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Careers Café

Reducing the stress of the job search


Stress is inversely related to the amount of control you have over your situation. The job search process can be highly stressful because so many things are out of your control:

  • whether a job in your field will be advertised
  • what the competition for that job is like
  • how the decision to hire is made

Those are important things. The job search is inherently stressful.

However, you can manage your stress better by focusing more on the things you can control.

Defining your goal

What do you really want in your career? I don’t mean a specific job, but rather what qualities does that job have?

Those qualities might be found in numerous careers. By identifying what is important to you and what you have to offer an employer in relation to those things, you can expand the possibilities.

Just because you can’t name other jobs that meet your criteria doesn’t mean they don’t exist. You might need to do some research. Talk to some people. Investigate what people do in different companies and what certain jobs really entail. You will need to question your assumptions and gather some facts.

Focus on tasks rather than outcomes

If the measure of your activity is securing a particular job, you are going to feel like most of what you do is futile.

You know that certain tasks improve your chances:

  • networking with people who work in relevant fields
  • publishing
  • gaining relevant teaching experience
  • writing targetted cover letters for specific jobs

Recognize your achievements in these tasks.

Stop doing low value tasks

Are you sending out applications to jobs for which you aren’t really qualified and aren’t even close? I’m thinking about jobs in your discipline that specify a field that you really have to stretch a lot to say you can teach.

Stop doing that. You are wasting everyone’s time. If hiring committees are receiving in the order of 100 applications for every academic position, the first ones to be dropped from consideration are the ones that don’t meet the basic requirements. No one is looking for a warm body with a PhD.

The time you spend putting together an application for a job you are not qualified for (and probably don’t want anyway) could be better spent doing something that will make you a better candidate for a job that you do want:

  • writing another article
  • getting the dissertation finished (if it isn’t already)
  • having coffee with someone who can tell you more about a job you don’t know enough about to know whether you are either qualified for it or interested in it
  • an internship that gives you skills and knowledge of other options

Look after yourself

Eat well. Exercise. Get enough sleep.

Your brain and your body depend on these things. You are only fooling yourself if you think you are productive without them.

Jo VanEvery is a career coach who specializes in helping academics. Find her at
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  1. Mayur kohli / September 27, 2017 at 04:41

    Really the jobs search process is actually highly tensed and stressful for job seekers, and once the stress starts controlling on you then its becomes difficult for job seeker to come out of that depression, though managing your stress is important process and you have shared here some good ways to control somethings to reduce stress of job search, its very helpful article and you have shared very useful advice for us.
    Thanks a lot!

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