How to protect your mental health when you’re job hunting

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
Job hunting may cause anxiety and stress but there are ways to overcome it. Photo: Getty

Job hunting is a difficult process. Not only is writing a CV and cover letter time-consuming and challenging, applying for jobs, receiving rejections and attending interviews is a stressful process.

Even for the most confident person, the uncertainty, time constraints and financial pressure while searching for a new job can take its toll on their mental health.

So how can you help manage anxiety and stress while applying for jobs?

“We often apply for jobs that we love the sound of, and we become very attached to the thought of them,” says career coach Alice Stapleton. “We imagine what our commute would be like, what it would be like working there, what the team will be like, which makes it incredibly hard to let go of the idea when it’s a ‘no’.

“We take the rejection personally, because, often in the absence of feedback, we assume we weren’t good enough,” she adds. “It can be hard facing these knock backs on a continued basis, and it can take its toll after a while, especially if we’re desperate to move on from our current role.”

Manage your expectations

Stapleton says it’s important to manage your expectations from the outset and accept that it may take a while to find a new role. It can help to treat searching and applying for jobs like a part-time job or project.

“Set yourself clear targets of how many applications you want to make by when, and allocate yourself specific times during your week when you can work on these. This can help job hunting feel more manageable and in our control.

Richard Alderson, founder of Careershifters, also advises to be selective. “While it's tempting to send your resume and CV everywhere, you're more likely to be unsuccessful - and feel a lot worse as a result,” he says.

“Instead, only apply to roles and companies you're energised by. Be picky, even if your inner critic is telling you not to be. You'll come across way more powerfully in your applications.”

READ MORE: Why we get anxiety before work and how to handle it

Remember it’s not personal

When you get a rejection from a job you really want, it can be really difficult. But it’s important to remember that even the best applicants don’t get jobs – and you haven’t necessarily done anything wrong.

“Remember that any No is not personal – it can’t be, simply because they don’t know you well enough for it to be personal,” Stapleton says. “Try to see it more as a mis-match – your skills and experience weren’t aligned, that’s all.”

Do other things

Particularly if you’re worried about money or if you are currently unemployed, applying for jobs can take over your time and leave you burned out. It’s important to look after yourself, to see friends or family and to take breaks from applications – you’ll come back to them with fresh focus and energy.

“Maintain a healthy balance between your job hunting and everything else you like to do in your spare time,” Stapleton says. “Make sure you’ve still got the opportunity to see your friends, do fun things, exercise, eat well. This can help you remain resilient and keep going when the going gets tough.”

It’s important to get support from friends and family if you’re struggling, as they can help you with advice or take your mind off jobs when you need it. It can also help to meet up with others doing the same thing.

“Buddy up with other people in the same boat. Don't allow this to become a moan fest; instead, keep each other accountable, give each other encouragement and draw energy from others around you,” Alderson says.

Get feedback

According to LinkedIn’s Talent Trends report, 94% of candidates want to receive feedback after an interview, but only 41% have received it. It can really help you to improve your chances of getting the next job you apply for, as well as boost your confidence if you find out what you did well.

“Try to push for specific feedback from interviewers as much as possible. This can help you focus on tangible areas to improve on, answers to practice, etc, so that the next interview feels like an improvement, as opposed to just another stab in the dark,” Stapleton says.

READ MORE: Why women are penalised for getting angry at work

Speak to people

Not everyone enjoys networking, but it can help to get to know people in your chosen career path who may be able to give you advice, recommend you for jobs or even hire you. This might mean attending conferences or events, or simply connecting with people on LinkedIn or on social media groups.

“Firstly, this may sound counterintuitive, but do less looking for jobs and more looking for people,” says Alderson. “Not only is it less soul-sucking, it's also, in many circumstances, a lot more effective.”

If you are struggling with anxiety, low mood or any other mental health problem, it’s important to speak to your GP who can give you the right advice. You can also contact the charity Mind for support and advice too.