how can I be less emotionally invested during my job search?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I am about a year into my job search and it’s really wearing on me emotionally. I finished grad school about a year ago in a STEM-related (but not lucrative) field. I am trying to stay in the area where my partner lives and it has been hard. I find myself getting overly invested in the jobs that I apply to. There have also been a couple of jobs where I got to the end of a process, which was an all day interview on site, and then got ghosted by the employer or got an automated HR rejection letter. These incidents happened a couple of months ago and I am still mad. Not that I didn’t get the job, though I was disappointed, but that after multiple stages they couldn’t send me a quick but personal rejection.

I know it’s not helpful to get upset about this kind of stuff during the hiring process. I have read your advice and know that I should assume I will not get the job and put it out of my mind after I apply. But I can’t seem to implement it. I know that the emotional investment is not helping, rejections are sending me into spirals, but everything just feels so high stakes right now. Every opportunity feels like the last one I will get. How do I let go and be more detached?

Readers, what’s your advice?

{ 117 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon Anon*

    I am assuming if you are participating in all day interviews (probably with multiple different committees and people) that it’s likely that you in academia. If so, I know what has helped me in those cases is to remind myself that academia is a different animal, and that at least in my personal experience that it tends to attract people who dislike any sort of confrontation. At least then I can remember that being ghosted or automatically rejected for a position isn’t about me.

    However, I might also encourage you to try and broaden your search a little if you can. It’s more challenging to get hung up on a single position or how you are treated, if you are busy prepping for the next interview. And good luck! Job hunting can truly stink sometimes.

    1. Meh*

      Agreed with the broadening your job search. Focus on the skills you have rather than the field you want and keep applying to positions that might be a little different but that you still have the skills for (Personal Example: I do video production, but applied to businesses, schools, sports, any field where my skills could work, even if it was just part of the job). I found if I met the goal of applying to at least 1 job per day, I don’t get hung up on any of them because I was already focused on the next application. Though of course the market is tough right now so don’t beat yourself up over it! (Easier said than done of course)

      1. Bob Belcher*

        100% agree on broadening your search. I had spent my whole pre covid career working for medical insurance companies in claims administration and medical revenue cycle doing billing and collections. I got laid off due to Covid, but was able to find work doing collections for a credit union due to my collections experience. Pre covid id never considered this type of collections work, but I ended up working for a truly great company I never would’ve considered even applying for previously.

    2. mph grad*

      Possibly not academia. I was a biochem major and had a 9-3 pm interveiw (after a phone screen) with different folks at the organization for a lab tech position at a start up!

      1. WellRed*

        That just sounds like the start up didn’t know how to hire. A full day for a lab tech?

      2. Wendy Darling*

        Yeah I’m in tech and the 9-3 interview “loop” where you talked to various different people was basically THE thing at a lot of companies before COVID caused abject interviewing chaos.

        Right now I’m interviewing for a job and I’ve just had five 1-hour video call interviews spread over 2 weeks, plus a 2-hour homework assignment… so, same thing, just smeared over a longer time period. Also one of the interviewers APPEARED to be having a glass of wine during the interview, which I’m mostly just jealous that I couldn’t join him because we’re on different continents so it was 9am my time.

      3. AlsoSTEM*

        Agree with the possibility of non-academia. I was recently job hunting in the ag/pharma/life sciences R&D sector, and those all involve half- to full-day on-site interviews (pre-Covid) with a 45-minute presentation. That’s everything from startups to major multinational corporations.

        That said, I absolutely agree that if you’re location-restricted, you need to branch out as much as possible. One example I came across: even breweries hire geneticists! And academia is a whole different beast, so if you can, get someone who’s already made the jump to give you feedback on your job talk. I approached the talk in my first interview completely backward because I had my (academic) lab mates giving me feedback.

        1. AlsoSTEM*

          Also, my job search took most of a year, and was super frustrating and disheartening. I have no great advice on how to make it not so, but tons of sympathy!

    3. Sled dog mama*

      I work in healthcare and every job interview I’ve had has been all day. Now that I think about it when in my first career (teaching) I think the shortest in person interview I had was just short of 5 hours so it might as well have been all day, but most covered at least the entire school day.

    4. Lucy 2*

      How is academia a “different animal”, exactly? I have been in academia, the private sector, and public/gov offices. Food service. Retail. They are all beasts. ALL OF THEM. There are jerks everywhere, at every level, and there are great people everywhere, at every level. The only thing in common is that each industry likes to think they are super unique/different than every other industry.

      1. Anne H*

        At least in my experience, academia is the only place where the standard final stage interview for an “entry-level” (tenure-track) job lasts two days and includes not only lots of different individual and group interviews but two wildly different types of formal presentation to a public or semi-public audience (job talk and teaching a class). Plus, the applications themselves are often more extensive—each usually requires a cover letter, teaching statement, research statement, diversity statement, CV, & letters of rec, plus whatever other random documents a specific institution requires. If I had to guess, though, I’d bet the application process for really senior positions in some other fields is quite similar; but compared to the nonprofit world or the tech sector (the only other fields about which I have direct knowledge), the academic job market is a nightmare unlike any other.

