A new CareerBuilder survey finds the job search can be more nerve-wracking than going on a blind date or waiting to get medical test results. Here’s how to manage that stress.
Almost half of U.S. workers have resolved to find a new job this year – if they can afford the stress of searching for one.
Forty percent of employees are resolved to get a new gig, but almost 7 in 10 (69%) admit that hunting for a position is “highly stressful” – even more so than going on a blind date, waiting for medical test results, buying a house or skydiving, according to a CareerBuilder survey released on Friday.
Katie, 32, who declined to give her last name, is one person who’d rather plunge out of a plane than apply for one more project manager position in the greater New York City area.
“Easily the most stressful part of it is the uncertainty. It is a lot like my impression of online dating: You reach out with your cover letter and your resume, and you’re not sure if you’re ever going to hear back from them,” she told Moneyish. “And sometimes it has nothing to do with you – they just never got the budget for that position. But you think, ‘Oh, I suck,’ and it really affects your self-esteem.”
Plus, the job descriptions themselves get confusing. “What do they mean when want a ‘product manager’ versus a ‘project manager’ or a ‘program manager,’ which are all basically the same thing, but mean different things to different places?” she added. “So it’s also incredibly time-consuming to research the company and figure out what they mean in this context.”
The ambiguity around the application process seems to stoke the most anxiety across the board. “You don’t always know who your competition is; you’re kept in the dark during interviews; and you’re not getting a lot of feedback,” Ladan Nikravan Hayes, a career adviser at CareerBuilder, told Moneyish. “You are putting your ‘all’ into this process, but you don’t know what you are going to get out of it.”
Bradey Sooter, who has been looking for work in media and communications around Austin, Texas since graduating from college in 2015, told Moneyish he is most frustrated by the hoops he has to jump through just to get some face time at a company.
“If you’re without prior connections, you’re forced to go through the application process, which then goes through several resume filters in order to be critically examined by HR workers,” said Sooter, 25. “After that, you deal with the phone screening, wait for another unknown amount of time wondering if you qualify to even meet with a hiring manager, and then wait even longer to see if you made the cut. The job hunt takes a devastating toll on your self-worth.”
The job interview itself is also an exercise in terror, especially for entry level workers or those switching careers who are more pressured to prove themselves. Marketing coordinator Heather Thurm once cried during an interview at an architecture firm when the CEO kept pressing her about why she left her teaching job. “My emotions about the (difficult) teaching experience were still very raw,” she told Moneyish.
“You’re sitting in the hot seat, with thoughts of doubt floating in the back of your mind, all the while trying to convince the audience that no, really, I’m not terrible, despite being unemployed for months,” she explained. “It is challenging to push that doubt all aside and persuade the interviewers you’re worth it.”
And CareerBuilder reports that women are more likely to find the job search highly stressful (72%) than men (67%). Hayes said that could be partly explained by women being more honest about their anxiety in the survey than men were, but female employees also suffer more on-the-job pressure than men. “A number of studies show that women suffer more work stress in general than men,” she said. “There’s workplace sexism, and the extra familial responsibility that women provide at home, so this is also a piece of that puzzle.”
Don’t psych yourself out of your dream job. Workplace experts shared their tips for decompressing while pounding the pavement.
Make a schedule and pace yourself. CareerBuilder suggests blocking time on your calendar specifically to job hunting, such as a few hours in the morning during the week, to help you stay organized and on task. Don’t try to apply to 100 jobs in one day, as getting a new job often takes three to six months. Set a goal of sending in 10 applications this week, for example, and take the time to tailor your cover letter and resume to each one.
Don’t take it personally. Cheryl Palmer from Call to Career reminds candidates to keep the big picture in mind. “There are other things going on behind-the-scenes with any job that you are not privy to, and that you have absolutely no control over,” she said. “Sure, there may have been someone better qualified. Or there may have been someone on the inside primed for the position all along, but they just had to go through the motions of interviewing other candidates.”
Ask for help. Katie confessed that while she’s skilled at writing cover letters and resumes for her friends, she’s “terrible” at doing it for herself. “So we swap sometimes and write or edit each other’s resumes and letters,” she said. Or you can hire a career coach or resume writer to help with your applications. “If you’re applying for months and hearing nothing, then something about your resume isn’t working,” said Palmer. “Or if you’re getting interviews but not getting the job, you need help sealing the deal. Find someone to help you figure out what’s going on.”
Do your homework. When Trish McDermott, 57, tried returning to the workforce after 10 years as a stay-at-home mom, she told Moneyish she felt like the “odd woman out” whenever she’d interview at companies run by younger staffers. “One thing I did about this was to look at job postings and read the tools/tech they wanted candidates to have mastery in,” said McDermott, who’s launched the Babierge infant equipment rental startup. “I noted the ones that came up the most and then dug around to learn a little about them.” Or Hayes suggests talking to a mentor – not only to blow off steam, but to “give you some perspective and talk you through the process.”
Practice makes perfect. “Most of the stress from interviews, in particular, comes from you worrying about what they’re going to ask,” said Palmer. “That can be reduced by practicing answers to very common questions that you can do with a quick Google search.” Pair up with a friend or partner to work through your answers out loud, or practice in front of a mirror until you feel comfortable. And re-read the specifics that the job posting is asking for, and prep answers that explain why you are perfect for the position. And if someone asks a question you’re not expecting, repeat the question back to them as you answer it, which buys you a few extra seconds to think of something.
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