Anxiety re: The Job Search.
April 15, 2014 12:25 PM   Subscribe

I am most likely getting laid off in about a month or so, at which time I will be able to collect unemployment. However, unemployment doesn’t last forever. The thing is, my anxiety about the job search is preventing me from doing what’s required to get the next gig. Can you give me the kick in the butt that I need? More details inside.

Hi – mid-twenties female here, new to the Meta community. Now onto the issue.

I know that a currently employed candidate is more attractive to employers, and I know right now is the best time for me to be actively looking for a new job. You’d think that the prospect of losing my job in the next month would be enough motivation, but it’s not. The job-acquiring process seems like such a high mountain to climb, and just thinking about what I have to do in order to get a job stresses me out. The follow-up phone calls and interviewing process are what stress me out the most. Every time I return a recruiter’s call, I have to summon all my energy to sound bright, smart, and like someone they want to submit for the job. In about 8 months of “looking”, I obtained one interview. I am someone who puts interviewing for a job on the top 10 worst fears list, so I had started practicing and worrying WEEKS before the interview was even scheduled, and it sucked up all of my energy. After all that, I didn’t even get the job! I think that these steps in the job search process make me nervous because I’m so unconfident about it: what I’m supposed to say, how the conversation should go, etc. It all feels like a foreign language to me. At my current job that is coming to an end, the work has all but stopped, so I spend the entire day surfing the Internet. You’d think I’d then have the energy to go home and do some job hunting, but I don’t. I actually feel drained coming home. I’m also someone who gets a lot of self-worth from their job, and feeling worthless at work is killing my self-esteem and making me depressed. Not to mention, my family and live-in boyfriend are becoming frustrated at my inaction. I am an intelligent woman in my mid-twenties who should want to take charge of her future – why don’t I? Instead, I want to run away and hide from this whole situation. Please give me a push – stories, quotes, whatever, so that I can feel motivated to just bite the bullet already?
posted by koolaidnovel to Work & Money (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The only thing I know to do is, figure out the next concrete step or action, and take that. Actually doing something is helpful in dispelling anxiety.
posted by thelonius at 12:26 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Make a checklist of every niggling little step you can think of. Do one bit each day, or hour, or whatever. Do SOMETHING to move forward whenever you can. Better is better, no matter how big.

--Signed, the queen of putting icky things off
posted by Madamina at 12:31 PM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Job hunt from work. Might as well. It's better than hanging out on Metafilter all day.

Don't view it as trying to be exactly what the interviewer wants, view it as an opportunity to find a great gig for yourself.

1. Write down what your perfect job would be like. What kinds of projects do you work on? What does your day look like? How do you get to dress? What computer programs do they use. This will be helpful as you can not apply for jobs that don't fit your list.

2. Tart up your resume. I'll help, memail me if you like.

3. Get a book, 30 Seconds and You're Hired. It's absolutely awesome and it will help with the interview thing.

4. Learn to 'be in the moment' in interviews. Yes, have some things ready to discuss. A failure that taught you something, the thing you're most proud of, etc. But don't go into an interview thinking or acting as though there is always one right answer. Work more on learning about what the company is looking for, and how you might fit in.

5. Start applying for jobs that seem like they'd be a good fit for you.

6. Ask your manager if she knows of openings where you would fit in, ask friends, neighbors, guys in bars, network a bit. I can't tell you how many jobs I got simply by announcing that I was ready to move on.

7. Realize that you don't have an option. You MUST do this, unless you win the lottery or decide to WWOOF, getting a new job is what you need to do.

You got the job you have now, you'll get another, but you have to make it happen.

I'm serious, if you want me to help with your resume, I will.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:36 PM on April 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

Another thought, go get some damn anxiety meds! Trazadone if you're having trouble sleeping, a few mg of Celexa, it will help SO MUCH!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:37 PM on April 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, just do the next thing. Set up searches on the job sites of your choice, and check the results at 8, noon, and 4 to see if there's anything you need to submit for.

Remember that about 90% of "recruiters" are people trying to insert themselves into the hiring process to make a commission but are actively unwelcome by hiring companies. Do not wait on nor depend on them, and if they call and leave you voicemail about a job, spend 90 seconds trying to find it listed yourself and apply directly. Dealing with those people is not good for your morale.

You will feel better for imposing some control of your own onto this.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:41 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Practice makes perfect!

