Careers advice

How to safeguard your mental health when looking for a job

Self care is crucial when job hunting

Last updated: 18 January 2024

Searching for a job can be an exciting yet challenging journey. It's a time filled with anticipation, hope, and, yes, sometimes, anxiety and disappointment. Balancing the practical and emotional demands of job hunting with the need to maintain your mental well-being is essential, both to your chances of success, and your overall well being. In this guide, we'll explore valuable strategies and tips to help you safeguard your mental health during your job search.

Safeguarding your mental health when job searching

1. Set realistic expectations

Before diving headfirst into the job market, take a moment to set realistic expectations. Understand that finding a job may take time, and rejection is a part of the process. By acknowledging this, you can reduce the pressure you put on yourself, which will help alleviate stress and anxiety.

One way of doing this is by staying up to date with the latest job market news in New Zealand. By checking up on the latest trends in your sector and region, you can help manage your expectations and understand what is and isn’t realistic.

Be kind to yourself, and set realistic expectations based on current information about the NZ job market.

2. Create a structured routine

If you’re job hunting under pressure, for example, because you’ve been made redundant, it can be very easy to spend all your time searching. This is understandable, after all, there

are bills to pay. However, this will likely reduce the quality of the applications you submit, and it certainly won’t be good for your mental health.

Maintaining a structured daily routine can provide stability during your job search. Wake up at a consistent time, allocate specific hours for job applications, networking, and self-care. This routine will help you maintain a sense of purpose and control over your life, even during periods of uncertainty.

3. Stay organised

Job hunting often involves managing multiple applications, interviews, and follow-ups. Stay organised by keeping track of deadlines, contacts, and job descriptions. Utilise digital tools like spreadsheets, calendars, or dedicated job search apps, like Trade Me Jobs, to manage your job search effectively. Organisation can reduce anxiety related to missed opportunities or disorganisation, and help you feel more in control.

4. Network strategically

Networking is an important tool in job hunting, but it can be overwhelming, particularly if you struggle with social anxiety. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, particularly if you’re new to networking, and only attend events that you think will actually be useful to you. Quality is better than quantity when it comes to making new connections, so don’t burn yourself out by going too hard on this angle.

5. Set achievable goals

Setting small, achievable goals can boost your self-esteem and motivation. Instead of focusing solely on landing a job, break your job search into manageable steps. For example, set goals for the number of high quality applications submitted. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small, to maintain a positive outlook.

6. Be kind to yourself

Job hunting can be mentally taxing, and it's easy to be critical of yourself, especially after rejection. Cultivate self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness and understanding. Remember that setbacks are a natural part of the process, and they don't define your worth or potential.

7. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Ensure you're eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. These habits will provide you with the energy and resilience needed to navigate the job market successfully. Additionally, consider relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga to manage stress.

Looking after your physical health is key to your mental health.

8. Limit information overload

The internet is a treasure trove of useful information when job hunting, but it can also be a source of anxiety, and also distraction. Be mindful of how much time you spend researching companies, reading job-related forums, or comparing yourself to others. Information overload can lead to unnecessary stress and self-doubt. Set boundaries and allocate time for online research to avoid burnout.

If you’re finding yourself getting distracted (perhaps you’re deep in a YouTube hole) this can be a sign that you need to take a break and step away from the computer for a bit. It’s actually much better to have a longer, concerted break, rather than dipping in and out of your job hunt to scroll through social media or make endless cups of tea.

9. Stay socially connected

Job hunting can sometimes feel isolating, especially if you're spending most of your time at home on your laptop writing CVs, cover letters and submitting applications. This makes it all the more important to maintain social connections with friends and family to combat loneliness. While your guilty conscience might be telling you that you need to spend every waking hour committed to the job search, you’ll actually be doing yourself a favour by taking a break and meeting a friend for a coffee, walk or a movie night.

10. Manage financial stress

Finances are a common source of stress during job hunting, especially if you're unemployed. Create a budget to manage your expenses and explore financial assistance programs if necessary. By proactively addressing financial concerns, you can reduce anxiety and focus on your job search more effectively.

11. Take the time to grow your skills

There are plenty of cheap and free online courses you can do to upskill yourself, and there are multiple benefits of doing so. Not only will you have more to put on your CV for those applications, but learning new skills and growing as a professional is a positive experience that can improve your self-worth and give you greater confidence going forward.

12. Stay Patient

Patience is a virtue, and it's especially important during a job search. Understand that the right opportunity may take time to materialise. Trust the process and believe in your abilities. Remember that setbacks are temporary, and your perseverance will pay off in the end.

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Al Hall
Al Hall

Al Hall is a regular contributor at Trade Me Jobs and Trade Me Property. He’s dedicated to helping people succeed in their aspirations to find their dream job and place to live.