Managing job seeker & unemployment burnout

Ironically, job seeking is a full-time job! You spend significant hours simultaneously:

  • Finding jobs that match your ambitions
  • Editing your CV
  • Going for interviews
  • Getting rejected
  • Fielding questions from well-meaning friends & family about how the job search is going

It’s no surprise that many job seekers and unemployed people experience burnout!

In this article, I share five critical strategies for managing your emotional and mental energy during the job-seeking process.

1. Build awareness around the negative thoughts and emotions you are experiencing

Instead of being afraid of your “negative” thoughts and emotions, I challenge you to increase the volume and actually understand what the voices are saying.

  • Are you experiencing anxiety, sadness, anger, dismay at your situation, or FOMO?
  • Are you scared you will fail and make a fool of yourself?
  • Is your unemployment situation affirming your imposter syndrome?

Actually, take time to understand what’s going on in your mind.

Name the emotion to tame it!

By building awareness around your emotions, you can recognize your feelings and thoughts as just that. They are not who you are but simply the “channel” your mind is currently tuned to. And channels can be changed!

2. Learn to manage the negative voice

There is a lot of shame and vulnerability involved in being unemployed. Especially in a world where success is defined by job titles and net worth. It’s easy to fall into a negative thinking loop “I am not enough”, “I am not successful”, or “People are laughing at me”.

And the sad thing about that is that if you’re hearing negative voices in your head, an interviewer can read them on your face! Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that you manifest confidence and optimism during your job search process. This can be done through:

  • Surrounding yourself with positive people (emotions are contagious)
  • Talking to yourself like you would a loved one
  • Redefining what success means to you based on your current season
  • Digging deep into your faith
  • Meditating, journaling, and workouts (these three things keep me sane regardless of what’s going on in my life).
  • Getting professional help from a therapist, counsellor or coach if you need extra support.

All this is easier said than done, but you are worth the effort! You are worth happiness, joy and the great job that will come from dedication!

3. Understand the 2% rule

Practice the 2% rule! If you recurringly think you have a weakness, explore that area. It may be that there is 2% truth in it. For example, I have learnt that I am notoriously bad at estimating how long it will take me to complete a project. At first, I saw this as a weakness but realised it’s a developmental area that can propel me from good to great if I can master it. Since then, I have participated in numerous project management, critical thinking, budgeting and decision-making courses. My work now has project scopes, plans, requirements, stakeholder lists, risk matrices, and evaluation milestones. All this to say, you can turn your 2% negative into strength and a great interview story!

4. Grow and harness your network

According to LinkedIn Learning instructors Susan Rietano Davey and Kelley Biskupiak, 50-70% of job seekers get roles through their networks because of the hidden job market. Therefore feel free to spread your wings and connect with people you don’t know. They may help you unlock job opportunities you don’t even know about.

Sample message: “Can you connect me with the hiring manager/recruiter/managing partner of xxxxxxx organisation for an informational interview?”

As you network, set reasonable expectations so expect several Nos and Not nows.

Another networking opportunity for managing your unemployment burnout can be done by connecting with people in job search groups. This can be helpful for obtaining information and emotional support from people like you.

5. One sorry, Two Thank yous

When you step into an interview room, one sorry and two thank yous only. You need to exude confidence and resilience, and it’s hard to do that if you are perpetually apologising. Do not get stuck in a negative loop.

While you make mistakes, recruiters do not expect you to be perfect. They care about how you recover from them. Do not fall into the “gratitude and apology trap”. Your conversation should not be just “sorry and thank you”. You both have something to offer and gain.

Ideally, you should have two thank yous and one sorry in your gratitude and apology toolkit. One thank you at the beginning and one at the end. And a single sorry reserved for an honest mistake.

To conclude, please remember that unemployment and job seeking are a chapter in your life, not the whole book. You can decide if that chapter is full of misery and doubt or curiosity and faith. Choose wisely.

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