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Typical job search stressors and how job seekers usually feel like

Have you ever felt stressed and really tired during a job search? 

Most of us have been there at some point of our careers. Looking for a new job can be a challenging endeavor that, according to studies, demands specific psychological capital or resources such as hope, self efficacy, optimism and resilience, known by the acronym HERO. Higher levels of HERO are a resource for job seekers to cope with stress and engage with their job searching with a positive attitude, reducing consequent fatigue. 

But what are the main causes for job seeker stress and anxiety? And how does a stressed job seeker feel like and think about during this stressful moment of their careers? 

That is what I will talk about in this article. 

What are the main causes for stress and anxiety during a job search? 

There are several reasons and they are usually very personal, depending on a person’s particular circumstances. It is very likely that what increases stress for one person does not necessarily do for someone else. Therefore, based on my experience as a psychologist and career counselor I will present below some of the most common and reported causes behind a high level of stress during a job search process.

1- Unemployment

Being unemployed is the most reported one and usually the hardest variable to deal with. We all have duties, commitments, family and financial responsibilities and having an income is necessary to fulfill them. Therefore, having no job makes this much more complicated and even impossible, raising our stress levels to the sky.

2- Concern over the hiring process

Another typical anxiety trigger is the concern about the hiring process, especially when it has been a long time you don’t go over a job interview. If that’s your case, you probably have no idea how it’s going to be. Where to start? How to make a resume? How many interviews? “I have no idea what to tell in a job interview…” Those and other questions may pop up on your mind, especially at the beginning of your job hunting when it all seems so uncertain and there is a lot to take care of.  

3- Concern about the timeline: when will I get hired?

Worrying too much about the timeline. When will I start a new job? How long should I expect to be unemployed. How long will the recruitment process take? 

It’s normal to feel a need to know the timings, especially because you need to  come up with a plan and organize your life until you get a new job. Furthermore, there is the expectation of having a new job as soon as possible, right? We don’t wanna wait too long and that triggers scary thoughts of “something is wrong” raising your anxiety levels.

4- No interviews and a collection of rejections 

You’re already job hunting, sending over many resumes…but getting no answer back. Not a single interview. 

You start wondering: what is happening? I’m not good enough.. I will never find a job. And then your stress levels go higher and higher, bringing even more frustration: what am I doing wrong?

You will probably start questioning everything you have done so far and decide to review and rewrite your resume, creating several versions of it. That is when stressed job seekers develop what I call: the multiple resume disorder: having as many resumes as jobs they applied to, one very different from another. It creates a huge mess and confusion, increasing even more the anxiety levels, since they get lost amongst so many profiles and lose track of which one works.  

5- The labor market crisis enhanced by the COVID-19 pandemic

And, on top of it, by the time I am writing this article we have this global crisis called COVID 19 pandemic, that is making everything more difficult for everyone. Labor market is compromised in most of the countries. We are living historical levels of unemployment. Companies are shutting down or downsizing, laying off people instead of hiring. 

There is a general uncertainty feeling in society and the labor market is no different. Workers are suffering the direct impact of it and people looking for a job right now are having an extra stressor to deal with. 

Take care of your mental health during your job search. High level of stress may lead you to bad employment

How does a stressed job seeker feel like and think about during this stressful moment of their careers? 

A job seeker may feel stressed, nervous, and anxious. It is usual to find people who lack the resources needed to look for a new job whilst they feel like getting a new job is too hard. In the same line, catastrophical or scary thoughts are constantly popping up on their mind, like: “I cannot keep living like this anymore” or “It is impossible to get an interview” ot “I will never get a job” to mention some. So, answering our two questions with more detail:

Their feelings:

  • Overwhelmed: having to deal with too much at the same time lacking the appropriate resources to handle them. 
  • Not capable of performing basic tasks related to job searching, like creating their resume and looking for opportunities. 
  • Insecure to go over an interview process because they feel like lacking the required skills 
  • Hopeless, reaching the conclusion that they will never find a job.

Theirs thoughts:

What I usually see is people having scary or negative thoughts related to their capability of being hired or to the external circumstances out of their control, like: 

  • Never getting a job because the labor market is in crisis, 
  • Why would someone hire them if there are many people as good as them or even better that are also unemployed
  • Worrying too much about the uncertainty of their situation: when will I get a job? Thinking all the time about paying the bills, the rent, the mortgage, doing groceries. 
  • Worrying about the time, concluding that nothing is happening as it should be, or worried that HR has not contacted them yet and that means they are out of the process.

Feeling overwhelmed, incapable of or hopeless and having scary and undesirable thoughts can lead to sleeping or eating problems, humor change, communication problems and relationship issues that reinforces the aforementioned feelings and thoughts, starting a very unhealthy cycle.  On top of it, job seekers under high levels of stress and fatigue may eventually make bad decisions, like taking the first or any job offer just to end this stressful situation and get an income, aiming to solve the original problem. Which may work just fine if the job is appropriate for them, but could also end up just changing one problem for another.  

Depending on a person’s particular case, they need to take the first job offer to handle their life duties, that is the reality. However, the result can sometimes be only changing the unemployment problem to an even more stressful work or bad quality employment. Even in those cases, it is possible to come up with a new job search strategy and a plan to keep looking for a better opportunity even though they’re already employed, aiming to find a job that really matches their interests, needs and personal values. 

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, a little bit of stress is not a problem. It is even necessary for humankind to survive. Nevertheless, high levels of stress leads to extreme fatigue and if it starts to make our days too hard to go through…that’s when we have a problem and specific professional care is necessary to overcome it.

My main goal was shedding some light on the main stressors job seekers might have to deal with during their searching process, giving an overview of the main causes, characteristics and symptoms of a stressed and anxious job seeker.

If you recognize yourself in at least one of the causes and symptoms described and want to know how to handle it, I have put together 10 actionable advice and strategies to handle an effective and stressless job search. I hope it helps you manage your job search experience and keep stress and anxiety under control. And if you feel like a professional help might be the best option for you, do not hesitate to contact your psychotherapist or career counselor, they are the most prepared persons to help you go through it and overcome stress. 

Take care of yourself. Your mental health matters.  

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