How to Cope With and Overcome Job Search Burnout

Searching for a new job can lead to burnout. Learn to recognize the signs of burnout and how to have a successful job hunt.

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by Melissa A. Kay

Published May 3, 2022

Reviewed by Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D.

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How to Cope With and Overcome Job Search Burnout
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Looking for a new job can be an eye-opening and educational experience, but it can also become exhausting. As your job hunt unfolds, burnout can creep in and crush your enthusiasm. Before you're overwhelmed, understand how to cope with and counteract job search burnout.

Results from a 2021 Pew Research Center survey showed that 49% of U.S. adults who were unemployed, furloughed, or temporarily laid off were somewhat pessimistic or very pessimistic about finding a job in the near future.

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Ready to start your journey?

Searching for a new job requires patience, persistence, and perspective. Agnieszka Goulin, head of people at Spacelift, suggests that job-seekers should be pragmatic about their situation. "Reassure yourself that the job search may take some time, but it won't last forever. Taking a step back and de-personalizing the situation is crucial."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average unemployment duration as of March 2022 was 7.5 weeks. This number was down significantly from the year prior — in March 2021, unemployed workers experienced an average of 21.6 weeks of unemployment.

No matter the length of your job search, you can benefit from recognizing the signs of burnout ahead of time and working preemptively to avoid it. Do your best to stay positive, motivated, and determined. Your mindset can make a big difference.

Signs of Job Search Burnout

  • Feeling overwhelmed/stressed: A great deal of energy goes into a job search. There's a lot to do, and you may feel short on time. This pressure can lead to feelings of anxiety.
  • Irritability: Searching for a job can be exasperating. It is bound to affect your mood, especially if things aren't going how you'd hoped. If you're constantly crabby and temperamental, it may be a sign that your job hunt is starting to get the better of you.
  • Health changes: Job search exhaustion can affect your mental and physical health and well-being. Disrupted sleep, aches and pains, and changes in appetite could signal that your search is making you sick.
  • Loss of motivation: When there doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, ambition can plummet. You may find yourself distracted, putting in less effort, and experiencing other unfavorable feelings.
  • Negative impact on relationships: Job searching can be time-consuming, often cutting into personal time and relationships. This can cause friction, misunderstandings, and disappointment. Family members, friends, and significant others may not fully appreciate or understand what you're going through.

Tips for How to Deal With Job Search Burnout

Stay Organized

Create schedules, to-do lists, reminders, and spreadsheets. When you have a clear picture of what you've accomplished and your future goals, you'll have sharper focus and less frustration.

Chris Lewandowski, president of Princess Dental Staffing, says, "Staying organized is vital so you don't get overwhelmed. For example, you could make a list of prospect companies and read about the brand and the position you applied for. Then, update your resume accordingly and keep track of your applications."

Maintain a Pleasant Job Search Atmosphere

Comfortable surroundings where you can concentrate are important for a successful job hunt. Whether you're doing your job search from home or at a public place like a library, how you situate yourself can help (or hurt) your progress.

Find a well-lit area that is free from distractions and interruptions. Sit in a proper chair to maintain good posture and ensure you have enough room on your table or desk for your computer and relevant paperwork. Bear in mind that not everyone thrives in tidiness — if an organized mess is your happy place, do what works best for you.

Find Balance

Consider switching it up each day so you don't experience job search fatigue. "Do things beyond your job search," suggests Meredith Whipple Callahan, senior partner and executive coach at Evolution. "Treating a job search like a full-time job in itself is unreasonable."

John F. Tholen — Ph.D., retired cognitive psychologist, and author of Focused Positivity — recommends that job-seekers should also pay attention to their body and brain. "Develop calming routines such as circular breathing or progressive muscle relaxation and practice them when inactive."

"Sometimes people are so busy looking for a job they forget to look after themselves," adds Ellen Kocher, corporate health consultant and workshop facilitator at Whealthness. Balanced nutrition, regular physical activity, and sufficient sleep are imperative.

Give Yourself a Break

"When you start feeling like you're not going to get a job, aren't able to articulate your accomplishments, or start losing your sense of self, you need to pause," advises Whipple Callahan. "Your experience of burnout will handicap your ability to show up well in the interview process."

Try setting aside some time to pursue hobbies, exercise, catch up with friends, or simply watch television. "Whether you're able to take one day, one week, or one month away from the search, ensure it's time spent not thinking about your job needs," suggests Samuel Devyver, co-founder and CEO at EasyLlama.

Focus on the Positive

"Generating — and reviewing — more balanced and reasonable alternative ideas that reassure, inspire hope, or motivate self-assertion can keep us moving in the right direction. Prepare and frequently review a list of reasons to feel grateful," Dr. Tholen says.

Yes, you need a job. But you also have a unique opportunity to do other things you may not have had the time or energy for beforehand. And once you land your next job, it may be a long time before you can take another break.

While job hunting, carve out time in the day to work on a personal project or hobby. Adopt a pet. Take on a part-time job to alleviate financial stress. Work on your fitness. Get some extra sleep. All of these activities can help raise your spirits and reduce your stress.

Frequently Asked Questions About Job Searching

Is it OK to take a break from your job search?

The job search process can be grueling, so breaks are beneficial. You can't perform at full capacity 24/7. Reflect and recharge by pacing yourself.

Whitney D. Walter, MBA, says, "People say 'time is money,' but searching for jobs at every waking moment is a sure-fire way to get burned out. Set up automatic alerts on the job board of your choice and then try to give yourself a break from the hunt."

Goulin adds, "Take time off for yourself and learn to manage the stress. Who knows, you might rethink your strategy or change your career path once you take the pressure off."

Why is job searching exhausting?

The job hunt can be taxing both mentally and physically. Dealing with extended unemployment can be overwhelming. Fatigue can lead to feelings of failure. What began with intensity can turn to apathy if days become weeks without significant headway.

Thalita Ferraz, influencer at Her Bones, shares from personal experience: "People really underestimate how exhausting it can be to put yourself out there every single day, to find jobs you love the idea of, and get your hopes up only to hear nothing -- not even being rejected, just hearing nothing." This can take a toll on one's confidence and commitment to the process.

How long is the average job search?

BLS data showed that the average unemployment duration was 7.5 weeks, as of March 2022. However, that represents a significant decrease compared to the previous year. In March 2021, unemployed workers saw an average of 21.6 weeks of unemployment, largely due to economic fallout related to the pandemic.

The length of your job search can be influenced by many factors, including the unemployment rate in your professional field, your skill set, and your professional experience. Location is also a factor, although remote opportunities can make some jobs more accessible.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this website should consult with their physician to obtain advice with respect to any medical condition or treatment.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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