How to Reduce the Stress of Your Job Search

In an ideal world, I would have a personal assistant in charge of giving me a three day warning every single time I’d reach peak stress while in a job search. But since I don’t, I’ve had to learn how to use my ability to focus and work efficiently while managing my own well-being at the same time.

There seems to be a hidden switch that’s flipped which makes our stress levels jump from zero to one hundred when we commit ourselves to finding a job. But it makes sense: we invest a great amount of time and emotion when crafting an application that speaks to who we are, what we value, and what we can add to an organization — and sometimes it can feel like its own job. On top of that, the process of taking on a search can upset the delicate balance we’ve created in both our professional and personal lives, forcing us to re-prioritize our time so that we can stay focused on looking for the opportunities we want to move on to.

While there is such thing as good stress, sometimes we can reach a certain level of anxiety that is unhealthy or hurting us not only our emotional or physical well-being, but even the job search itself. And while we all handle this stress differently, there are some practices across the board that we can all utilize to help us step back, stay focused and reach our goals.

Limit Your Search to a Part Time Gig

When I’ve job hunted, I have found it valuable to set aside a limited amount of time each day to research opportunities and apply to them. This helped me stay focused when I wasn’t looking at job postings and also motivated me to identify the ones that were the best fit for me, rather than applying for the sake of applying. On top of that, it allowed me to stay focused on my day-to-day responsibilities for the organization and team I was already committed to. Even when I was looking for my first job for almost four months after graduating college, I realized that I was most relaxed and happy when I wasn’t staring at the computer for hours on end for opportunities and that this habit got me more stress than valuable job opportunities!

How do you downgrade your search to part-time status? Understand how much time you really have to search for a new opportunity. Start by logging how you spend your time every day for three to five days, hour by hour. It will help give you a clear picture of what you are doing and an opportunity to find the time for your search. It is also a quick way to figure out how to be more productive overall!

Thinking back to my job search when I was still in my first job out of college, I spent a lot of time on public transportation because I lived over an hour away from my job in Manhattan and many of my friends. So I took advantage of the long commute by outlining applications or reading through job postings I had downloaded. Even though it was challenging not to have the internet at my fingertips the entire time, it helped me work through my search on the train with minimal distractions until I got home.

Once you find the best time for you to work on your search, you can set your own “job search” hours: the specific times each day or week when you will commit to working on your search, uninterrupted. I was able to commit one or two mornings or evenings while commuting and one or two evenings at home, depending on how many opportunities I found. And when my time was up, I would set the work aside and focus on the people or activities that made me happy.

Spend Time Away from the Search

What keeps you happy outside of work? Taking on a search doesn’t mean that you should cut back on the time you spend doing what makes you happy, whether it is hanging out with friends, traveling, or your favorite yoga class. Being involved in activities you enjoy that have little or no relationship to your 9-5 responsibilities is an asset for you. Not only does it give you an outlet for managing your stress more effectively, but it can help you think more creatively and collaboratively about the work you do in the office or out on the field.

Since I’ve started working in the nonprofit sector, I’ve been proactive about finding activities that fit my schedule, budget, and my interests! I’ve taken fitness and language classes, and volunteered as a Spanish translator and writing coach. Trying so many different things challenged me but also taught me more about how I want to be spending my time and what is actually a valuable commitment for me. Given my current job and personal commitments, I felt that working out in a fun way where I feel motivated was most valuable for me, so I started taking barre classes in my neighborhood. The hardest part was integrating the classes into my schedule, but after just a couple of months, it already feels like a regular part of my week and something I look forward to.

Ask yourself, what do I really want to be doing with my time overall? And, how will I describe how I spend my time outside of work to my new coworkers at my dream job once I land it? This could be as simple as picking up a book you have been wanting to read or finally getting around to volunteering for an organization or cause you really care about. Whatever it is, it should help re-charge your batteries so that when you do get back to your search, you are energized and motivated.

Think Strategically About Where You Want to Go

Working in public service means that there is a wealth of opportunities available to you, regardless of the position or title you hold. But as many of us know, this often comes to us in the form of a tough workload that can feel unmanageable or impossible to complete. Don’t let this experience push you away from your current job! To make sure you find a position or organization that is a better fit, you need to be strategic about what you want to do and where you want to do it, so always take time to reflect on what exactly you are searching for and why.

