How To Deal With Job Search Burnout

By Abby McCain - Jun. 16, 2021

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Ah, the job search. One of the most discouraging and rewarding tasks that often feels like a full-time job in itself.

It’s worth working hard to find a position that’s right for you, and it’s also important to set yourself up for success as you do so. This means preparing your resume and practicing your interviewing skills, but it also means protecting yourself from job search burnout.

Whether you’re a college graduate looking for your first job, a seasoned professional who is suddenly out of work, or an overworked employee who knows it’s time for a change, burning out on your job search is all too easy to do.

Not only does overworking yourself strain your physical, mental, and relational health, but it can result in shaky applications and poorly executed interviews as well.

In this article, you’ll learn more about job search burnout, how to identify it, and what you can do to avoid it.

Setting Expectations: How Long Will It Take To Find a Job?

If you’ve just started your job search and wonder why you need to be careful about burning out, just remember that it can take longer to secure a position than you might think or hope.

While there are many theories of how long it takes to find a job, the general consensus is that it can and often does take several months.

This includes the time you spend looking for positions you want to apply for, filling out applications, interviewing, and waiting on responses. Even if you find and apply for an appealing position quickly, it can still take several weeks to complete the interview process.

Now, everyone’s job search timeline is different, but it’s important to remember that you should be prepared to work at it for a long time. Because of this, going as hard and as fast as you can isn’t going to be sustainable, even if you’re unemployed and can search full time.

Warning Signs of Job Search Burnout

As you go about your job search, keep an eye out for these warning signs that you may be wearing yourself out. If you or a loved one starts to notice any of these in yourself, it’s a hint that you should stop what you’re doing and revisit your strategy.

  1. You’re easily irritated. If you’ve been hunting for a job for a while and you notice that you’re getting frustrated by small things that would normally roll off your back, you might be burning yourself out and need to change something.

    Whether you’re lashing out at your family and friends or wanting to throw that pickle jar that you can’t seem to open across the room, extra irritability is a sign that there’s a bigger stressor in your life.

    When you start to see this in yourself, take a step back from your daily grind and find a positive way to release some pressure.

  2. Your body is rebelling. Your body is great at telling you that it’s overly stressed. You just need to pay attention to it.

    Here are some common physical symptoms of stress:

    • Trouble sleeping

    • Regular headaches

    • Increased heart rate or blood pressure

    • Stomach pain or digestive problems

    • Dizziness

    • Shaking

    • Tight muscles, especially around the jaw

    • Achiness

    You might even have a symptom that isn’t on this list because every individual’s body responds to stress in its own way. If something unusual is happening, though, pay attention and think about what you might need.

  3. Exacerbated mental health struggles. If you have struggled with your mental health in the past, you might notice your symptoms worsening if you’re burning yourself out in a job search.

    Stress and burnout can also cause you to struggle with your mental health for the first time, so pay close attention to yourself, listen to family and friends who may express concern, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional counselor if you need it.

    Just as everyone gets sick at some point in their lives, everyone also struggles with their mental health at one time or another. Like a physical illness, it’s important to address mental health challenges quickly so that you can treat them properly.

  4. Simple tasks get more difficult to tackle. If you’re giving yourself a pep talk every time you have to send an email or submit a resume, that might be a sign that you’re burning yourself out with your job search.

    The same goes for not finding the motivation to do the dishes or fold the laundry.

    If the thought of doing a once-simple task stresses you out, that’s a significant sign that something needs to change.

  5. Avoiding social interaction. If you’re turning down invitations or staying home from social events you’d normally go to because you’re tired, that’s another sign of burnout.

    Once or twice on days you’re especially tired is one thing, but continuously saying no is a bad sign. Not only does it show that you’re probably very drained, but avoiding social interaction makes the problem worse in the long run since good mental and physical health relies on regular human-to-human interaction.

Fighting Job Search Burnout

So what do you do if you notice you’re burning yourself out with your job search? Or, if you’re still going strong, how do you avoid burning out in the future?

There are several steps you can take. As you read through this list, think through why you’re burned out and which of these solutions could help you combat that.

Adjust these ideas and principles to fit your own needs, which could very well change as you continue through your job search.

  1. Set your work hours. No matter how desperately you need a job, consistently burning the midnight oil isn’t going to be productive. Set aside time to find positions, fill out applications, and then give it your all during those hours.

    Once time is up, walk away from your laptop and do the other things you need and want to do: Spending time with your family, walking your dog, or going to the grocery store. Looking for a job is already stressful enough. You don’t need that stress to take over your whole life. You just need to be proactive to keep that from happening.

  2. Create a pleasant job searching environment. You might not have the space to set up a separate room as your home office, and that’s okay. You can, however, make your job searching more enjoyable by making simple adjustments to your current work environment, wherever it may be.

    Sit at a table instead of the couch to help you feel less groggy. Light a candle, play some inspiring music, and get yourself a refreshing glass of lemon water, coffee, or whatever else you like to sip on.

    Gather your laptop charger, some pens, a notepad, and any other materials you’ll need so that you don’t have to break your concentration by getting up every ten minutes.