        1. Steph the Editor*

          Some jobs as ministers require that – a big portfolio, plus a presentation/preaching engagement + multi-day individual and group interviews.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          For a tenure track position, a university is essentially hiring someone for life (about 30 years, in practice), for a complex job with an extraordinary level of autonomy, which generally involves relocation (often international) for the applicant. So the application process is a lot more involved than hiring someone local for a mid-career position where you can simply fire them (or not renew their contract) if it doesn’t work out. If Google or Amazon were hiring someone for a 30 year contract with a job description of “work on interesting projects you come up with” they’d probably be pretty thorough too.

          On the applicant’s side, if they’re moving somewhere for the rest of their career, they want to get a good chance to meet with the other faculty to see if their own research fits in well with the department, if it’s an environment they’d be happy to spend 30 years working in, and to check out the location from a living point of view.

          In addition to the two-day interviews, and 20+ page application packages, there is also the glacial slowness of the process. From applying to starting the new job can easily take more than a year.

  2. Lygeia*

    I’m right there with you! I am in the midst of a job search and struggle with this as well.

    Even though I’m still a work in progress on this issue, one thing that helps me is to actually give myself a little space to get invested (counter-intuitive, I know). I find that trying NOT to just makes my brain latch on more, and then I also beat myself up over getting invested. So step one: don’t beat yourself up over this!

    Step two: allow yourself a set amount of time (idk, a few minutes?) to think about how cool it would be if you got the job you just applied to. Then, when the set time is up, do something else. Not something passive either like watching TV, but something that requires all your attention for a bit. Get your mind off of it.

    1. irene adler*

      Second this advice!
      Indulge a little, then move on to something that will thoroughly distract you. Maybe even working on the next job application can provide some distraction.

      In fact, might set up a number of fun activities for distraction. I have a number of books cued up for reading and some outdoor gardening projects for distraction. And some recipes I plan to test out. There’s a closet slated for cleaning too (good if you like that sort of thing). And I’m learning the finer intricacies of Access.

    2. EH*

      > something that requires all your attention for a bit. Get your mind off of it.

      THIS! I highly recommend it. My last two unemployed streaks, I worked my way through the “Dead Space” games on my XBox. I’d do jobhunting stuff in the morning, then it was survival horror in outer space for at least an hour or two. Those games are freaking INTENSE, and I couldn’t think about anything but the game while I was playing or the necromorphs would eat me. It helped me reset for the rest of the day.

      Finding something that occupies your whole brain (maybe gardening while listening to podcasts? logic puzzles? woodworking?) and doing it for an hour or two after working on jobhunting is really helpful.

    3. ThePear8*

      This is actually really good advice, I never thought about it but I might even have been doing this unconsciously!
      I think this is true, as humans when someone says NOT to do something, we naturally want to do it. So allowing yourself even a few minutes of indulging in the thought can maybe let you be satisfied and make it easier to move on later if you get rejected.

    4. TardyTardis*

      Would it help to adopt a specific Rejection Ritual? Set a timer, do the ritual (possibly with screaming into a pillow), and then do a closure ritual to close it off.

  3. Web Crawler*

    Do you have anything else going on in your life? This is advice I see a lot for gender transition, when you’re taking hormones and waiting for the effects to work- everything feels a lot easier when job

    1. Web Crawler*

      * when job searching (or gender transitioning) isn’t the only thing going on in your life.

      Of course, this would be easier if there wasn’t a global pandemic. But you can still do some hobbies, outdoor exercise, or learning a new skill online. Just anything so that all of your brainspace isn’t occupied by job searching.

      1. Rose*

        I would second this adding other elements to your life but go a step further and suggest finding ways specifically to find ways to feel validated and good in the rest of your life. One thing about jobs (well, good jobs that are good fits) is that people thank you for your work, you at least occasionally get praise, and you get some outside feedback on your own awesomeness. When you aren’t working and are just hearing no, it can be hard to remember how awesome you are. So maybe volunteer somewhere that will be glad to have you, play a team sport you’re good at (well, not now, but maybe someday) or just do something where you can enjoy your own abilities and possibly share them with others.

        1. Jelly-o*

          This! Getting rejected from jobs is very painful when you don’t have other things going on to make you feel good about yourself (personally this was especially bad for me job hunting during a bout of depression).

          Focus on things you’re good at when you’re on a break from job hunting, and then share your successes with others. I liked baking and making crafts, and then sending pictures of my results (or funny failures) to friends and family for some validating oohs and ahhs. Even if some were just from my mom. :-)

    2. Smithy*

      I think that this is key – when I’ve had particularly job hunting anxiety or stress – I’ve found that building out my larger life schedule has been important.

      I have X days/times when I work on applications or interview but also make sure to sandwich that with other activities and plans. If I know I’m supposed to hear end of week on a job, I try to make sure that I have other plans on that Friday, even if it’s just making a time intensive recipe. If there’s a job I need to finalize an application for, I pick a time/date like 8:30 pm knowing that there’s a tv show at 9 pm I can plan to watch with snacks, texting friends, etc. I’ve also played the mental game of “finish this activity completely, so you can start that glass of wine”.