Too often, I’ve heard nonprofit staff say that they are moving on because they are frustrated and want to be in a place where they can grow and learn – but they don’t know how they want to grow or what they want to learn! If you can articulate this clearly, chances are your applications and interviews will be much more successful and you will stay motivated throughout the process, knowing that the end goal is something you are truly excited about.

One easy tool I used was the Career Tracks Exercise – all you have to do is copy and paste those job descriptions that give you butterflies into a word document as you find them. Once you have a lengthy list of positions, you can sit down with a friend to identify commonalities and trends in the types of opportunities that attract you. You might be surprised at what comes up or it can reaffirm exactly what you have been working toward! In either case, it is a great way to get some clarity on what you are really looking for.

Using this tool really solidified my interest in working in the public sector, but also highlighted that I was most interested in positions where I could work directly with people while supporting their personal growth and learning. At the same time, it became clear that I wasn’t quite sure what type of organization I wanted to be a part of, so I had to continue doing informational interviews to learn more about the different opportunities and roles that were out there. This made it even easier to weed out the ones that weren’t the best fit and focus on those that really spoke to who I am and where I wanted to be.

Too often, I’ve heard nonprofit staff say that they are moving on because they are frustrated and want to be in a place where they can grow and learn – but they don’t know how they want to grow or what they want to learn! If you can articulate this clearly, chances are your applications and interviews will be much more successful and you will stay motivated throughout the process, knowing that the end goal is something you are truly excited about.

If you are in the midst of a stressful job search – it doesn’t have to be that way! Remember that if you can be your best self, it will go a long way to helping you to make your next move.

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Pamela Dicent is the Program Director of Exploring Leadership at Coro New York Leadership Center where she empowers high school students to create meaningful change in their school communities. When she’s not at work, you can find her planning her next getaway or working on her Italian skills.
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Comments

    • jt5561@aol.com
    • December 15, 2015

    I am a experienced executive that has persevered difficult times and now find myself looking for a job at age 61. 25 years of commercial business financing for start-up entrepreneurs…high risk but it does create jobs for my community. In 2008, I was let go as my position of SBA Loan Guarantor was on moratorium as banks bigger than us were going under. The government was not in the mood for guaranteeing loans. The most recent transition was as a school teacher, returning to school for the Certificate. I taught high risk, urban elementary kids in 4th grade for the last seven years. The kids were a hoot, however, Common Core is not the ay they can learn. I suffered a heart attack August 2015 (NOT from the kids, from too many fries, Macs, pizza, etc.) and now with sick leave that ran out, no income for two months. My resume gets read, sometimes, however it may show too much experience, or show it incorrectly. The result is more stress when I am supposedly recovering. What can I do?

    1. Seated comfortably. Eyes closed. Deep breath in slowly. Exhale slowly. Notice where you have specific tension in your body. Check your shoulders, arms, and hands. Then, start with your feet, work up your legs, inhale, thighs, exhale, lower back, inhale, upper back, exhale, neck, inhale and head, exhaling slowly releasing stress. You can add visualizations now – seeing yourself in the type of work you desire. Seeing yourself connecting with people, resources, and services helping you along the path to your new job; or, seeing yourself consulting where you are paid well for your expertise. When you are ready, open your eyes feeling less stress. Remember you visualizations. When you’re ready, take an action step, then another, and another. Follow this routine daily. Get a journal to record your daily thoughts, feelings, visualizations, and actions. Continue to reach out for support. Peace and blessings to you. Coach Esther Chambers

      1. Thank you for sharing your guided meditation, Esther! I’d like to recommend to our readers that they record themselves saying the meditation, so they can play it and follow along. Esther, if you already have a link to a free recording of it, please do share it with our readers- thank you!

  1. Thanks Pamela for sharing such a great advice. These tips will really help the candidates come out of stress during their job search.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing such great advice. I personally think that these tips will really help the candidates come out of stress during their job search. According to my own experience, I think that one of the best ways to get out of stress is to “spend time away from the search”. We can do yoga to take it easy, such as: seated comfortably, eyes closed, deep breath in slowly and exhale slowly. Repeat this exercise every day. Furthermore, you can combine it with “visualization” to see yourself in the type of work you desire. Seeing yourself connecting with people, resources, and services helping you along the path to your new job; or, seeing yourself consulting where you are paid well for your expertise.

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