Jobs

Coping with Job Search Stress

guy stressing over job

The main goal of this blog is to write about what I go through in hopes that others can learn from my journey and avoid my mistakes. Throughout the past few weeks I’ve become increasingly stressed as it relates to the job search and have seen in impact other areas of my life. Today I decided to write about the things that have helped me cope with the stress, and push me through the tough times.

For some background, I’m currently a senior Marketing student at Virginia Tech. Last summer I worked as a Management Development Intern for GEICO in Fredericksburg, VA. The program was well designed and I felt as if they had my best interest in mind, but the fit couldn’t have been worse. I dreaded the corporate environment and I don’t have middle management dreams. Coming into my senior year of school I had no idea what direction I wanted to go in, or what jobs to look for. Through heavy research and a lot of soul searching I realized a digital marketing agency was the right environment for me. Ever since I’ve been honing my marketing skills, researching agencies, and attempting to land a job.

I always like to say that getting a full-time job is a full-time job. I’ve spent my entire final semester dedicated to the job search, constantly networking and applying. My business fraternity was supportive enough to give me the semester off of my obligations so I could dedicate more time to the search. The only problem is that the search is putting a drain on my social life, classes, and overall confidence. This isn’t a problem exclusive to me, every year seniors let job search stress carry over into their every day lives. We don’t feel like we can fully breathe until we get it out of the way. This uncertainty unfortunately leads people to take the first job they’re offered to get it out of the way (which is a topic for another day). As stressful as the process has been for me, I’m here to tell you that you can still search for jobs and breathe at the same time. Here are a few things that have helped me stay sane:

Go Through The Process With A Friend

There isn’t a worse feeling than feeling like you’re alone in the job search. I’ll touch on not comparing yourself to others in a bit, but seeing all your friends get jobs while you struggle is a big ego hit. I’ve been lucky enough to have a good friend who is following her passion in the fashion industry and is having a similar job hunt as me. When there are a limited number of spots and a lot of applicants in fields like marketing and fashion, the job search gets tricky. It’s not just filling out your resume and waiting for companies to come to your career fair like accounting and finance (obviously not in every circumstance), you have to get creative and do what no one else is doing. By yourself this can be a draining process, but with a friend you push each other to be better, and celebrate each other’s wins.

When my friend Abigail made her website (go hire her at AbigailRausch.com) I was motivated to keep up and create my site as well (bengerow.com). When one of us is slacking on putting out content, we’ll always let the other person know they need to keep writing and creating. Having someone who pushes you along when you get down and don’t feel motivated is an underrated aspect of the job search.

Besides the motivation aspect of things, it’s also nice to have someone who understands what you’re going through. It’s hard to explain to someone who isn’t going through the job search process how it feels to have a lead stop responding. If you have a friend going through the process with you they’ll be able to step into your shoes and offer some helpful advice.

My advice to you is find someone with similar aspirations to you, and push each other every single day. You don’t have to go through the process alone, it’s no different than finding a workout partner. If you’re still a student this is especially easy, all of your classmates will have a similar job search time frame as you.

Be Present in Your Life

Not being present in my life is something I struggle with every single day. I fall into the common trap of letting my sources of stress leak into other activities. An example I used on an earlier blog post is that if I have a presentation on Friday, I’ll be thinking about it all week. Life at it’s finest should be enjoyed in the present moment. Your semester can still be enjoyed without a job lined up. Worry about the job search when you’re sitting down to work on applications or practice for an interview, not when you’re out with friends.

Being mindful takes practice and commitment. I’ve been dedicated to being mindful since the beginning of senior year and still struggle most days. Stress doesn’t go away when you get a job. If you’re the type of person who let’s stress affect your life, getting started on the mindfulness journey could literally change your life. Instead of spending days in defeat because of a denial email, read Wherever You Go, There You Are.

Schedule Your Days

One way to become more present in your days is to have more structure in them. If you only have one class a certain day it’s easy to feel like the rest of your day has to be filled with job related activities. When this is the thought process, anything unrelated to the job search feels like you’re cheating yourself. If you’re watching a movie late at night you’ll feel bad about yourself for not being on LinkedIn. I’ll have this problem when I take some time off and watch a Wizards game, or play Playstation. The way to counteract this feeling is scheduling your days even if you have nothing to do.

