Searching for employment is a pretty soul-sucking task that can quickly lead to job search depression.
You can spend hours sifting through job boards only to find two positions you’re even remotely interested in. Then you spend another couple of hours going through the application form and composing the perfect cover letter. One that says “hire me!” while also hitting all of the right keywords to make it past the digital gatekeeper.
After that, it’s all a waiting game peppered with frustrating questions. Can I find someone to send a follow-up email? Will I hear from the hiring manager? How can I reach out to ask about timelines while at the same time showing how perfect I am for this position?
What a joy.
It doesn’t take long in this process for morale to dwindle. The first few rejection letters hit your inbox and suddenly your confidence is shaken. The laptop screen begins to trigger migraines and the list of jobs you scroll through seems more and more uninteresting or unattainable.
It’s at this time I’d like to say STOP. You’re well on your way to a depressive mood, which I can tell you right now will not help your job search.
Looking for work is a practice in mental strength, and like anything, you need a plan of action for working your way through this period in your life without completely spiraling into depression and self-loathing. I’ve been there and done that so you don’t have to.
Below are five strategies I highly encourage you to use to keep the job search depression at bay while you’re looking for a new job. These have all helped me manage my mental health while being unemployed, and I believe they can benefit you, as well.
Stop making the job search your full-time gig
I hate the advice that tells you to look for work as your full-time job.
Don’t do that — It’s a big bummer.
You’ll find yourself staring at the computer screen all day. Plus, unless you land a job immediately, you’ll be bombarded by rejection letters. Not really great for one’s self-esteem.
At most, looking for a job should be a part-time gig. Obviously, this is a little dependent on your financial status but use your best judgment.
If you’re collecting unemployment and it’ll cover your major bills and financial needs on a temporary basis, then give yourself a little breather from the job boards every now and then.
If you can live with your parents or have a spouse who can hold down the fort, then take regular mental breaks from composing cover letters and submitting applications.
Finding a new job takes time, but that doesn’t mean your every waking minute has to be spent hunting for work. If you do scour the job boards full-time all you’ll get is burnout and frustration.
Leave the house at least every other day
Being cooped up in your house day after day is not good for your physical or mental health, and certainly won’t help you avoid job search depression.
Go to a coffee shop that has Wi-Fi once a week and treat yourself to a small coffee or tea and then work from there. Being surrounded by other people and the heady scent of caffeine will help you feel refreshed and productive.
If you don’t feel like you can afford to pay a few dollars for a coffee, that’s fine too. Pick a different outlet. The point is just to leave the house.
The library is an excellent place to get work done and change your surroundings. Best of all it’s free! Sit in one of their comfy side chairs or work at a table near the window and absorb the quiet ambiance created by the aisles of books.
Leaving the house for these small excursions is a good excuse to shower, get dressed, and put on a little makeup, or brush your hair. PJs all day every day can only be acceptable for so long.
Trust me, getting yourself together and heading out of the house even for a couple of hours will make you feel better than if you stayed on the couch all day applying for jobs.
Reach out to your support network
It’s tempting to become a bit of a hermit while looking for a new job. You feel like you need to focus all of your attention on finding work, so you stay home and stop socializing.
Remaining at home also makes it easier to avoid the dreaded “what do you do?” question from strangers.
Isolating yourself isn’t the answer. It won’t magically make a new job land in your lap. Instead, you’ll just feel lonely and become even more aware of your jobless state.
That’s why you need to reach out to your support network.
For me, this looks like talking to my family on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. I’ll share how I’m feeling with my husband and talk through my frustrations. I also chat with my best friends and ask for their prayers.
Knowing I have people in my corner rooting for me and praying for my success is comforting. It also reminds me I’m not alone during this frustrating time of my life.
Your support network might look different from mine. Maybe you have a social Meetup group you enjoy attending, or perhaps you’re close with your grandparents. Either way, talk to someone. Connect with others who will lift you up when you feel your spirits drifting down.
Quit pinning your hopes on an application
Let me explain.
Obviously you’re going to be a little hopeful when submitting a job application, and that’s fine. What I’m saying is stop putting so much pressure on individual applications to succeed.
Tell me if this scenario is familiar — you submit an application to a company and you’re super excited! You would be a perfect fit for this position and you could really see yourself thriving and growing with this amazing organization.
Then you get the dreaded email. “Thank you for your interest in our company but we’ve decided to move forward with a different applicant.”
That position was everything you’ve ever dreamed of doing and they didn’t even ask you for a first-round interview — Que the despair, self-criticism, and loathing of your skillset.
I’ve gone through this cycle enough times to realize it isn’t healthy. You shouldn’t become so attached to one opportunity that you feel defeated when you don’t land the role.
Keep a solid layer of emotional cushion between yourself and your applications. Next time you receive a rejection email or phone call, the blow – and subsequent job search depression – won’t be nearly as devastating.
Get involved in your community at the start
I considered signing up for a couple of volunteer positions when I first started looking for a job. Unfortunately, I talked myself out of this initial plan. “I’ll have a job within a month,” I thought.
Flash forward three months and I still don’t have many serious leads.
I kept putting off volunteering because I felt so certain an opportunity was going to come up. I didn’t want to sign up with an organization one week just to return the next and quit. It was a stupid excuse.
You don’t know how long you’re going to be out of work, so you may as well get involved.
I’m not just telling you to do this because it’s good for your community, either. It’s a great way to connect with people on a regular basis and it can give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Something, in my experience, that is very much lacking after losing a job.
Volunteering for the local museum lets me present a fun activity for children while learning something about nature in the process. It makes me feel engaged with my community, and I’m improving my public speaking a little bit while doing it.
I can forget about my job applications for a little while and lose myself in an amusing activity I get to teach to children. I only volunteer for a couple of hours at a time, but I always feel productive at the end of the day.
Sometimes a sense of accomplishment is all it takes to turn a bad day around.
We’ve all experienced (or will experience) unemployment. It sucks. No two ways about it.
It’s best described as an emotional rollercoaster. You’re high when you feel like you’ve killed a cover letter and you’re low the next hour when the company lets you know the position has already been filled (the posting just hasn’t been removed).
I hope the methods I’ve learned for dealing with the stress and emotional turmoil of unemployment can help you, as well. Just know, you’re not alone. The right opportunity is out there, you just have to be patient enough for it to present itself. (Or, go out and create it.)
If you have other suggestions or ideas for avoiding job search depression while looking for employment, I’d love to know what works for you.