How to Deal with the Emotional Side of a Job Search


Searching for your next job is one of the most emotionally taxing times we face in life. It is not uncommon to be besieged with a plethora of emotions.  One day we may find ourselves battling with unbridled enthusiasm for finding the right role that offers a work-life balance as well as ample opportunities for career growth; and the next day be overwhelmed with nervousness and anxiety about nailing the next interview.

Job seekers often feel frustrated about being unemployed and fear perpetual unemployment and most of all, there’s always understandable stress when waiting – often impatiently—for feedback.

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge this:  all these feelings of being  overwhelmed with strong and often times new emotions are completely normal.  We all go through it and these feelings are nothing to be ashamed of.  Rather, it is important to reflect on these feelings and tell ourselves that these intense feelings only mean one thing; that we place a great deal of value and importance on our career and want to achieve our goals and vocational aspirations.

Every Experience is an Opportunity to Learn More

Regardless if an experience is deemed positive or negative, every turn your life takes is an opportunity to learn more about yourself.  When you’re not consumed in the 9-to-5 grind, you have time  to assess where you are in life, why the previous job didn’t work out and where you’d like to go from here. It’s an excellent chance to revisit your goals in life and divide them into manageable and realistic chunks, or to make new goals altogether.

  • Take advantage of this break from your normal schedule!

Creating Structure to Deal with Uncertainty

It is human nature to want to  maintain order, consistency, and to have a certain degree of control in our life. So when things are going haywire, remind yourself that the power to reorganize still lies within your hands.

Create a schedule and allocate a specific block of time in the day dedicated to your job search. This will also allow you to feel more motivated throughout the process and keep you grounded about what really matters; your ambitions and goals.

We see many job seekers experiencing such pressure to find a new job that they virtually dedicate 24/7 to their pursuit of employment.

  • As Parkinson’s Law states, a task will expand to fill the time allotted to it. It is far healthier to carve out specific hours in the day to dedicate to exploring potential career opportunities, and then allow yourself the freedom to do other things during the day.

By giving yourself permission to explore other interests, or just the approval to allow yourself the luxury of relaxing, you will create a more insightful, peaceful state, which will ultimately allow you to achieve your goals quicker and with greater clarity.

Break your Search into Manageable Segments

It is difficult to find your dream job if you do not have a clear picture of what that job looks like. And it is difficult to envision something when you are so stressed out that you are in a state of constant duress.

  • Break your job search down into manageable portions. First off, give some serious thought to the type of role that you feel best suits your interests and skills. Take some time to review job sites like Indeed, which is a terrific place to look for jobs since it aggregates all the job postings on the internet into one place. Give yourself a solid day at the onset of your search to pursue all the different jobs in your area that are related to your area of focus, and determine which speaks to you. If you find that your true dream job is out of reach because you lack the mandatory qualifications, tailor your job search to obtain those skills.

The key is to remember is that you are indeed in control of your life, and career. Things happen to all of us, and more often than not, if you give yourself permission to take your time and be strategic in your job search, you can often times find yourself in a better role than the one that you left.

  • Set up alerts on Indeed for the types of roles you want, and post your resume on there as well.
  • Hire a professional resume service to craft a compelling resume.  Investing the time and energy into building a professional looking resume is of paramount importance. Hire someone that does this for a living, and work with them to ensure that your resume reflects you in the very best light possible.
  • Dedicate time every day to establish a network on LinkedIn to interact with. You can reach out to former colleagues, and target and follow companies of interest.
  • Set up alerts on LinkedIN and Google for your targeted companies, so you will be notified if they make any big announcements. Interact with potential hiring managers at these companies on social media. Commenting on their posts offers an invaluable way to gain their attention. While no CEO is going to take a random call from a stranger, by interacting with them on social media,  you can often times get their attention in a very positive manner.

By breaking the tasks involved in job hunting down into manageable portions, you will give yourself the ability to complete each task as efficiently as possible. We see so many people rush through the initial steps and dive straight into applying for jobs, without giving themselves the opportunity to strategically  map out the next steps in their career.

This will allow you to experience small wins on a daily basis and will keep a feeling of accomplishment and self-efficacy alive.

Dealing with the Silence

Know that for every job advertisement posted, there are hundreds of applicants fighting for a spot. Recruiters and HR professionals are often swamped with applications and it takes time to sift through all the resumes. It’s quite common to submit an application online and never hear back from an organization altogether.

