Career Services Blog
Self-Care for Job Seekers
by Jessica Peterson, Lewis & Clark Law School Career Services Graduate Assistant
It is so important to create habits and employ strategies that make self-care a priority, particularly for job seekers.
Searching for a job is incredibly draining. There are several forces at play that make this so: irregularity in routine, inconsistent income, rejection, uncertainty, and the feeling of being on a pendulum that swings from hopeful to discouraged. Self-esteem gets knocked down a few pegs. Stress accumulates. Savings dwindle. These things take their toll, and job search burnout is a particularly befuddling thing. You may feel like there’s no reason to be burnt out, since you’re only looking for a job and not working at one.
The instinct, then, is to double down and look harder and search more, because to not do something is to waste time. However, what tends to follow is more burnout.
While it is important to show up consistently for job searches and stay on top of it, it will do no good to not care for yourself in the process. If anything, it will likely have an adverse effect, because you won’t be showing up as your best self. People can usually sense stressed energy.
In our current world, there are certain means of self-care that aren’t possible; unfortunately, we can’t safely take a spa day anytime soon. Also, if finances are limited right now because you haven’t landed a job yet, this creates an additional constraint. Fortunately, the things that will serve you best come at no charge, and even the pandemic can’t interfere with your ability to do them.
- Set boundaries around your search
This is probably going to be the most effective way to ease your job search burnout. It’s tempting to sit at your computer for hours on end, scrolling through job boards, visiting websites of places you’d like to work to see if they’re hiring, and racking your brain for any possibilities you haven’t explored yet. However, too much of this will have an adverse effect and will likely leave you with a headache and a fresh dose of discouragement.
Decide how much time you want to commit each day to your search, and stop when that time is up. Find what works best for you—does it serve you and your mental health better to devote a larger block of time during the day, or to spread it out with lots of breaks in between? Would you rather do a little bit of searching every day, or dedicate a couple of days a week? Is it more helpful to set specific goals (for example, “I will apply for two jobs this week”) and use that as your measure rather than using time alone?
There is no right or wrong. The main point here is to pay attention to how you feel and know when it’s time for you to stop for the day. Also, if you’ve been searching for a while now and haven’t given yourself a week off, please do. It is hard to do this because there’s the fear that you’ll miss out on an opportunity by stepping away, but consider this: in the time that you’ve been looking for a job, how many weeks have there been that you diligently searched and didn’t find or apply to anything? Most likely, it will be okay. If it’s really killing you, let yourself look for a maximum of five to ten minutes a couple of times.
- Meet your basic needs: Nutrition and movement
Our bodies need these things to function properly, therefor our minds need these things to function properly, as do our emotional bandwidths. All of these things impact how we show up in the world, including to potential employers. However, this is easier said than done. Eating nutritious food is often time-consuming or pricey (in comparison to many foods that aren’t nutrient-dense). Dedicating time and energy to a workout is sometimes the last thing we want to do, especially if there are other things going on to tire us and occupy our attention. Whatever the barriers are, no judgment here. But that said, nobody can take charge of your health but you.
Like the previous point, there’s no right or wrong; it’s a process of finding out what will work for you. If you can’t or don’t want to change all of your eating habits, that’s okay—think of it as adding in more nutritious foods, not taking away things you enjoy. For example, if you want to have pizza for dinner, can you add a salad or a serving of roasted veggies on the side so your body is still getting nutrients? Don’t force yourself to eat things you don’t enjoy, but aiming for balance and incorporating more substantive foods into your habits will help you feel better and more clear-headed.
As far as movement, again, finding out what is realistic and enjoyable for you is the goal. If for whatever reason high-intensity exercise isn’t doable for you, explore other ways to engage with your body. Is there a yoga pose or two that you know you can hold for a few breaths when you need to take a break? Are you able to take a short walk around your neighborhood? Even doing breathwork of some kind has amazing benefits. There are endless ways to move your body, so finding something that you will be able to do consistently is key.
Also, stay hydrated. Drink some water right now.
This one might feel hokey, but it is valuable.
How do you talk to yourself when you’re looking at the required qualifications of a job listing and feeling like you are coming up short? Or when you haven’t heard a response to your application? How do you talk to yourself after a rejection?
Would you let anybody else speak to you that way? Is it the way that you would speak to a friend?
Be generous, gracious, and patient with yourself. If you start constructing a poor self-image in which you criticize yourself, feel defeated, and deem yourself unworthy, how do you think that will start to manifest in your cover letters and interviews?
Having compassion for yourself isn’t a switch that you can flick on and off, and will take time to cultivate. There are different ways to begin this work, but one of the most natural ways to go about it is to pause and consider what you might say to a loved one who is going through something similar.
If you had a friend tell you that they’ve been searching for a job for months with no luck, or that they were just told that another candidate was chosen for an opportunity they felt hopeful about, what would you say to them? Most likely, you would comfort them and show empathy, and possibly offer to help if you can. Try to approach yourself with the same kind of loving encouragement.
Remember, if there’s even a part of you that thinks you aren’t deserving of a job, it will only be harder for you to convince an employer that you are.
This is not an exhaustive list of ways to promote wellness in your life, and the benefits of incorporating these things reach far beyond your productivity and employability. There are a number of great reasons to care for yourself that have nothing to do with getting a job; no matter the circumstances, we could all stand to do more of all of these things. But when you’re putting so much of yourself into finding work, it is worthwhile to be all the more intentional about restoring yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup (speaking of which, drink some more water).
Please reach out to Lewis & Clark Law School’s Career Services or Student Affairs offices if you are feeling stressed or need assistance; we are here to help you through these stressful times.