    If you already love your work setup and just need a change of scenery, work on the back patio or go to a cozy coffee shop for an afternoon. It’s amazing how much better you’ll feel and more efficiently your brain will operate with a simple adjustment like this.

  3. Adjust your strategy. If you’ve been at your job search for a while now with no results, it’s no wonder you’re probably frustrated and tired. It’s also probably time for a new strategy.

    Change up your search criteria, look up different job boards, or get creative and reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce. They’ll likely know who’s hiring or can get you connected with someone who can help you in your search.

    If you’re finding jobs that interest you but just aren’t getting any bites, do some research on how to improve your resume or cover letter. Ask someone who has hiring experience to look at your documents and application and give you feedback, or find an agency to help you out.

  4. Make a daily to-do list that sets you up for success. The job-searching process can be incredibly discouraging, so giving yourself a win or two each day is important, even if it has nothing to do with your hunt for employment. This may mean that you write a to-do list that includes tasks like “mow the lawn” or “organize spices.”

    It may seem unnecessary to write these tasks on a list, but the power of crossing something off your list at the end of the day, even if it’s just “wash the dog,” is not to be underestimated.

  5. Connect with others. Interpersonal connections are vital to your mental health, but they can also benefit your job search.

    Look for community- or industry-specific job fairs and other networking opportunities. These are great chances to get a feel for what’s out there, to pass out your resume, and to find out what qualities companies are looking for in a candidate.

    You also might be able to connect with others in a similar situation at one of these events or on an online forum. Having these connections can help keep you motivated in your search and allow you to share tools and strategies with other job seekers.

    However you choose to pursue professional connections though, make sure you’re still connecting with friends and family: You’ll need that support system as you continue your job search.

  6. Do some research. If you’re struggling to make headway in your job search and don’t know what to do next, consider taking the time to do some in-depth research on your field.

    Conduct an informational interview with someone you admire in your field, ask to shadow someone who works in a role you might be interested in, volunteer within your industry to get a little more experience, or take a class to hone your skills.

    Not only will this help you beef up your resume, but it will also refresh you, motivate you, and may even expand your horizons to opportunities you hadn’t considered before.

  7. Schedule something you enjoy. Job hunting, while necessary, isn’t anyone’s dream job, and it often comes at the same time that you lose work that you found fulfilling. Because of this, it’s up to you to give yourself opportunities to find fulfillment elsewhere.

    This not only boosts your mental health but also helps you stay motivated while you are working on your job search.

    Carve out an hour or two each week to work on your hobby or start a new one, set up lunches or phone calls with your friends, or volunteer at an organization you’re passionate about.

    Filling your soul somewhere else helps prevent your job search from sucking all of the life out of you. Plus, you might just discover interests you didn’t know you had, opening up a whole new category of jobs to look at.

  8. Get a temporary job. One of the most stressful components of job hunting is knowing that you still have to pay your bills and put food on the table.

    Consider getting a temporary, part-time job to try to take the edge off and combat this worry. You could work at a local coffee shop, grocery store, or restaurant a few hours each week to help pad your bank account while still giving you time to work on your job search.

    Even taking odd jobs like mowing lawns, dog sitting, or nannying can be a good way to get out of the house and keep paying your bills while you look for your ideal full-time position.

  9. Make the most of your situation. Sometimes a change in mindset is all you need to make your situation seem a little better.

    If you’re unemployed for a while, take advantage of this time without a strict schedule by doing something you’ve always wanted to do.

    Maybe you’ve wanted to pick up a new hobby, get in shape, or start a side hustle. Or, if you have a business idea you just haven’t had time to pursue, now may be the best time to sit down and see if it will actually work.

    Whatever you choose to do, just make sure you aren’t using it as an excuse to abandon your job search and that you’re not putting additional strain on your family or dependents. These activities should revitalize you and open doors, not enable you to avoid going back to work.

    If done right, though, you might just be able to look back at this stressful season and say, “I’m thankful for that opportunity,” even if you wouldn’t choose to do it again.

  10. Rest. One of the best ways to combat burnout of any kind is to rest. Getting truly restorative rest takes effort and intentionality, though: It isn’t sitting on the couch scrolling through social media for days on end.

    Each person rests differently, so think about what will revitalize you. Here are some ideas:

    • Go to bed earlier

    • Schedule an hour each day to do a yoga or workout session

    • Take a day off (or even a week or month, depending on your situation)

    • Go on a lunchtime walk

    • Read a book outside

    • Have a family game night

    • Take a vacation, whether that’s a weekend getaway or a week-long adventure

    However you rest best, be sure to put an end time on your break and ask someone to keep you accountable if you think you’ll struggle to return to your job search. Rest is supposed to recharge you so that you can go back to work with new energy, not keep you from working ever again.

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Abby McCain


Abby McCain

Abby is a writer who is passionate about the power of story. Whether it’s communicating complicated topics in a clear way or helping readers connect with another person or place from the comfort of their couch. Abby attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she earned a degree in writing with concentrations in journalism and business.

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