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  • Managing Job Search Stress

    Posted on 04/29/2021 11:32 AM

    With the Spring 2021 semester drawing to a close and many students about to graduate, we are officially in job-hunting season. While finding a job and launching a new career is exciting, it’s also a very challenging, stressful process. Even if friends and peers can make this process look easy on the surface, behind the scenes, searching for jobs is time consuming and full of uncertainty. Also, we face both internal and external pressures when it comes to finding a job, which only adds to the stress of preparing resumes, researching prospective employers, and participating in interviews.

    So how do we check these internal and external pressures, manage our stress, and take care of ourselves while looking for jobs? Here are some ways to help support your mental wellbeing throughout this process.


    Internal Pressure

    Some of the internal pressure we feel around finding a job often comes from the messages we tell ourselves, as well as messages from others that we’ve adopted or internalized. If these internal messages tend to be negative (i.e., self-critical or judgemental), they add to the stress we feel when job hunting. Over time, these negative messages intensify the pressure we place on ourselves, and they can start to wear down on our sense of self-esteem or self-worth in the long-run.
    As you go through the job search process, check in with any internal pressure you might be feeling. Notice where that pressure is coming from, and what messages you’re telling yourself. Are you regularly criticizing yourself with messages like, “I’m never good enough,” “If I don’t find the perfect job right away, I’m never going to be successful or happy,” or “I have to be the best all of the time, otherwise that means I’m really the worst”? These types of negative messages increase our stress levels, and they can take a toll on our mental wellbeing leading to lower levels of motivation and even feelings of sadness or depression.
    Instead, try to catch those moments when you’re being hard on yourself, and aim for more realistic or balanced messages instead. Ask yourself, “How true are these messages?” and “Are these messages helping me or hurting me right now?” For example, if you’re feeling that internal pressure to find a great job right away, ask yourself if you realistically think that was true for every successful person out there. Remind yourself of mentors, professors, or other professional role models you might have, and think about the many different ways--and timeframes--they used to get to their current positions.


    External Pressure

    In addition to managing the internal pressure we feel when searching for jobs, we also have to navigate external pressures. These can be the expectations others have for us, including our parents, family members, friends, or even our professors or academic advisors. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming when you think about how others might be counting on you, or how badly you want to be successful to make others proud. This may be particularly true for first-generation students and students of color.
    When the internal and external pressure starts to mount around the job search process, it can be helpful to notice the positive things you are already doing, no matter how small they might seem at first glance. While we might initially focus on the outcome (i.e., landing a great job), it’s very important to recognize all the helpful steps you’re taking to move towards that goal (i.e., researching jobs, practicing for interviews, preparing your resume, etc.). Taking time to appreciate your efforts can help you feel less overwhelmed and more positive about the job search as a process, not just the end goal. Here are some ways to engage in this positive practice:

    • Daily journaling: Take time to notice and appreciate the positive things you are able to accomplish, every day. Start by recognizing and naming at least one thing you accomplished that you are grateful for or proud of. It’s okay to recognize things outside of the job search as well, like moments when you take care of yourself or spend meaningful time with others.

    • Consistent positive self-affirmations: Remind yourself that no one is perfect, and that you are doing the best you can!


    Another very important way to manage the stress of job hunting is to prioritize your wellbeing through self-care. Self-care is about intentionally giving your personal resources (aka., your mind, body, and spirit) a chance to recharge and recover from the demands of life. And job hunting is very demanding of our personal resources! Self-care can look a little different for everyone, since we are all unique individuals, but typically, self-care means attending to our physical, mental and emotional needs. Some of the more common (and helpful!) ways we can engage in self-care is by:

    • Getting enough rest and sleep

    • Eating healthfully

    • Regular exercise

    • Spending time connecting with loved ones, friends, and others who help you feel supported, refreshed and energized

    • Limiting access to things that leave us feeling drained or depleted (negative social media can be particularly taxing)

    • Engaging in a fun, enjoyable hobby or activity, such as art, crafting, working on cars, etc.

    • For more ways to practice self-care during the job search process, check out:

    Remember: Self-care is especially important to maintain while you are actively looking for jobs and preparing for interviews. Caring for your mind, body and spirit can help you manage the stress and pressure around the process, and when you feel rested and recharged, you are giving yourself the chance to really put your best foot forward with prospective employers.
    Need assistance with managing stress or practicing self-care? Check out Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) resources, including individual counseling, groups and workshops, and career counseling. Several CAPS workshops are also available online.
    Need help with the job search process in general? That’s what the Career Center is for! Utilize your resources so you can show up as your best self in your next step!


    Written by Dr. Iris Cahill Casiano, Psychologist, Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) and Paige Hellman Millar, Assistant Director, First & Second Year Students, Career Center