Let’s face it.
Job searching can be a challenging and stressful experience.
It's easy to get caught up in the emotion of trying to find the “perfect” job, especially when you might be in a panic over how you’re going to pay the bills or keep medical coverage going, however, now more than ever, it’s important to remember to prioritize your mental health to ensure that you're in a healthy state of mind and equipped to handle the challenges that come with the job search process.
Let’s explore the importance of mental health education for you as a job seeker and the impact it can have on your job hunt and career. In the end, I hope you’ll walk away with some new strategies for coping with job search anxiety, recognize the connection between mental health and job satisfaction, and gain some useful resources available to you to support your mental health journey throughout the process.
Mental health education is important for everyone. In today’s climate, I would argue it’s especially critical for job seekers. The job search process can be riddled with stress, uncertainty, and the ultimate Debbie Downer: rejection.
I remember setting out in pursuit of my first post-college job in 2010, following the 2008 recession – a time which some might argue similarly reflects today's economy, with all the recent mass layoffs. During the 2008 recession, nearly 8 million jobs were lost, leaving us to duke it out alongside the rest of the working world.
Looking back on my own job seeking journey, here is how I would approach the hunt if I knew then what I know now:
- You are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you – make sure their values and principles align with your own.
- Consider who your mentors and leaders will be. A good boss can make or break your experience, especially when you’re starting out young in your career. Ask lots of questions about their leadership style and how they remain relational when conflict occurs.
- Add something personal to your resume and LinkedIn profile to stand out from the crowd.
- Always do your research and come prepared for every step of the process with questions to showcase your interest and curiosity.
- FOLLOW UP. Don’t wait around for a company to contact you (unless they have provided you with a clear time frame on when you can expect to hear back from them). Your future is in your hands. Reach out, send an email, connect with a recruiter, hiring manager or HR on LinkedIn or even look for a phone number on the company’s website.
- Get creative with how you’re searching for jobs. Reseach which companies are winning awards. Best places to work, highly ranked CEOs, fastest growth, and best company culture are some to look out for.
- Consider the future you imagine for yourself. Where do you want to live? Do you want to travel? Start a family? How do your personal goals align with the job for which you are applying?
- Create a professional network. Dedicate time to networking and practice getting comfortable reaching out to strangers. Deliberately work to create and maintain relationships with others who can help you further your career or personal brand.
- Tell people you are looking. Referrals are often the best way to find your “in.” Be expressive about your passions, interests and transferable skills.
- Trust your gut. There is no time limit on how long you are required to stay in a toxic environment. If it’s time to move on – that's okay. Just make sure you have taken a close look in the mirror and have accepted accountability for your own actions.
I know first-hand that there’s nothing more disheartening than opening your inbox day after day only to have your hopes plummet when you read that bland “we’ve decided to go in another direction” email (or receive no email response at all.) In fact, my peers and I were getting ghosted at alarming rates well before we had the language to understand what ghosting was – thank you for giving us that language GenZ 🙌.
In times of uncertainty, we resort to feelings of fear, stress and anxiety. “Have they seen my resume yet”? “How many others have applied”? “Will they contact me today”? “I haven’t heard anything in days. I hope the job isn’t already filled”. When you really take the time to consider it, these intrusive thoughts certainly can impact your mental health and manifest themselves in many ways including affecting your sleep and appetite, feelings of depression and even lowering self-esteem. Fun stuff right?!
I’ll admit, I battle anxiety myself and have had more than a few of the above thoughts live rent free in my head over the years. But friends - this is EXACTLY the kind of thing that makes it so exciting to work in Recruitment Marketing. At NLS, alongside the best recruiting team in the biz, I get to help continually advance and improve our candidate experience. It is because we understand just how disappointing and frustrating the experience can be that we are able to empathize and improve it, since at one point in time - we have all been in your shoes ourselves. We’ve had enough of old school “norms” and with the technology available today, we recognize that there is no excuse for not getting back to job seekers with some answers. Our purpose on the Recruiting team is to help job seekers in their journey by creating useful, relevant and timely content throughout their whole experience with us and hopefully we can lighten the conversation and make you smile along the way. We’re aiming to be of service whether you wind up at NLS or not.
