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Employment

How to manage your mental health when looking for a new job

These are the healthiest ways to manage your time and find suitable roles, according to mental health experts.

There has been a power shift from employers to employees in the jobs market, making now the perfect time to find a new role.

But watching job applications go unanswered or endlessly tweaking cover letters and CVs remains one of the most stressful points in any career. Rising bills that contribute to the cost of living crisis only add more pressure when searching for a new job, and the continuous rejections can make it difficult to stay positive in the face of what can feel like defeat after defeat. 

The processes involved in finding a new job have a disproportionately negative impact on people experiencing mental health problems like anxiety and depression, and if you have a history of struggling with your mental wellbeing it’s essential to keep this in mind. 

Here’s what you need to know about how embark on the job hunt while taking care of your mental health:

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Why is job hunting so challenging for my mental health?

If you’re feeling stressed while job hunting, the first thing to know is you’re not alone.

“There can be no greater pressure than the financial pressure of wondering where your next paycheck is coming from and how you’re going to pay the bills and buy the food that to put on the table,” Dave Smithson, operations director at Anxiety UK, told The Big Issue.

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“That stress, that pressure, is huge, especially at a time when we’re all coming out of this pandemic,” he said, adding this can contribute to anxiety and depression and exacerbate mental health problems.

“Money and mental health are often linked. If you are struggling to keep control of your money, you may find that it has a negative effect on your mental health,” Paul Spencer, policy and campaigns manager at mental health charity Mind, told The Big Issue.

Before you begin your search, Spencer added, “Try to remember that losing your job or being out of work is nothing to be ashamed of, you are not to blame.”

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A piece of good news – the job market is good for job hunters

When it comes to cutting down on stressors and ironing out the causes of anxiety it’s worth remembering today’s job market is not the same as it was five years ago

 “There has been a power shift from employer to employee, ” Andrew Hunter, co-founder of job search engine Adzuna, told The Big Issue.

“I would argue that there’s never been a better time to enter the job market, at least in the last sort of 15 to 20 years,” Hunter added.

“There are over 1.1 million job vacancies up for grabs, lots of companies and in a number of different sectors are hiring staff. So there’s plenty of choice and the power is really with the job seeker,” he said, “so that should be one point of stress relief.”

What’s the healthiest way to manage my time when searching for a new job?

To cope with the stress of being out of work, some people might work on job applications late into the evening, eating into their own time. This can be dangerous because time off to relax is vital for recharging.

The key to stopping job searching from invading all aspects of your life is to block out designated time slots in which you seek and apply for roles.

“It is important to be organised when you approach your job search and allocate a specific chunk of the day for looking at the market, understanding what roles might be applicable to you and applying in a structured way in a compartmentalised chunk of time,” Hunter said.

For instance, around 5pm you might want to put your laptop away, transform a work table back into a dining table and mentally demarcate that your job search has ended for the day.

“There’s a real risk of job search and letting it become an emotional roller coaster and just hijacking your life and every hour of the day, I think it’s really important to strike a balance between proactive job search and just going back to a normal day-to-day life,” he added.

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What tools can I use to make job searching more manageable?

Tracking your applications can be done by deploying simple software like Google Doc or Sheets — to make sure you follow up promptly, stay on top of deadlines and can chart your progress. This will also allow you to keep a record of both your set-backs, and importantly, achievements. Often getting to the interview stage is an achievement in itself, so remember to celebrate these wins rather than focusing on the set-back of receiving a rejection.

There are plenty of online resources for finding CV and cover letter templates. Hunter, of Adzuna, said his company’s ValueMyResume tool helps prospective employees land the salaries they deserve.

Where can I get help with managing my mental health while finding a new job?

If things pile up and get too much, remember there is always help and networks of support to draw on. 

Never be afraid to offload and talk to friends and family about the pressures of the job hunt. “Historically, job search has been quite a private search experience,” Hunter said. “But that taboo is slowly but surely going away.”

Anxiety UK helps people access therapy at affordable rates, and Mind has a range of advice and guidance if you feel you’re in crisis. Both charities run peer support groups to connect with people going through similar challenges.

“It sounds a bit of a cliche,” Smithson said, “but a problem shared is a problem halved.”

Career tips and advice from our Jobs and Training series:

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