Understand that silence is expected. Companies generally  will only contact individuals when they are in the running for a position. If they’re not interested, time typically does not permit them to respond to everyone that has applied.

One of the reasons why waiting for feedback on an application is so excruciating is because there is a question on the candidate’s part as to when and how often to follow-up. You want to show your enthusiasm, but certainly don’t want to come across as desperate.

Let us help clear up that confusion here, and suggest some time frames that are acceptable to both convey your high level of interest without pestering anyone.

As a general rule, it is acceptable to follow up 3 days after submitting a resume, to check on your candidacy. After you interview, you want to send a thank you note expressing your enthusiasm for the role. This follow-up letter of interest should ideally be  sent the same or the next day after your meeting. Unless they tell you a specific time frame when they will be determining who to move forward in the process, it is appropriate to follow up by both calling and emailing once a week, to stay on their radar screen. Unless they tell you that you are not a viable contender, it is appropriate to continue to  pleasantly follow up once a week until you hear back. With that said, if you have followed up 3 times with no response, you can generally assume you are not moving forward in the process. It is unfortunate that many companies do not extend the basic courtesy of giving candidates feedback on their candidacy after they have invested the time to interview, but not uncommon.

Handling Rejection

Receiving notification that you are not going to be offered a role that you interviewed for can raise a lot of self-doubt. However, rejection is  part of the process. There are always more candidates available than vacancies,   and it won’t always be you who’s getting every offer.

As with many things in life that are worth striving for, seeking a job is a numbers game.

  • It pays to remember that EVERY ‘NO’ BRINGS YOU ONE STEP CLOSER TO A YES!

When you do not get the offer, take this as an opportunity to evaluate yourself as a candidate and mull over what you can do better next time. Be GRACIOUS in hearing the news if it is delivered live and ask what you could have done to improve your chances. It is extremely important to bear in mind that it is not uncommon for a runner-up to be called back at the next vacancy.  Make a point of building relationships and leaving people with a positive impression. Even if you do not walk away with an offer, there is always a chance that you will be considered for another opportunity and at that point you will be ahead of the pack since you will already have had contact with the decision makers. Especially when interviewing for roles within a specific industry and geographic area, be cognizant of the fact that while the timing may not have been right this time around, there is a strong likelihood that you will be interviewing with these same people at some point down the line. Look at the big picture and strive to  be genial and positive in ALL your interactions,  and the chances are you will be considered for the next role that becomes available. Take the lessons you learn and use them the next time you apply for a job or go in for an interview. Don’t let rejection define you as a professional.

Not Understanding Why

Often times candidates see a job vacancy and think that they are a perfect match  for the job, forgetting that there are several factors at play. Each organization has its own culture and there’s no way to predict exactly what they are looking for. Occasionally companies will announce a vacancy only to face budget cuts which require having to retract their hiring practices for the quarter. We also commonly see companies post jobs because they are forced to because of internal policies, but they already have an internal candidate in mind for the role. Even though you feel that you are a good match for the role and the job is a perfect one for you, recognize the fact  that  you have no idea what the big picture is.

  • Not knowing what the competition is, and all the other variables involved in making a hiring decision is just part of the process.

Staying Positive

Searching for a job can often feel like an emotional roller coaster,  but it doesn’t have to be! The best approach is to keep your expectations in check,  be realistic about what you can and cannot control,  and keep moving forward despite minor setbacks.

Be positive, be professional, and carve out time every day to network with your targeted companies and hiring managers. Be active on social networks where your hiring managers and recruiters are posting and commenting, and join in the discussion. Stay abreast of industry news, and get out there and meet people.

  • By enlarging your network, the chances of connecting with someone that can help you land your next job expands exponentially.

We hope that this article will provide some comfort and clarity in the job search process, and that you will be  firmly ensconced in your new role before you know it.

International Search Consultants  is an executive recruiting service that has matched thousands of organizations with talented candidates since 1999.

Please feel free to check out our BUILD YOUR RESUME portal on our website.

Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of ISC and can be reached at or via direct dial at 888-866-7276.

Carolyn McClendon is a Senior Executive Recruiter with ISC and can be reached at or via direct dial at 888-974-0086.