What you want is as many interviews as possible in a short period of time. Send out a metric tonne of excellent cover letters and resumes, and line those interviews up tip to tail. Don't let one interview suck up all of your energy--have six lined up, so your practice and fear-conquering will be more efficient. If at all possible, try to schedule it so that the interviews for the jobs you want most are at the end of this ordeal. By then, you will be a smooth, polished, interviewing machine. You will have made silly mistakes in the first few interviews, yes, but you will have 20/20 hindsight available, and you will know how not to make those mistakes next time. And interview #6 does not seem nearly as intimidating as interview #1, I promise!
posted by snorkmaiden at 12:50 PM on April 15, 2014

I have felt very similarly to you, and if I'm being honest with myself, part of it is anxiety, and part of it is laziness with an equal smattering of: [insert fingers in ears and "LALALALALALA"].

There's this part of me, whether it's a lingering body ache, a job with an end date, a summer relationship that's drawing to a close, or whatever else, that just engages in complete disassociation, denial trumping all logic, and avoidance of the impending curtain at all costs.

I often find that although I am using every mental defense against reality that I can, I will suddenly "re-realize" the encroaching calamity du jour and experience a sudden cold wash of fear, which I calm by firmly resolving to do something about the thing.... buuuuut at some future date, of course.

That wash of fear isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's you reminding you that.. "Hey, you're going to run out of money if you don't do something!!!"

So use it. it's an emotional, mental, and physical flag that your personal security is at risk. So, as mentioned several times above, you need to do something. A mumbled promise that you'll set aside some time on Saturday after the thing with the other thing to go poke around job site A, might make you feel better until the next, stronger, wave of fear hits you, but if you're anything like me, Saturday will come and go, with no more than a resigned mouse hover over the link to job site A, a long sigh, aaannd we're moving on to FUN SITE B.

So do something. With the next motivating realization, immediately send one resume with a well researched and written cover letter. Next time, spend 30 minutes on careerbuilder or craigslist. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body at motion tends to stay in motion. Engage your b/f to look at stuff with you (if that sounds like a bit more fun than drudging through job listings alone). He may not know what you're exactly qualified to professionally do, or what your short term career goals are, but I've used this tactic where we both made fun of job postings and such, and suddenly I'd see something that caught my eye for real.

At the end of the day though, you're training yourself to do something, instead of continuing to procrastinate. I know my self-esteem goes up, whether I got an interview or not, just knowing I did something productive, even if it's really small, about this thing that's been nagging me for weeks, and it makes me less likely to procrastinate further.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:02 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've said this before, and even though I know there is some evidence, I feel like the "You need a job to get a job" thing is very overstated.

While there are some upsides to interviewing while you have a job (You can afford to be picky, you may seem more attractive to some employers), I also kind of hate the experience. The stress of doing an interview *and* going to a job you hate in the same day can be terrible, not to mention the chain of lies and excuses you need to come up with. At some point they wonder how many dentist's appointments one person can have.

I'm not saying don't look now, but, assuming you'll be OK financially, letting the job end and then taking a week or two to just chill could give you an entirely new perspective and actually increase your chances of getting the job you want. We're all going to be out of work at some point in our lives so, unless you'd literally be homeless, it can be very freeing to realize it's not the end of the world- to accept it and even let yourself enjoy it for a little while.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:23 PM on April 15, 2014

I'd also add that if you can take one concrete step per day towards finding a job, that will help a lot. I think all that stuff about "finding a new job is a FT job" is kind of bunk, honestly. Of course you need to look hard but refreshing your job board of choice 9 times an hour instead of once or twice a day isn't going to get you employed faster. It just isn't. As I said above, at some point it's OK to relax a bit.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:24 PM on April 15, 2014

First of all, I completely understand what you're talking about and empathize. I saw a job ad recently and felt interested but when they asked for a writing sample in addition to a cover letter and resume, I put it off because that one more thing just sounded too hard.

Do you have friends who do hiring? My husband hires people and before I had an interview, he asked me all of the HARD questions he asks those applying for jobs. It was great practice and then at the interview when they only asked softball questions, I was pleasantly surprised.

Similarly, it might be helpful for you to physically write a list of 10-20 questions that you expect an interviewer to ask and some well-worded answers. That way, you can have it handy for phone interviews and practice it before in-person interviews. You don't have to memorize the answers but having thought about how to answer the questions will put you in a better position to answer it well (says the girl who recently could not articulate an answer to "what's your dream job?").

