Career Corner: Reducing the Stress of a Job Search

Career Corner: Reducing the Stress of a Job Search

Considering the effects of stress in our day-to-day lives is important to ensure our long-term health, maintain relationships with others, and manage our professional life. Stress and anxiety can come from the pressure of work and expectations of those we work with. We can also set expectations for ourselves that are unrealistic, and this adds to our worry.

It is important to recognize that looking for work is a stress inducing process. No way out of that. Stress may be exacerbated due to leaving a previous employer under less than favorable terms (and maybe limiting favorable recommendations), or a financial burden that adds pressure (and forces us to make difficult choices). Of course, everyone’s situation is unique and we all deal with stress in different ways. But some of the ways we might deal with it can be detrimental to our psychological and physical well-being.

David J Smith — career coach, author, and Fulbrighter

Seek Professional Help if Needed

I am not a mental health professional. And would be remiss in offering advice that is better delivered by a someone specially trained to consider stress, anxiety, and more serious conditions. If you feel that the level of stress you are dealing with is unmanageable and interfering with your overall health and relationships with others (including co-workers), it is important that you seek competent assistance. Frequently, we don’t see what others see. If loved ones and colleagues are making serious observations about your behavior or attitude, take it to heart, and seek help.

However, there are things that you can do on a daily basis to better manage stress short of seeking out a mental health professional. There are a plethora of resources, websites, and books that provide tips and ideas for de-stressing.

Wellness Approaches

Some approaches center on physical, emotional, and psychological wellness. Exercising (including yoga), deep breathing, eating healthy (some foods optimize good psychological health), meditation, and visualizing a positive outcome are all valuable strategies. Getting out in nature in any form has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Take a walk in the woods.

Organize Better

Other strategies include looking at how best to organize yourself and your environment. Are you creating unrealistic objectives for yourself to accomplish?

Basically: your list is too long and unmanageable. Are you prioritizing well? Some aspects of looking for work such as improving your resume might need to happen before you start applying for work. Improving how you structure looking for work will give you a feeling of control and a sense of moving forward, which can reduce your anxiety. Sometimes a professional career counselor or coach can be helpful.

Creating Space

Separating yourself at times from the process of looking for work can also reduce stress. Do you need to take a hiatus from looking for work? Are you taking off on the weekends? Are you finding ways of distracting yourself from looking for work such as spending time with family and friends without talking about your job search? Are you limiting time with individuals who might be putting unreasonable pressure on you? This can all be helpful.

Be Realistic

Recognizing what you can do something about and what you can’t is important. There are only a limited amount of hours and days you can devote to finding work. You need to sleep and eat (but eat well). Getting rejected from a job is a let down, but there might be little you can do to control it. Knowing what you can change, and what you can’t is important.

Seek Support from Others

Finally, seek support. Having a friend or colleague there to listen and offer emotional rather than career advice is important. Find someone who is nonjudgmental and can empathize.

Stress is inevitable, but manageable if you seek resources, people, and strategies that work for you.

—David J. Smith

David J. Smith (Fulbright Scholar, Estonia 2003-2004) is a career coach and the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016). He is on the career advisory board of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network. David writes regularly on career issues at He can reached at

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