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How to Make Job Search Less Stressful

It’s been said that “suffering is optional.” If your response is, “Whoever said that wasn’t looking for a job,” I understand. But it’s definitely possible to learn how to make job search less stressful, and more effective at the same time.

In this post I’ll share several successful job seekers’ advice on this topic, and my own advice as well.

Advice from former job seekers:

Here’s what one of my clients wrote after he landed his new job.

“I would emphasize that it IS a time-consuming process and to be patient. To have a ritual of doing something every day while searching but to not beat yourself up that you haven’t landed a job quickly. My current job took five months. Had I known that at the outset, I probably would’ve been less stressed; I thought it was something I was doing wrong.”

The opportunity you’re going to land is coming, maybe tomorrow, maybe several months out. You can’t absolutely control that outcome. That’s what’s so potentially aggravating about it. And the process of getting that outcome–the new job–isn’t cumulative. You either have the offer or you don’t. This is a project where you could be working hard for maybe 30 days, maybe 100 days, but only getting a reward on one day: the day you get the offer.

That’s a recipe for stress and burnout. Don’t follow that recipe! You need rewards for the milestones along the way. Every time you complete a task, or especially when you stretch out of your comfort zone, it’s crucial that you celebrate and pat yourself on the back. This is not something you do “to be nice.” It’s something you do to get a job.

Let’s return to something else this client mentioned:

“To have a ritual of doing something every day.”

This is a great point, and one that coincidentally is the central focus of a new job search program I’ve been beta-reviewing lately. In this program job seekers are assigned three simple, pretty easy High Value Activities (HVAs) to accomplish each day. A typical HVA would be “Contact three people to ask for an informational interview” or “Create and/or refine your target companies list.” (I love this program, which is being developed by JibberJobber, the contact and task management system for job seekers. I’ll blog about it again when they release it to the public.) The key here is to harness the huge, underused power of habit.

Let’s hear the stress-reducing advice of another former job seeker.

“By the end of my job search I had gotten organized and had what I called my ‘job search machine.’ I had a contact management system, a structure and a schedule. If I had gotten all that in place at the beginning, rather than running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I’d have been a lot calmer and might have gotten something sooner.”

Yes! Work smart not hard. Don’t just throw yourself into frenzied activity without first getting organized and developing a strategy.

“Researching the company as well as the background of the people I was interviewing with.”

This was an interesting response. We all know that research is important, but this client found it actually reduced stress. I guess it took away the fear of the unknown. Knowledge is power!

One more:

“My last two job searches were during really stressful times in my life, either family stuff or simply feeling trapped, completely desperate to get out of a job. I couldn’t find or make the time to work on my resume or really put my all into interviewing. The key for me was setting aside my ego and realizing that a third party will have far more insight and less emotional baggage about where I’m at career-wise. I say ego because yes, I can write my resume and interview ok, I am capable of all these things on my own. BUT having a third party perspective, for me, was ultimately the difference.”

I wasn’t fishing for testimonials, but this is what the client wrote to me, after having worked with me in 2015 and again in 2019. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for not going it alone, for getting an expert in your corner.

Advice from the coach–for dealing with stress in job search, or better yet, preventing it:

Dial down the feeling of urgency, dial up the strategy and consistency. Settle in and do it right. Learn the best practices (subscribe to this blog, for example) and capitalize on them rather than just rushing to your computer to apply for as many jobs as possible. Yes, it’s a numbers game, but the number you should track and push for is the number of conversations you have with human beings (preferably inside or connected to your target companies), not the number of resumes you send into the black hole.

Visualize success. Some people see this as a metaphysical thing; to me it’s just good psychology. Envisioning a good day in the morning, mentally practicing for a successful interview the night before, or cultivating a vision of ourselves happy in our new role is not only a confidence-builder but it tends to make us act in ways that will draw us toward our goal.

Never “marry” a job opening that hasn’t even “proposed” yet! One of the most stressful things a job seeker can do is drop everything else in their job search to hang their hopes on one opportunity as they go into third and fourth interviews, only to lose out in the last round. Huge letdown, morale goes down the toilet. I’ve seen other job seekers get a second or third interview but continue following up on other leads and end up with offers from two or even three companies. Keep going ’til you’re transitioning into your new job!

Exercise. Many, many job search coaches say this is crucial, and for many reasons. Exercise improves your mood, your confidence, your energy level and your appearance, all of which helps you get a job while greatly reducing stress. Make time for it daily. Whether it’s cycling, swimming, yoga, tennis or pickleball, it is a job search activity! You can tell your spouse I said so.

Settle in, embrace the process, do things right and take care of yourself along the way. Make your job search less stressful and get a great job sooner. Now, what advice do you have? Leave a comment!

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