Planned Resources recruit across the niche markets of planning, engineering, architecture and design, property, and government support. We operate across private and public sectors in Melbourne, Victoria, and Australia. Here, we provide some tips for keeping up your wellbeing during your next job search.
Looking for a job is mentally exhausting. Having just made it through a year-long recruitment process to land my first job out of uni, I can finally sleep easy knowing I have a position lined up for next year. However, the process wasn’t easy; in fact, at times it was borderline hellish.
While there may be a rare few among us who enjoy the (demoralizing) process of refining CVs, psychometric testing, endless interviews and meekly telling references from 3 years ago to perhaps expect a phone call, for most of us mere mortals, job seeking can be a nightmare. And not just any nightmare, but one that involves comparing yourself to your peers, questioning whether you ‘should be further along by now’ and reminiscing on the greatest hits of your employment career thus far. In fact, this conventional wisdom is mirrored in empirical research, which demonstrates that mental health declines among the unemployed the longer they go without finding work.
However, the process of job seeking is a permanent fixture of the employment experience, and an important part too. In fact, data shows that the average Australian will change jobs at least 13 times during their life. Additionally, looking for a new job can signal the beginning of an exciting new phase of life, and can give you the important opportunity to start afresh in more ways than one.
Recognising that job seeking is both a necessary evil and a blessing in disguise, it’s important to develop strategies to get through the inevitable mental trials and tribulations that the process entails. For those of you who may be a little sceptical about the necessity to look after your mental wellbeing, think about it from a purely practical perspective; the worse your emotional and mental health is, the harder it will likely be for you to present yourself as an optimal candidate, and get a job.
Although I don’t pretend to be an expert in the field at the ripe old age of 25, I’m going outline four key strategies that I found helpful throughout my recent year-long job hunt. I hope the following will ease the mental burden of your next job seeking experience:
- Set boundaries
- There is no ‘one approach’
- Plan for rejection
- Remember the randomness
One of the most challenging aspects of job seeking is that it often doesn’t feel like you are in control of the process. Rather, it seems like you are jumping through a million hoops to try and get someone else to make a decision in your favour. As disempowering as the endless hoop jumping can be, it is important to remember that you ultimately control your job seeking experience, which brings me to the importance of setting boundaries.
Once you’ve decided on the jobs you are going to apply for, it’s time to set boundaries. Setting boundaries is crucial to maintaining wellbeing throughout the job seeking process. For instance, setting boundaries ensures you retain balance throughout the job hunt. By not allowing your life to become consumed by job seeking, your mental health is more likely to remain stable, enabling you to avoid burnout and put your best foot forward in your applications.
Setting boundaries can also help you avoid the feeling that your employment (or lack thereof) defines you. This is important as experts report that many job seekers link their ‘identity’ with their employment status. As such, failing to secure the job we think we want can threaten our sense of self and wellbeing. Setting boundaries guards against this by ensuring our lives are filled with a diverse range of activities and relationships that ultimately help keep the job search in perspective.
Although setting boundaries can look different for everyone, at its most basic it should involve:
- Setting aside some non-negotiable time that will NOT be used for job hunting (for me this was at least two full days per week); and
- Establishing time limits on job seeking activities (e.g. I will work on my cover letter and CV for 2 hours today and no more).
Setting boundaries with respect to your job hunt should help restore your sense that you are in control of the job seeking process. Although you can’t make any final decisions, you can choose how the process affects your life and priorities.
There is no ‘one approach’
Job seeking is often the prime time for various friends, family members and colleagues to come out of the woodwork and offer their (sometimes solicited) opinions on exactly how you should be conducting your job hunt.
When I was applying for grad jobs, I received countless pieces of advice. Some told me that I ‘absolutely must’ network with colleagues from each firm I was interested in on LinkedIn. In the middle of a pandemic, in the final year of my law degree, having virtual coffees with strangers multiple times a week didn’t feel like something that was going to be helpful for my mindset. So I gave it a go a few times before deciding that it wasn’t going to be a useful strategy for me. And I still got multiple job offers. Others told me that I ‘absolutely must’ answer interview questions using the STAR method. I looked it up and decided that it wouldn’t suit my conversational style to try and fit my answers into a formula. So I didn’t use the STAR method. Things turned out fine for me.
Whilst seeking the advice of those around you can be useful, it is simply not the case that every ‘hot tip’ will work for every person. As such, you should get comfortable with letting go of advice that doesn’t serve you. Moreover, feeling like you have to conform to some arbitrary standard or piece of advice is unlikely to be good for your wellbeing. Understanding that you are a unique applicant and that you need to run your own race in a way that is true to who you are, your values and your lifestyle, will likely empower and motivate you throughout your job search.
Plan for rejection
While it’s good to be optimistic, rejection is an almost inevitable part of the job seeking process. Understanding that you will likely experience rejection and acknowledging that this is a normal part of the process, decreases the likelihood that a rejection phone call or email will send you into an emotional ‘I can’t do it anymore’ spiral.
Whenever I received a rejection email or phone call, I would usually allow myself some time to feel sad; it’s normal to feel down when you don’t get something that you want and have worked for. I also found it helpful to tell someone about the rejection. This was important for me as I have a tendency to blow things out of proportion with negative self-talk. Telling someone else about it held me accountable to a third party, who could remind me that rejection is normal and not a reflection of my worth. With this in mind, when preparing for your next job hunt, it might be useful to have some people or activities you can fall back on if/when rejection comes knocking.
Remember the randomness
Lastly, it’s important to remember that the job application and recruitment process, although rigorous, involves a degree of randomness. This means that you could be the most qualified applicant and not get the job and not know why. I’ve heard countless stories of unbelievably skilled and personable candidates missing out in favour of someone who didn’t seem to fit the bill nearly as well.
The success of your job application depends on a multitude of factors, many of which are out of your control and unknown to you; the recruiter may have been tired on the day they read your application and didn’t give it the same attention as others, the recruiter may have been operating on the basis of unconscious bias, perhaps your pdf didn’t convert properly and your application was binned straight away, perhaps there was some nepotism at play.
Although you can ask for feedback after an interview, you need to accept that you will never truly understand why some hiring decisions are made and others aren’t. Whatever the outcome, it’s important to remember that to some extent, hiring decisions involve a degree of randomness that does not reflect your ability or suitability for the role. Accepting rejection as something that has happened to you and not necessarily because of you, is crucial to maintaining your wellbeing throughout the job seeking process.
For me, setting boundaries, running my own race, planning for rejection and being continuously aware of the randomness of the recruitment process, really helped me keep the job seeking process in perspective. Job hunting isn’t designed to be easy, its designed to test you. All you can do is put your best foot forward, which is a lot easier to do if you have taken care of your mental health. So, next time you are in the job seeking game, I encourage you to take your wellbeing seriously and try my four suggestions. Who knows, they may land you a job! And even if they don’t, you’ll likely be a lot happier for it.
Written by: Lauren Sibree, Planned Resources
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Planned Resources recruit across the niche markets of planning, engineering, architecture and design,...