Whether you’re out of work or trying to make a career leap, job hunting can often feel like an uphill battle.
There’s the endless scrolling to find a gig worth applying for, the time-consuming application process then the gruelling wait for a response from your would-be employer.
“We feel a sense of anticipated success but anticipated loss, and that’s a very tenuous and vulnerable continuum for us to dance along,” says employment marketplace SEEK’s resident psychologist Sabina Read.
“Our job [can represent] identity, security, status, freedom, self-worth, power, success, independence, achievement – whatever it is that a job represents to us is on the line when we job hunt.”
Add to that the COVID-sparked redundancies and hiring freezes, and you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s never been a more stressful time to be on the hunt.
In fact, according to SEEK research*, 57 per cent of Australians who are actively searching for jobs say their mental health has been affected by COVID.
“A lot of people are going for multiple jobs so they’re going through this experience again and again – [there’s] a cumulative impact of applying and perhaps not securing a job that takes its toll,” Read says.
But, she adds, there are some effective strategies for keeping calm while you pursue your next career move.
Make time for fun
If you need a new job, it can feel like every spare minute should be dedicated to the task, but according to Read it’s crucial for job hunters to practice self-care.
“The frenetic pace, guilt, desperation and fear will take over,” she says.
“More [time spent job searching] doesn’t always mean a better outcome – more just means that you could be more stressed, less balanced and more overwhelmed.”
Although the research also found that 71 per cent of Australian job seekers are more aware of their mental health since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it doesn’t mean all are acting on it. One of the best ways to do so, advises Read, is to compartmentalise your days to factor in self-care on top of your job-hunting time.
“It might be, ‘I’ll do four hours of job hunt today and in addition to that, I will go for a daily walk [and] I’ll connect with a friend’,” she suggests.
“It’s up to the individual to decide, ‘What is it that I need?’ Most of us know what it is that helps us feel more buoyant, more secure, more positive [and gives us] a greater sense of wellbeing.”
Keep an open mind
In such a competitive job market, Katie Roberts, director of Katie Roberts Career Consulting, says many job seekers will benefit from thinking about roles outside their usual box.
“Adaptability is key right now,” Roberts says.
“For a lot of people, the jobs are just not there in their field right now, so they’re having to adapt to other areas and in some cases enrol in courses and do other training so they can apply for those jobs.”
Roberts states this is not necessarily a bad thing, because you may be surprised by how much you enjoy a new role.
“[Accepting a job] doesn’t mean you have to do it forever and a lot of those jobs [offer] transferrable skills that you can use in your career when you get back to it,” she points out.
Target your approach
If you’re desperate for a job, it can be tempting to cast your net wide and apply for every role you come across, but Roberts says this is not usually the best strategy.
“Every job application needs to be targeted so you’re far better off going for fewer jobs but having a higher hit rate than sending out the same resume for every job, without spending any time trying to sell yourself for that role,” she says.
“There are so many more candidates now, so standing out is extremely important. Look into the company and what value you specifically can bring to them.”
Read adds that being clear on the types of roles you’re seeking can also prevent time-wasted scrolling.
“Often when we’re job hunting, we just jump behind the wheel and slam down the accelerator and hope for the best,” she says.
“That [can] create a sense of overwhelm because we’re rollicking down some road and don’t really know where we’re going. You’ve got to have a road map before you get into the car.”
Shake it off
A long job hunt can be hard going but it’s important to keep your mental health a priority.
“If you’re feeling a sense of heaviness, despondency or pessimism, that can come across in the cover letter you write and it certainly comes across when you have a phone or Zoom interview,” Read explains.
Look for ways to bring a light energy to your interviews – even forcing a smile before you log on can shift your vibe.
“The research is very clear that when we smile, it changes the way we feel,” says Read.
“Before an interview dance around the room or throw your hands in the air or talk to your dog [so you’re not bringing] the fear, anticipation or desperation.”
For advice that’s right for now, visit SEEK Career Advice.
*Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK. Interviewing 4800 Australians annually.
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