make the most of your cover letters, but also simplify the process with a template.

While some job applicants mistakenly think of cover letters as optional, they in fact deserve recognition as one of the most essential aspects of your application, second only to your resume. A cover letter gives you the opportunity to build your case for why you’re a great fit for the role and to share information with the hiring committee that isn’t readily available on your CV. Therefore, each cover letter should be specifically tailored to every job application you submit. That said, if you’re applying to numerous jobs within similar industries, you can save yourself some time by crafting a basic template for cover letters, which you’ll then customize to suit each potential job.

5. Ask someone you trust to offer feedback on your resume and cover letter.

Sometimes, gathering feedback from a third party can help you notice issues and errors that you’d never discover on your own, and that principle absolutely applies to resumes and cover letters. Ask a friend, relative or professional mentor who you trust to read over your application materials and flag grammatical mistakes, confusing phrasing and areas where you can add more details.

6. Be willing to change your approach. 

A successful job search relies on flexibility; if your current strategy isn’t yielding interviews or promising career leads, then you must be willing to switch gears and try something new. For instance, if your current job search involves scrolling through online job boards and sending applications, consider reaching out to industry contacts and asking for leads instead. The more search paths you take, the better your odds of finding interesting open roles.

7. Enlist your friends’ help to divert your attention from the search.

When you’re on the job hunt and your friends are aware of this pursuit, questions and conversations about your search will likely arise in social situations. But if you’d rather keep your professional efforts quiet, chat about your new dance class, your rescue pup, or your kitchen remodeling project, instead.

 8. If your job search takes longer than you’d prefer, find other constructive ways to use your time.

One of the unfortunate truths about job searching is that it almost always takes longer than we hope. Employers generally operate on different timelines than applicants, and on their end, interviews and job offers can easily take weeks (or even months) to schedule and prepare. That’s why it’s very important for unemployed job seekers to seek out productive ways to invest their time aside from filling out and sending applications. Rather than passively waiting around to hear back from jobs, look into interesting volunteer opportunities, take a class or reconnect with a much-liked former manager or coworker.

9. Allow yourself to take “mental health days” as needed.

Just as “mental health days” give employees the much-needed time and space to take care of themselves (and should be part of any competitive compensation package), they’re also massively helpful to job seekers. It’s easy to convince yourself that every waking moment (or, if you’re still employed, every waking moment not spent at the office) should be directed toward the hunt for a new position, but scheduling a day to step away from your computer and engage in activities that make you feel good will re-energize your search and help stave off the negative effects of burnout.

10. Remember that there’s no such thing as a “dream job”, at least not during the application process.

Ambitious professionals frequently put a great deal of pressure on themselves when they’re in the market for a new job. Among the most pervasive (and, ultimately, among the most counterproductive) is the notion that they should be exclusively seeking and holding out for their “dream job." However, a sense of realism and perspective needs to be utilized here, because no matter how ideal a job may sound in the role description, there’s no way to tell whether any position is truly a “dream job” from the outside. 

On the other end of the spectrum, a job that doesn’t sound completely perfect can turn out to be an exact fit for what you need and want at this point in your career. Keep your options open and your judgement tempered, and you’ll likely avoid unnecessary job-search frustrations and will boost your likelihood of finding a great role.