Job search depression: what it entails and how to get through it

Linda Le Phan

Carlson School of Management at University of Minnesota recently sponsored a study that examines how job loss and the hunt for a new job impact the job-seeker’s mental health and well-being.

Perhaps the study’s findings don’t come as a surprise; job seekers often experience an emotional low following the loss of a job, feel better when they begin searching for new opportunities, and then experience another decline in mental health when they haven’t found the right position 10-12 weeks later.

This predictable shift in mental health is often referred to as job search depression: the hopeless feeling that settles in when you want or need a new job and can’t seem to land one.

What makes everything worse is that the job search process is like an emotional rollercoaster, filled with ups and downs and sudden glimmers of hope only to be followed by disappointment – just check out the typical emotional stages of the job search:

While there’s no simple solution to the inevitable ups and downs of a job search, there are some things you can actively do to keep your mind and spirit in good shape no matter what the job hunt throws at you. The first thing is knowing how to spot job search depression:

What is job search depression: Signs and symptoms 

Here are some tell-tale signs you’re falling into the pit of depression during your hunt for the right job:

  • You’re feeling moody, or crabbier than usual
  • You feel down, sad, or hopeless about finding a new job
  • You’re so tired you’re having a hard time conjuring the energy to put in another resume
  • You’re starting to wonder if you’re even deserving or capable of a better career; your self-esteem has plummeted
  • You feel anxiety that interferes with your everyday life
  • You’re having more physical aches, pains, and headaches than you’ve had in the past

How to get through it: Coping and overcoming

Whether you’re experiencing just one symptom of the job search blues or you can identify with every undesirable symptom on the list, these tips can help you get through these murky waters and onto your next big opportunity with a positive attitude.

1. Make a plan

It’s easier to stay motivated when you have a plan and short-term goals. Set goals for yourself each morning – like redrafting your resume, brushing up on common interview questions and answers, or applying for a certain number of job requisitions before the day is over. Having a plan is the first step in staying excited and engaged, and it’s also the key to keeping yourself in tip-top shape for when interview requests start coming in!

2. Incorporate follow-up

Keep a calendar to stay organized and make follow-up an important part of your search. Follow up includes:

  • Contacting employers to confirm that they received your application approximately 24 hours after submission
  • Following up with employers weekly after that to find out where your application is in the process
  • Sending a brief thank-you note or email following every interview or introductory call
  • Contact your most desired workplaces monthly to find out if they have any openings that might be a fit for you

3. Give yourself a break

Take time in your day to do things that promote relaxation and personal well-being, like taking a walk, taking a hot shower, or reading a good book. This can help restore your energy and optimism for your career search and keep everything in perspective.

4. Keep building on your marketable job skills

Part of what makes a drawn out job hunt so depressing is the feeling that you’re not making any progress and are simply waiting for someone else to change your job fate. A great way to combat this feeling is to, rather than just waiting around, instead use the time to build upon your existing relevant job skills or to gain new ones that’ll contribute to your resume and job candidacy. With so many free and paid online courses and so many ways for you to learn things on your own with online resources and self-study, this tactic can make a huge difference in how quickly you land a job if you use your time wisely.

5. Get help if you need it

If you have reason to believe that your job hunt depression has escalated – evidenced by significant weight loss/health problems, thoughts of harming yourself or someone else, or drug or alcohol or other substance abuse – seek help from trusted loved ones or from your local mental health resources.

 

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Linda Le Phan is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu US, a place where job seekers can get an authentic view of life at a company and where employers have a trusted platform to better engage talent. When she’s not creating content about the modern workplace, company culture, and life & work hacks, she is probably going out to get an iced coffee (even in Boston winter), raiding the snack drawer, or jamming to kununu’s Spotify playlist.