Job hunting is never easy. Searching for job positions that suit you, submitting who knows how many applications, sitting for interviews, waiting for responses – this can exhaust anyone. But while it’s natural to feel drained during the job-hunting process, job hunt depression is a more severe form of exhaustion that shouldn’t be ignored.
The link between unemployment and poor mental health is no myth – research studies have shown that unemployed adults in America are twice as likely to suffer from depression than adults with full-time employment. During the unemployment period, 56% of individuals experience more problems with their mental health, 53% feel a loss of self-identity, and 41% have more conflicts with their loved ones. Job-searching remotely may amplify your mental exhaustion – your environment while searching is limited to your room and computer screen, and lacks the stimulation to keep you energized.
Job hunt depression, if overlooked, can impact many areas of your life outside of your career. It can leave you feeling insecure about your capabilities, hinder your self-development, and even strain your personal relationships. These effects can be long-lasting and difficult to overcome – even after you’ve found a job. Here are some tips to help you identify and manage job hunt depression before it overwhelms you:
Identifying Job Hunt Depression
Are you losing interest in your hobbies?
Staying vigilant and self-aware of your own state-of-mind is critical to identifying depression. Ask yourself: do you still enjoy your hobbies as much as you used to before you started job hunting? Do these hobbies still make you feel refreshed and excited, or have you lost the motivation to pursue them? Does everything feel monotonous? If the job-hunting process has made you lose interest in activities you used to enjoy, this could be a major sign of you developing job hunt depression.
Do you constantly feel low on energy?
“Low energy” can mean many things – in the context of depression, it means that you’re often too tired to carry out your daily activities. Is it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, even after a good night’s rest? Are you sleeping 10 hours/day and still feeling fatigued? Do you lack the energy for even basic, everyday responsibilities like bathing, cleaning or cooking? Are you unable to concentrate on mental tasks for as long as you used to? Depression can leave you feeling physically, emotionally, and cognitively exhausted – so if you’re experiencing a consistent lack of energy throughout your day, job hunt depression may be setting in.
Have you noticed a change in your mood?
Mood changes in depression can be obvious or subtle. Individuals with depression often complain of an overwhelming sadness or emptiness – but in the beginning stages, you may not notice anything except irritability, negativism, or even just apathy. Have your personal relationships around you been strained? Have you been able to continuously maintain a positive attitude while job hunting, or do you automatically assume the worst? Or have you become indifferent to the goings-on around you, both good and bad? These subtle drops in mood may herald a greater, more dangerous shift into depression. These are all traits to be cognizant of as they can lead to many deeper concerns. So how to overcome the cycle?
Have a plan ready for rejection
Rejection is inevitable during the job-hunting process – what’s important is to maintain perspective and not let it define you. Having a plan in place for rejection keeps you looking forward.
Ideally, your plan should address practical next steps as well as emotional well-being, e.g., focus on how you can learn from the rejection without giving into excessive self-criticism. Analyze your performance objectively, identify points where you may have faltered, and think calmly about how to improve them for your next application. At the same time, look at the rejection as a catalyst for your own growth. Practice self-compassion. As you use this opportunity to reflect and build on your skills, remember that things can only go up from here! Many employers are now starting to be open to providing feedback on the interviews overall. If it is a company you really want to be a part of try and connect with the recruiter for feedback and potentially a coach to help you through the process for the next time.
Be organized in your job hunting
Part of job hunt depression is feeling a loss of control over your situation. Keeping an organized approach to your job searching can help you regain some of that control. Instead of searching and applying for jobs at random, create an Excel sheet of all the jobs you’re interested in, their requirements, interview dates, correspondence notes, contact details, and their pros and cons. This will help you easily keep track of job listings.
You can also dedicate specific blocks in your schedule to job searching tasks, e.g., you may want to spend the first two hours of your day browsing for new listings and updating your Excel sheet, and the next two hours submitting applications to 2-3 of your top picks. Spend an hour in the afternoon following up with places you’ve applied to and reinforcing your interest. After work hours, give some time to networking on professional online groups and reaching out to personal connections. Finally, end your day by researching the positions you’ll be applying to tomorrow and updating your CV/cover letter with details that will stand out to your recruiters.
Don’t forget self-care!
It’s easy to neglect self-care in the stress of job hunting – but a self-care routine can work wonders in helping you retain your calm and positivity. Self-care can mean different things to different people – for some, it may involve a trip to the gym or a jog around the block to pump up those endorphins and relieve stress. Others may prefer a relaxing hobby, like yoga, skincare, or baking. Keeping your diet full and healthy, practicing sleep hygiene with an uninterrupted 7 hours/day, and spending some time outdoors once or twice per week (especially when job hunting is remote) will also keep you physically and mentally fit.
More than anything else on this list, knowing when to ask for help will be your biggest asset in fighting job hunt depression. If you find yourself struggling with low self-esteem and emotional exhaustion, reach out to people who will support and empathize with you. Talk to close friends, family, or colleagues in the same situation as you. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a therapist/psychiatrist.
To sum it up – job hunting is a stressful process that’s likely to affect anyone. Protect yourself by practicing mindfulness, prioritizing your health, and taking advantage of the many resources around you. Whatever your current situation may be, look forward to your next milestone and the journey ahead!