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  3. How to manage the stress during job search
How to manage the stress during job search.

How to manage the stress during job search

Artwork by: Alexandra Shevchenko

  • Where Is This Coming From?
  • Confidence and Control
  • Structure and Organization
  • Conclusion

The job search is stressful under the best of circumstances - and in an insecure world, it’s even worse. Your pre-existing job search stresses like interviewing or meeting new people are increased by anxieties about the world around you.

No matter who you are or how qualified you may be, everyone experiences job search stress - including me, the coach writing this. But if you let stress get in the way, it can hurt your application performance or even make you want to avoid the search altogether.

Where Is This Coming From?

You can’t manage a problem you don’t understand. That’s why the first step of managing stress is to understand what’s causing it. 

On a specific, tangible level your stress may come from getting turned down for interviews or not hearing back from your applications. These are things that you can be corrected, they’re problems with solutions. And you have a coach and a community in Careerminds that can help.

But on a more emotional, deeper level, it’s good to identify what emotions you feel and what fears you have internally.

Psychologist David Rock created the SCARF model for identifying five factors that typically guide human behavior. If you’re feeling the strain, chances are it’s because you feel one or more of these factors is threatened:

  • Status: Your sense of your own worth.

  • Certainty: Your sense of comfort and familiarity.

  • Autonomy: The amount of control you feel you have over your domain.

  • Relatedness: The amount of trust and connection you have with other people.

  • Fairness: How in tune your current situation is with your idea of justice and propriety.

Depending on who you are, one of these may define you more than the others.

Once you’ve identified the source of your stress, you can take actions to combat it. These actions don’t even have to be directly related to the job hunt.

If your sense of Relatedness is threatened, call up a friend or mentor and talk until you feel more connected to people. If your sense of Certainty is threatened, find something small you’re positive you can do - and do that until you feel comfortable again.

Confidence and Control

The most common threatened factor for job seekers is Autonomy. This is because job-seeking can make you feel like you don’t have much control over what happens to you.

But part of managing stress and working through problems is about focusing on the things that you can control. And there’s a lot you can’t control about job searches. But there are many more elements that you do have control over.

For example, you can’t control who interviews you or how long companies take to get back to you. But you have control over your branding, how your resume reads or what your elevator pitch sounds like.

By practicing and refining these elements you can control, you build confidence. Confidence is the enemy of stress.

Finding a job is a skillset that can be learned, like any other. That means picking one section at a time to build up. Remember, every time you revise your resume bullets or send out a LinkedIn message, you’re taking control and building your “job hunt” muscles.

Structure and Organization

One of the biggest problems with going through transitions is that you were pulled away from the familiar. You had a work schedule and a reliable routine - now you don’t. This makes people feel uncomfortable, experience search fatigue and causes stress.

You’re probably indulging some unhealthy urges that are adding to your stress, as well. Maybe you’re letting yourself get into a four-hours spiral of staring at LinkedIn applying to every job that comes up. Or the opposite - you’re putting off any job hunting activities altogether, for example because you don't want to search a job during the holiday season.

It’s up to you to create some sense of structure in your days now. Even just a simple schedule with boundaries you stick to will go a long way. 

The other advantage of a structured job search is accomplishing “small wins” every day. The big goal of “find a job” is overwhelming. The small goal of “spend an hour exploring careers today” feels more doable.

The small victories will, in turn, build up your confidence. Having a series of goals you achieve will remind you that you’re a person who does what they set out to do - and that will show in your performance.

One thing that will help your structure is keeping your action plans organized. Think of each targeted job like a work project and break it down into smaller pieces. 

Each job your target will have its own priority. Maybe you know that you need to get the application in now before the job closes. Or maybe you know the first thing you should do is call up a colleague who works at the company you’re applying to.

This is why it’s important to keep your tasks and time organized. Creating and prioritizing your to-do lists with each project is a good step. Journaling to track your progress and emotions is a good idea too.


Everyone feels overwhelmed with job concerns sometimes. Getting through them is a matter of building confidence and identifying where your stress comes from.

With some introspection and organization, you can come out of a job search as a better, healthier person. But like everything else, it takes time and energy. Fortunately, you’ve got the support and tools you need right here - and everything else you need inside of you.

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