While it is natural to experience some level of anxiety during the job search process, it is essential to develop strategies to manage these emotions effectively. If you understand the impact that stress and anxiety can have on the mind and body, then you can develop strategies to cope with these challenges. The more you know right? In my last blog, I covered tips for dealing with stress – many of which carry over into this topic. Things like getting enough sleep, exercise, and consuming a well-balanced diet can work wonders when it comes to balancing your mental health load. Don’t forget about mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing and meditation, which can also help to stay calm and centered during stressful situations. Personally – I live for the one-minute breathing exercise on my Apple watch! In addition to the wellness tips above (sleep, movement and diet), don’t discredit the benefits of seeking support from friends, family, or mental health professionals to help you to stay calm and centered.
Education and access to resources that will help support your mental health and wellbeing throughout your job search are key. Resources like employee assistance programs (EAPs), mental health organizations, and professional mental health providers can provide confidential support, counseling, and guidance to help you navigate the challenges of the job hunt. At NLS specifically, we have a dedicated Employee Resource Advocate (ERA), as well as access to an array of tools, contacts and online resources to help set you up for success and thrive in your career.
At the end of the day, your mental health can have a significant impact on your job satisfaction. Mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, can make it difficult to perform well at work, and in some cases can even lead to job loss. At NLS, we continue to adapt and innovate by creating a positive and supportive work environment so that we can contribute to improved mental health and job satisfaction for all employees.
So, what does prioritizing your mental health look like? This can take many forms, from practicing self-care to seeking professional support. In recent years, largely due to the added stress that comes with a challenging economy and a global pandemic, many of us have started to look inward and focus more on self-care (me included). Self-care refers to the practice of prioritizing one's physical and mental wellbeing. I personally have made the shift from full-time office life to full-time remote life and a major component in my daily mental well-being is getting up from my desk and out of the house for short breaks. For many people, exercise in particular has been shown to be an effective way to reduce stress and improve your mood. I like to walk my dog down the street and back whenever I need a quick re-set. As a job seeker, editing your resume and submitting applications can become quite overwhelming, so be sure to take breaks and allow time for self-care during your job hunt so you can bring your most authentic self forward when applying and interviewing and not burn out writing cover letter after cover letter.
I don’t know about you, but a workplace that prioritizes employee wellbeing and provides resources for mental health support is a requirement for me. As you search for your next career move, one of the best pieces of advice I can offer is to consider what kind of initiatives the companies you are looking at invest in for their employees. Last year at this time, NLS brought in the second largest behavioral health center in Missouri to host a “Let's Taco Bout Mental Health” taco-Tuesday event. This optional lunch and learn event created a safe, positive and supportive environment for employees to come together and reflect on their wellbeing in all areas of their life. We learned tips and exercises to reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall job satisfaction. It has been one of my favorite company-sponsored events to date and I still hear many employees talk about it. Employers have a responsibility to create a positive and supportive work environment by advocating for mental health support and creating a positive workplace culture.
There are many resources out there today available to job seekers to better support their mental health during the job hunt. Many mental health organizations offer resources and services specifically tailored to job seekers, such as job coaching, career counseling, and support groups. Finally, it's important to remember that seeking professional help from a mental health provider is always an option if you're struggling. These resources can help job seekers feel more confident and supported during a challenging time. Mental health providers can offer a range of services, including therapy, medication management, and support groups. These services can help job seekers manage stress and anxiety and develop effective coping strategies.
- American Psychological Association. (2019). Job Search Stress.
- Forbes. (2018). 5 Ways To Manage Job Search Anxiety.
- Harvard Business Review. (2017). The Relationship Between Mental Health and Job Satisfaction.
- Mental Health America. (n.d.). Finding a Job that Works for You.
Ready to prioritize your mental health during your job search? Start by incorporating some of these tips into your daily routine, and don't hesitate to seek support when you need it!
Remember, taking care of your mental health is an ongoing process, and it's important to prioritize self-care and seek support when you need it. With these tools and resources at your disposal, I hope you find yourself better equipped to navigate the job search process with confidence and ease and that you are empowered to set yourself up for success and thrive in your career. Stay patient and resilient and in the end you will persevere.
Liz Cotreau is the Director of Recruitment Marketing at NLS. Personality assessments will reveal she is natural “promoter”, an impassioned extrovert, and someone who takes personality assessments maybe a little bit too seriously. Liz is skilled in Full-Cycle Recruiting, Building Interpersonal Relationships, Strategic Planning, pointing everything back to a “Friends” episode and has a special knack for pin-pointing doppelgängers. Could she BE any more talented?
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