There are a lot of moving parts in a modern-day job hunt, which can make the process of looking for a new role feel overwhelming. How do you protect your mental health when hunting for a new gig, and are there steps you can take to ease job search stress?
Thankfully, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” If you’re a regular reader of my Forbes column and job search blog, you’re aware that I frequently write about steps you can take to address stress and anxiety in your job search and career:
- How To Avoid And Manage Job Search Burnout
- How To Manage Career Anxiety: 10 Expert Tips
- 7 Ways To Manage Anxiety When Starting A New Job
I recently completed the USC Rossier School of Education’s Mindfulness for Educators certificate program with Linda Yaron Weston, where I learned additional strategies and tips to manage job search stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.
Continue reading to uncover a few of my favorite mindfulness strategies from the program. My hope is that this article empowers you to navigate job search stress more effectively and approach the process with more mindfulness.
6 Job Search Stress Management Techniques
1. Taking 3 Deep Breaths
To begin, one of my favorite stress management techniques from the program was taking three deep breaths. The practice may sound simple, yet it was incredibly powerful to witness my racing thoughts slow down as I focused on my breathing.
While we’d begin each class session with a lengthy breathing exercise, and mindful breathing was also woven throughout the course and reading assignments, three breaths is a realistic goal that can be integrated throughout your days and weeks.
Personally speaking, the first breath allows me to begin to clear my mind, the second breath allows me to be present in my space and ground myself in my body, and the third breath allows me to set an intention to move forward.
Because looking for a new job can be stressful, you might find it helpful to consider how you can integrate some mindfulness breathing into your search. This might look like taking three deep breaths before working on aspects of your job search, such as writing your resume or networking with recruiters, that cause you anxiety.
“When we pause, we begin to notice what we’ve been carrying with us,” explains Yaron Weston, in her book, Mindfulness for Young Adults.
2. The STOP Technique
Speaking of breathing, another stress management tool I appreciated from the program was the STOP technique:
- S: Stop
- T: Take a breath
- O: Observe (feelings and thoughts)
- P: Proceed (with an intention or action)
This simple yet effective technique allows you to pause, ground yourself in the present moment, observe what’s going on in your mind and body, and then decide how you want to move forward.
As a career coach, I appreciate that you have the choice to proceed with an intention or an action. When looking for a new job, you can use the STOP technique to really slow down and practice a moment of mindfulness during seemingly high-stakes situations like:
- Choosing a career path
- Writing your resume
- Updating your LinkedIn profile
- Answering an interview question
- Negotiating your salary
Opportunities to integrate the STOP technique are only limited by your imagination, which is what I love about this mindfulness method.
3. “Let Be” Philosophy
Now, what do you do with the uncertainty and stressful emotions that so often come up when conducting a mindful job search? For years, I encouraged job seekers to focus on the things that are in their control:
- Choosing a target company and position that aligns with your experience, skills, and values.
- Updating and optimizing your career documents (cover letter, resume, and LinkedIn profile).
- Networking with recruiters and decision-makers at your target company.
- Effectively preparing for the job interview process and salary negotiation.
Then, I’d encourage clients to “let go” of everything else beyond their control, like whether they hear back after applying for a role or attending an interview. In fact, I’d often assign my coaching clients to watch Disney’s Frozen and pay special attention to the Let It Go sequence.
Yaron Weston’s mindfulness program introduced me to a new perspective — “let be” — which can be a more effective approach when navigating the stress and anxiety of looking for a new role.
“Freedom comes when we can be in the midst of a charged situation, release its hook, take a breath, and pause to choose a conscious response,” says Yaron Weston.
“We don’t need to suppress difficult emotions, and we also don’t need to let them drive our lives,” she explains. “We can recognize they’re there and make a conscious choice about how to hold the experience and what to do next.”
4. Forgiveness Meditation
Job searching can be filled with a lot of challenging emotions, and practicing forgiveness can help you effectively manage them. Yaron Weston shared a powerful forgiveness meditation I want to pass along to you:
- May I accept that you’re not perfect and that you make mistakes.
- May I accept that you’re a learner still learning life’s lessons.
- May I forgive you for the harm you have done.
- And if I cannot completely forgive you right now, may I do it sometime in the future.
You can also use a self-focused variation of this meditation if you find you’re being hard on yourself, which she also shared:
- May I accept that I’m not perfect and that I make mistakes.
- May I accept that I’m a learner still learning life’s lessons.
- May I forgive myself for the harm I have done.
- And if I cannot completely forgive myself right now, may I do it sometime in the future.
5. Mindful Journaling
While on the topic of internal reflection, Yaron Weston has a knack for providing thoughtful discussion questions and journaling prompts that get you to think on a deeper level.
In her book, Yaron Weston also poses dozens of thought-provoking questions on mindfulness and self-reflection. Here are some of my favorites:
- What does stress mean to you? What is the opposite of stress?
- How do you typically cope with change and impermanence?
- When do you feel like you’re most present in life? Least present?
- In what areas of life do you feel abundance and sufficiency in your life?
- In what situations might it be helpful to be less reactive and more responsive?
- How do you relate to your emotions? Which emotions are easiest or hardest for you to attend to?
- What tone of voice do your thoughts typically have?
- To what extent, or where, do attachment or aversion appear in your life? What do you do in the face of them?
- What does success look like to you? When does it happen? Under what circumstances? What might get in the way? How do you know when you’re successful?
- If a friend or child were going through difficult emotions, what would you say to them?
Consider choosing one of the above prompts, setting a timer for 10 to 20 minutes and free-association writing.
6. Writing A Gratitude Letter
Finally, gratitude can be a powerful antidote to job search stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.
With this in mind, you might find it helpful to author a gratitude letter — or text — and send it to someone you appreciate, such as a mentor, career coach, colleague, family member, or friend.
Yaron Weston advises that the letter be sincere, specifically name what the person did, and explain how the recipient impacted you.
My Love Language is Words of Affirmation, so this was a rewarding activity, and I’ve written several gratitude letters and texts since Yaron Weston introduced the practice.
Important: You can write a gratitude letter to yourself! Job searching can feel exhausting, and you deserve recognition for your efforts.
Final Thoughts: Managing Job Search Stress Using Mindfulness
Although mindfulness practices aren’t a silver bullet, they can help you effectively manage the feelings and emotions that come up when looking for a new job. “Mindfulness can aid in emotional regulation and navigating difficult emotions like stress and anxiety,” says Yaron Weston.
“Mindfulness has also been shown to improve attention, concentration, and clarity. It can broaden the scope of our focus, leading to deeper creativity and problem-solving,” she explains.
On a final note, rather than attempting to implement all these stress reduction strategies into your daily mindfulness practice, you might find it helpful to treat them like a buffet. Sample them at your leisure and find the ones that work best for you and your needs. You’ve got this!