Surviving the job search

Searching for a job is one of the most self-esteem damaging things I’ve done recently.

If you’re lucky, I guess you find a job relatively easily, apply, get called for interview, and receive the happy news that the job is yours. But I think the majority of people must have the same experience as me: search, apply, hear nothing, apply… apply… apply… get an interview! Get turned down. Go back to applying…

I haven’t managed to master this process and retain any emotional distance. I know in reality that being rejected from multiple jobs, usually without anyone even bothering to explicitly tell me I’ve been rejected, is pretty common. I know that it doesn’t actually have a whole lot to do with me, it’s about the application I made and other people’s assumptions about who I am and what I want based on that application. I shouldn’t take the rejection, or more commonly the complete failure to even bother being polite enough to send a rejection, personally.

I know objectively it doesn’t mean I’m a terrible unworthy person, but it somehow it always begins to feel like I am!

Every time I apply for a job and get rejected it feels illogical and almost incomprehensible, and the flip side of that is that I immediately begin to question my ability to assess my own strengths. I’m not applying for jobs that would challenge me, so why aren’t I even getting interviews? Am I so bad at accurately assessing my skills that I’m missing the fact that I’m completely under-experienced and under-skilled for these posts? Or is my self-esteem so damaged that I’m massively under-selling myself?

All these thoughts lead to a tangle of anxiety. The cycle of being ignored or rejected adds to this, as well sadness and frustration and feelings of worthlessness.

I’ve developed a few coping mechanisms to help fight this, and today I thought I’d share them here in the hope that they might help other people in similar situations.

  1. Do a big job search once a week. Searching takes time, and as you try and find things that you can do, that don’t have crazy demands, aren’t massively over-subscribed, are geographically appropriate and aren’t massively under-paid it can all get pretty depressing and confusing. It also involves a lot of decision making, which is exhausting, particularly if you’re feeling vulnerable anyway. Searching every day leaves me tired and dispirited. Instead, I do one search at the beginning of the week, and bookmark all of the pages. Then over the week I work through them in order of application date/preference.
  2. Get up early and do an application in the morning before anything else. Okay, not before coffee, but before I do any other kind of work or internet browsing or anything. If I don’t start until later, I just give my internal critical monologue time to get going, and I start to slowly suffocate under anxiety and self-criticism. This leads me to feeling increasingly unmotivated and hopeless. If I get on with an application in the morning, then I really feel like I’ve achieved something already, and I can let myself off the hook to do something more enjoyable. This makes me feel much more positive overall.
  3. Once the application is written and sent, let it go. Don’t dwell on it, never go back and look at your documents (you’ll just find things you wish you could change!), and certainly don’t let yourself start to think about how you’d plan your transport or anything else. If I let myself dwell on a possible job I always end up planning out how I’d manage things and letting myself look forwards to it, and then when I get rejected or just never hear anything the impact of that is even worse. Thinking about the job sets me up for massive disappointment, so I try very hard not to do it. If there’s any follow up I can do, I just schedule my calendar to remind me, and try and put it out of my head. I find it really difficult, but worthwhile.

There are compromises in all of these suggestions, but this way I’m actually able to face writing the applications without suffocating in my own anxiety. Sure, I might miss out on some jobs if they are posted and then taken down quickly, but I’m much less miserable!

Let me know if any of this helps you, or how you managed to survive your own job searches. And if you’re looking for a job right now, good luck!

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Surviving the job search

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