The cool thing with being proactive, in my experience, is that it actually makes me feel less worried. Preparation decreases worrying. You will never get to zero worrying but being prepared makes me a lot less worried. So the less time that you spend wringing your hands, the more time you will have to prepare and then you will feel less like wringing your hands.

I also think, what is the worst case scenario? I currently don't have this job, if I screw up the interview, I will continue not having that job. So best case, you get the job but worst case, things more or less stay the same.

You can do this. You will do this. Good luck!
posted by kat518 at 1:29 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Use the dead "surfing the internet" time at work to apply for jobs. And please see your doctor; this is not a healthy amount of anxiety relative to the situation.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:24 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

One thing that helped me when I was job searching was to focus on the application not the job, if that makes sense. I derived the sense of accomplishment from submitting a good application, and then moved on. Not that I machine-gun applied to every job, I was still judicious about it, but it was just a way of reframing.

I get really anxious when I feel disorganized, so having spreadsheets and folders and such really helped me. I created a Google Docs spreadsheet to track applications and their statuses. I saved all the job descriptions, resumes, and cover letters in a Dropbox folder (that said, I had very few versions of resume and cover letter, but would sometimes tweak a little for a job so I liked to save as a version with the job name to make sure I kept track of what I had submitted).

The thing that helped me the most, honestly, was hiring someone to help me with my resume and cover letter. Not only were my application materials actually stronger, but I felt psychologically better knowing that a pro had given them his seal of approval. Now that I am hiring people in my new job, I realize even more how good his advice was - particularly in writing a cover letter that has an appropriate tone and is engaging, and in creating a resume that shows my accomplishments not just my job description.
posted by radioamy at 3:05 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also felt a lot more confident once I had a couple of good interview outfits, cute/comfortable shoes, and a nice bag.

Oh and as an obsessive planner, before my interviews I would map out not only how to get there and where to park (if applicable), but where the nearest coffee shop was so I could hang out there, use the bathroom, etc., until it was time to go in.

One thing that I've realized (especially doing hiring myself now) is that hiring and interviewing are a lot less formal than they used to be (or maybe they were always less formal?). Not that you want to be casual, but a good hiring manager is going to try to have a conversation with you, not just rapid fire a bunch of questions.
posted by radioamy at 3:26 PM on April 15, 2014

I loathe the whole job hunting process, but I hate interviews the most. I am in a temporary position and will need to find a new job pretty soon, and one thing I've decided to do is make sure I have things to say in the interview. Yesterday I had an intense, hectic day at work that really put me to the test, and after I got home I decided to spend some time writing about the things that happened that day and my actions and decisions in excruciating detail to make sure I would remember. It was one of the most boring things I've ever done, but I think this kind of thing is worth doing because so many interviewers ask about situations at work and you can draw on that to formulate good answers and talk about your skills and character traits.

Maybe you don't have a problem with this, but, might be worth a try?
posted by cosmicbeast at 3:41 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of the things I had to do when laid off was overcome the embarrassment of it. Start that now, so you can more easily get other people to look for jobs for you, think up contacts you can use, and maybe pull an occasional string.

Put together your network; I readily acknowledge that at your age it's easy to feel like you don't have one, but of course you do: family, friends and their families, familiar teachers/professors, former coworkers. Did you get this job because you knew someone who worked there or told you about it? Like as not, that will be true for most of your jobs in the future.

re: Resumé: once you have a great one, make a plaintext copy of it. Any kind of online application is going to want you to paste one in (and then probably duplicate the effort by filling in a detailed form covering the same territory as your resume-- it's a little aggravating).

re: unemployment: keep good records of your job contacts and applications, including notes and a phone log, copies of ads you applied for, copies of applications (when possible), business cards, etc. They will audit these records, so have them ready. In my state, you don't get a check the first week; if that's true for your state, put aside a little cash right now to bridge that gap.

Nobody enjoys job hunting; even desperately unemployed people usually max out at about 100 minutes per day because it's so unpleasant, very taxing to morale. Don't kick yourself for failing to make it a full-time search. Just try not to let your sleep schedule slip too badly and put in some time every day.

Good luck!
posted by Sunburnt at 8:08 AM on April 16, 2014

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