For example this is what my Tuesday’s and Thursday’s normally would look like:

Tuesday/Thursday

2:30pm-3:45pm – Class

However, I’ve started to put more structure in them to feel more productive and allow myself to breathe. Here’s what my new schedule looks like,

Tuesday/Thursday

8:30am – Wake Up

9:30am-11am – Gym

12pm – Lunch

2:30pm-3:45pm – Class

4:15-6:15 – Job Related Activities (Applying, networking, writing, improving skills)

7pm-12am – My time to do whatever I want

In my time to do whatever I want that could be catching up with friends, playing basketball, spending more time honing my skills if I’m motivated, or doing absolutely nothing. At the absolute minimum I’m getting 2 hours every Tuesday and Thursday doing job related activities.

Schedule your days even when you have nothing going on, this will allow you to feel better about the activities you partake in. Life is meant to be enjoyed.

Enjoy Your Freedom

Man’s brain lives in the 20th Century; The heart of most men lives still in the stone age. The majority of men have not yet acquired the maturity to be independent, to be rational, to be objective. They need myths and idols to endure the fact that man is all by himself, that there is no authority which gives meaning to life except man himself. Modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton. – Erich Fromm

As college students we’re used to obeying authority, and always having someone tell us what to do. As kids our parents dictator our lives at home, and teachers our lives at school. When we get to school we have a little freedom but still live within a bubble of safety and authority. It’s in our nature to try to give up the post graduate freedom as quickly as possible. We need to jump to the first company who will give us the secure paycheck and tell us what to do at work.

This is why we get stressed when we don’t have a job, there is no security. To really let the stress go, enjoy your freedom. Most college students have no wife/husband, no kids, nothing tying them down. We could literally wake up tomorrow and move to California to bartend. Finally, you are free. You can take time to learn where your strengths lie, start your business, travel. Don’t be so disappointed that no one is telling you what to do just yet.

Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

We all have unique paths to get to where we are going. If your roommate gets a job in September, that doesn’t mean you’re behind if you don’t get one until you graduate. You’ll kill yourself worrying about how much money your friends are making, what companies they are at, or what their title is. All that matters is that you are happy with your career, and your decisions. It’s easy to look around and see everyone posting their job acceptance updates and feel down, it’s much harder to feel happy for them and wait for your turn.

The same thing goes for people we look up to, we’re comparing ourselves to celebrities and icons who’s journeys we don’t know anything about. When you see a successful artist or businessperson you see the end product, not where they started. To make you feel better about yourself, here are some facts you probably didn’t know:

  • Denzel Washington had a 1.7 GPA in college
  • Mark Cuban’s first job out of college was a bartender
  • The early jobs of Ellen DeGeners include included working at J.C. Penny, being a waitress at T.G.I. Friday’s, a house painter, a hostess, and a bartender
  • Michelle Beadle took three years off because she did not know what she wanted to do and her college credits were geared toward law school. She spent time in Canada working odd jobs and eventually returned to Austin and waited tables while trying to decide what to do with her life
  • Giorgio Armani didn’t start his first clothing line until he was 41 years old

Very rarely (I don’t know a single one) will you read the biography of a successful person and see that they had a certain major, got an internship in the field, landed a job in their industry of choice right out of college, and went on to create something great. Everyone struggles, we all get lost, and no one has a straight path to success. As Steve Jobs once said :

You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.

If you’re going through a similar process I’d love to hear about what you do to cope with the stress. Send me an email at bengerow@gmail.com to talk. As always, if you’d like to get updates directly to your inbox fill out the form below.

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3 Comments

  1. Sheila W. Kaylor

    Try not to get discouraged. You have so much going for you. It only takes one job offer that you want and it’s over. Then you’ll have to deal with the stress of learning a new job. You’re doing the right thing, learning to deal with stress, that’s so important. Good Luck!

  2. Jane Doe

    Great post that accurately summarizes I think what most seniors are experiencing, but too afraid to admit. I am intrigued by the statement, “This uncertainty unfortunately leads people to take the first job they’re offered to get it out of the way” and your thoughts on that. I think it really is important to not compare yourself and those examples provided served as great reminders.

  3. It truly puzzles me that with all the great work you are doing with this blog finding internship is not a breeze for you. I’ve read your post hoping to see more details, like what sites you are using to apply, how you are applying and so on. Because I’ve just looked up “marketing intern” using Indeed.com and there is pretty neat position with Fabric.com. Have you saw that posting? And what sites are you using to apply?

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