“Those who do not know how to fight worry die young.” – Dr. Alexis Carrel.
The career detriments of uncontrolled anxiety and worry emerge most clearly during a job transition.
Regardless of experience, compensation level, or industry, the majority of job seekers experience some form of stress during the search. As a matter of fact, tension and worry are some of their most significant problems.
Stress hinders interviewing performance, negotiation ability and, when it gets to a certain point, can result in people wanting to postpone and ignore the process altogether. As the CEO of a recruiting firm for the past ten years, I’ve seen the horrendous effects applicants deal with thanks to worry and rumination.
To help lessen this career killer, I thought it would be useful to analyze why people stress over a job search, the negative effects that nervous feelings bestow upon us, and some effective measures to combat anxiety and get the job you want.
Why Are Job Searches So Stressful?
Money is only part of the story. Often, the majority of stress that job seekers incur spawns from smaller, less noticeable sources. Most causes of anxiety are not even recognizable to the person feeling low-grade waves of panic.
It begins with control. There is an inherent lack of control any individual has during the recruitment process. I’ve noticed that the people who suffer significant stress during their job search are the people who tend to have more controlling personalities. Consider the following:
- While searching for a job, you receive no feedback on why you are not invited to interview for a position, or why you don’t achieve a second or third interview.
- You don’t know who your competition is.
- You are kept in the dark during the phases of interviews. HR and hiring managers keep many cards close to their chests.
- When dealing with a job search, hundreds of uncontrollable events can occur: economic shifts, internal hiring freezes, unexpected mergers and buyouts, etc.
Stress often comes from lack of confidence, which itself comes from lack of practice. Ironically, the more successful someone is, the less frequently they tend to have to find a new position. Thus, they may not be very effective at managing their search. Sometimes the most productive job seekers are the worst employees. Practice makes perfect.
The Effects of Stress on Job Search Performance
If you let it get out of control, large amounts of anxiety and stress can have a snowball effect on your job search.
The most successful individuals focus on what they want to achieve and without veering off course, move straight toward that goal. When you’re overwhelmed, that focus is no longer present.
Your ability to answer in-depth interview questions with thoughtful, intelligent responses lessens. As a result, the amount of rejection you face from hiring managers increases.
Your drive and resiliency begin to fade and the consistent rejection leads to pessimistic thinking. You start to think about all your past failures and focus less on what you’ve done correctly. Soon enough, all of your energy channels to negative thoughts and feelings and away from fulfilling your personal ambitions.
Decreasing Anxiety and Increasing Job Search Effectiveness
While physical exercise, diet and proper sleep are key when it comes to managing stress, thought is supreme. If you can change your mind, you can change your stress levels and your ability to find the right job.
Begin to adopt a mental attitude from which you talk to yourself with courage, frankness and good cheer. Focus less on the problems that occur and put your energy into possible solutions. If you’re not being called in for interviews, change your resume and cover letter or gain the necessary skills in order to become more desirable to employers, for instance.
Don’t catastrophize every rejection; understand that you’re not going to get every job you go for. Turn letdowns into ambition instead of inaction.
If you find yourself in a real spiral of negativity and anxiety, it won’t hurt to pick up a classic such as “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” which is at its core a manual on positive thinking and genuine relationships. If something less business-minded suits your reading tastes, a reputable CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) handbook can help you reroute your negative self-talk into more reality-based assessments about yourself and your job search.
In the End
Searching for a job can be a stressful proposition because it is intrinsically high-stakes. Even if you are searching while currently employed, the idea is that finding the right fit will improve your life. What’s more important than that?
Rather than letting yourself get overwhelmed, allow yourself to feel invigorated. Working on your stress response to letdowns or anxiety-provoking situations will only improve the speed with which you complete your search and the quality of position you are able to identify for your future.
It all starts with turning negative thoughts into positive ones, and deciding to take control for yourself, rather than letting your anxiety or negativity control you.