There’s nothing that sets your emotions on a rollercoaster ride quite like the job searching process. Maintaining your mental health during this stressful period can be tough but is achievable – read on for our expert advice to help you stay positive when job searching.
Sharon Glenn is a registered psychologist with MTC’s jobactive program, and works one-on-one with our customers who are seeking employment. Here she shares her insights into how to keep your head up during this emotionally taxing time.
“Many people rely on their job to provide them with a feeling of self-worth and value. This can be a challenge to maintain when seeking employment,” she says. If unchecked, a period of unemployment can lead to anxiety or depression – which can make the search even harder.
Avoid negative self-talk
A lot of work goes into a job interview – not just researching the company and thinking of good questions to ask your interviewer – but the anticipation before and after, as you wait for a response. It’s hard when that work is not rewarded. And if you’ve been looking for a while, it can be difficult to stay positive.
“It’s easy to be hard on ourselves when things don’t work out and to blame ourselves if we don’t perform well at an interview for example. However, this negative self-talk can be quite damaging to us when we are already more vulnerable to negative emotions,” says Sharon.
She suggests that self-compassion is vital to maintaining a positive mental state.
“The more appropriate way to speak to ourselves is to be compassionate. Say the sorts of things to yourself that you’d say to a friend in the same situation. This can be difficult at first, because most of us tend to be much harder on ourselves than we are on others. However, it does get easier with practise, and it makes a huge difference in maintaining a positive outlook,” Sharon explains.
Job seekers’ perspectives
The Atlantic invited readers seeking employment to write in and share their thoughts about the process. One person wrote: “Unemployment doesn’t mean you have ‘free time’. It’s a full-time job looking for work. And even when you aren’t, you’re occupied with other things in your house (especially if you have kids).”
Another found the double standards of job searching particularly challenging. They wrote that they found it difficult “trying not to appear desperate for a job when I am, in fact, quite desperate for a job”.
This person also commented on the contradictory advice that comes with remaining ‘positive’ and how your emotional wellbeing turns into public property.
They wrote: “When I become depressed from my job search, I’m told to cheer up or else give a bad vibe to prospective employers… yet when I become happy through non-search related activities, I am reminded that I should be looking for work!”
Tips to stay positive when job searching
Looking for happiness in non-search related activities is what we recommend. Your job search shouldn’t consume every part of you. Carve out time to do things you enjoy or that are good for you: like going for a walk, eating well and connecting with friends.
“An important protective factor in maintaining mental health is to engage in some form of exercise or activity as often as you can. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that physical activity is a key factor for maintaining mental health, and it doesn’t have to be a strenuous activity to have an impact,” says Sharon.
“A daily 30-minute walk or bike ride can be all that is required, and staying active around the house or garden, such as doing chores and the like. Another tip is to remain conscious of limiting your screen time, and to break this up with some physical activity throughout the day.”
Also, the loss of a daily routine can lead people to become less active, which then fuels low moods or symptoms of depression (feeling tired or lethargic during the day, finding it hard to stay motivated, withdrawing from friends and family etc).
“Maintenance of a routine is important, such as getting up and going to bed at the same time each day, maintaining a reasonably healthy diet, not increasing alcohol or other substance use, and spending time with people you can talk to who are supportive,” says Sharon.
Sharon’s number one tip is to be persistent: just because you haven’t won a job yet, it doesn’t mean you won’t have success in the future.
“Persistence is what really pays off,” she says.
She also says that maintaining perspective is key.
“It can be difficult for some people to gain employment if there’s a significant period of unexplained unemployment, and job seekers may need to accept roles that are not their ideal roles, in order to get back into the job market sooner. However, once you’re working, you can keep applying for your ideal role and get there in the long run,” she says.
Looking for work is not an easy task. Emotions run high and it can sometimes feel like you’re running uphill. The best thing you can do for yourself during this time is stay positive when job searching and prioritise your mental health.
If you are struggling…
Talk to your local doctor. As GPs are the gateway to other mental health services they can refer you to see a psychologist covered by Medicare, and they can also discuss other treatment options with you.
However, if you are concerned about your safety or experiencing a mental health crisis please visit your nearest hospital emergency department, call 000, or contact Lifeline 13 11 14 or online (available 24/7).
You can also contact the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or online (available 24/7).