Looking for work during a pandemic can be stressful. There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with the process, which is bound to cause job search anxiety. That being said, there are many ways that you can keep your cool during a COVID-era job search. Follow these tips to learn how!
A lot of people say that looking for a job is, in and of itself, a full-time job. There’s a reason for that — between networking, writing cover letters, and interviewing potential employers, the job search can be time-consuming and exhausting. Pacing yourself is important for avoiding job search burnout. Since you’re dedicating as much time to this process as you would to an actual job, treat it like one. Make a schedule can help you keep your search organized and efficient. This is key when working to overcome job search anxiety.
Job hunting is a lot more manageable when you break it down into individual tasks. These tasks include researching, finding, and applying to jobs. Balancing these three types of job search tasks will help you stay on track. Doing so can also keep you from feeling frustrated or stuck. For instance, if you find that you’re editing the same cover letter over and over but getting nowhere, consider shifting gears and collaborating with a friend or colleague instead. This will help you get out of your head without getting too off-track.
Taking breaks can help you counter stress and recharge throughout the job search process. Deciding how to space out your breaks depends on your personal preferences. If you tend to work best in short bursts of productivity, you’ll probably do best if you set aside a few hours to work and a few hours to relax each day. If you work best in long stretches on the other end of the spectrum, you might prefer to plow through an entire job application in one day and then take the next day off.
You can try different work routines to figure out what works best for you. Whatever the case, giving yourself downtime is crucial for your mental health. Letting your job search consume your life will not make you any more productive than just hanging out sometimes. Plus, prospective employers will recognize and appreciate a candidate with good time management skills and a strong handle on their stress levels.
The job search can turn into a rabbit hole. Letting your hunt for employment take over your life can result in unproductive habits. For some of us, this might mean browsing jobs on LinkedIn for hours without applying to anything. For others, it might mean applying too as many jobs as possible without prioritizing the ones we actually want. When we find ourselves falling into patterns like these, it is especially important to set and follow a schedule. Breaking down the job search into manageable tasks ahead of time will help you remember your priorities and work towards landing a position without letting stress get the best of you.
Job searching during COVID is more limited than it is under typical circumstances. This means that finding the right position will probably take some more time and work than it would otherwise. Just keeping this in mind will help you stay patient with yourselves and others during the months you spend between jobs. Every time you feel overwhelmed, it might help to take a moment for a reality check. You can do this informally, but a couple practices in particular can be helpful if you are having trouble keeping your cool.
Regularly jotting your thoughts down in a journal can be a great way to reflect on your thoughts and feelings. An exercise that is particularly useful for combatting anxiety is freewriting — jotting down whatever comes to mind without organizing your thoughts beforehand. Let all your worries out onto the page in front of you. Next, to the side of each negative thought, write down a positive one. Let’s say you write down, “I’ll never find a new job.” You can counter with, “I will find a new job, but it will take time.” Re-training your brain to think positively, but realistically, about each stressor in your life will help you stop yourself from catastrophizing.
Whether or not journaling works for you, mindfulness meditation is another great tool for calming an anxious mind. Sitting crossed-legged on the ground or in whatever position best lets you relax and concentrate at the same time, acknowledge the thoughts racing through your mind. Let them pass, but do not latch on them. Then, focus on your physical surroundings. Take note of where you are and remind yourself that at this moment, you are safe, and you are in control. Next, focus on your breath. Think about nothing but your inhalations and exhalations for as long as it takes you to calm down completely. Take your time.
Practicing this way can help to slow your thoughts and ground you in the present moment. If you learn to focus on the here and now, you will find it much easier to take your job search one step at a time. This will keep the process from overwhelming you psychologically.
Meditation is helpful for the moments when you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, but approaching the job search itself mindfully can prevent you from getting to that point in the first place. Mindfulness, the ability to observe our experiences with full awareness and no judgment, can be an incredible tool for maintaining a positive outlook in any professional situation. This skill can be particularly difficult when you are trying to prove yourself to job recruiters. Still, those are the times when it is especially important — you are not so likely to get hired if you don’t even see yourself as a worthy employee.
To approach the job search mindfully, catch yourself whenever you feel your brain going into overdrive. You only have so much control over the job search, and with things particularly crazy this year, that control can only do so much. Keep this in mind while still remembering how capable you are. If you are doing your very best, both in action and mindset, to find a job, you have no real, practical reason to feel stressed. Hard as that is to remember, it will save you no matter how tough things get. Remind yourself of this when overcoming job search anxiety.
No matter how tough things get, there are people out there who care about you. From professional mentors to family and friends, they will be there to offer support when you need it. Whether you need application advice or a loan to help with your rent for the month, it is 100% okay to reach out to your support system during difficult times. These people are close to you for a reason — they are rooting for you and your success. They likely know that if there were ever a time when they needed a hand, you would give it to them.
Keeping this in mind will allow you to make ends meet and undergo a successful job search without feeling guilt or shame. Remember, everyone is struggling right now, and it is only by building each other up that we can overcome the challenges life is throwing at us. If you have people to help you stay afloat throughout your job search, you have no reason to worry or rush, as much as it might seem that you do. Eventually, you will find a job. It’s only a matter of when.
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