      Basically whatever can be done to emphasize non-job hunt time in my life.

        1. Smithy*

          This may make me sound like a bit of a lush – but when I know I need to work on not getting overly emotionally invested in job hunting – I’ve found alcohol as a key marker of “no job hunting activities can be done now”.

          Not that I advocate mixing drinking with work as a general practice, but in my field there will be work happy hours or dinners that involve alcohol. Or I’ll be out with friends, and casually check/respond to certain work emails or messages without much concern. But it helps me make stronger divisions in my life, particularly when I’m looking to establish barriers.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I actually just straight up gave myself business hours during my last job search, since I was unemployed. I only did job searching activities from 9am-5pm, and then I was DONE. It helped some?

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Agree with this, and you might even consider going another step further and creating goals outside of your career and spend your time working towards those. I’m not job hunting, but I feel slightly stuck in my current role. Not having another stepping stone immediately in front of me caused me to turn my focus to endurance sports, which was already a casual hobby. Also working on some household financial goals.

      2. AudreyParker*

        Ugh, it is so hard to let myself do anything not somehow connected to job search when I keep reading about how having resume gaps is the kiss of death and how you’ll be grilled about what you’ve been doing with all of your time (assuming it will be about something intensively work-related), even when I know I’m less productive if I run myself into the ground with this stuff. Every time I even think about a hobby, I decide I can’t waste my energy on something non-productive…

        1. Anonym*

          Ooh, cut yourself some slack! What you’re describing is the burnout track.

          It takes persistence to get away from the idea, but our value as people is in fact not tied to our productivity. And, perhaps counter-intuitively, when we have space and time in which productivity is NOT the goal, we’re more recharged and less anxious and tend to work better when it is time to work.

          Please let yourself off the hook some of the time! You’ll truly be better off for it.

          1. AudreyParker*

            Yep, I am SO burnt out, I’ve been at this for a legit long time — I forget what it’s like not to be madly job searching 7 days a week. I think the fact that I’ve pretty much ground to a halt on progress there just makes me feel like I should throw even more time & energy at it, even though I basically just go in circles now: “here are a bunch of jobs I’m now competing with the entire country for > I will never be the top candidate > which jobs will no one else want, apply for those > this is too depressing, I’m going to die alone in the street” Working on being ok letting myself spend small bits of time on things I’m actually interested in (or, at this point, laundry), but it’s definitely tough when *income* is tied to not-fun productivity…

            1. No Sleep Til Hippo*

              I’d also like to point out (and being knee-deep in recruiting, I’ve given this a lot of thought):

              Anyone who sees a resume gap that starts at any point in 2020, and doesn’t IMMEDIATELY understand why it’s there, probably has the memory span of a goldfish or the empathy of a bag of bricks. This is a great time to not worry about resume gaps.

              1. AudreyParker*

                Unfortunately, 2020 is just compounding a pre-existing gap, so I’m not expecting much sympathy there… Plus I keep reading how you’ll need to demonstrate all the volunteering, skill-building etc you’ve been doing for the past 6 months–I don’t think “navigating the new complexities of acquiring groceries & hoping my parents don’t die before I see them again” is going to fly. Just adds a lot of extra paralyzing stress on top of the job search stress I’ve been living for well over a year. And then I read that you’ll be judged on how you’re handling THIS stress and… uuuuggghhhh

    3. Mazzy*

      Good advice for all things. I’m sitting here an hour a day watching the stock market going up and down because I’ve become hyper aware of my money once my social life and going to the office and the gym disappeared during the lockdown.

      I think I need to take your advice and force myself to fill up lots of time with someone so I won’t be capable of logging into my accounts and looking at the same things over and over again.

  4. SufjanFan*

    Just dropping by to say… OP, I see you and I feel you on this! I’m many months in my job search, and it’s very hard to not feel completely demoralized. Keep with it, sending you positive vibes!

  5. Kierson*

    Sometimes when I feel this way, I like to think that the position I’m meant to end up in is still occupied by someone. Maybe they are struggling with their own job search, or are relocating and haven’t finalized plans. Knowing that perhaps my next role hasn’t been posted and will be when that person puts in their resignation is oddly helpful (personally).

    In the meantime, I try to view all the interviews I go on as practice. I’m warming up for the big one, the real deal. But if I just view them as practice, I don’t put as much weight in them. Another strange practice that helps me detach is focusing on all the negatives of the job, or the interview, or the company. It’s like I psych myself down from getting too excited.

    I hope this helps! I haven’t searched during a pandemic, but I used to help people find jobs and would regularly field questions like that. What you’re going through is common.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      “I like to think that the position I’m meant to end up in is still occupied by someone. Maybe they are struggling with their own job search, or are relocating and haven’t finalized plans.”

      This is such a nice perspective, I think I will adopt it was similar to the one I used while dating, and I did end up finding my husband, haha!

    2. Pen keeper*

      Yes This! I literally do the same, I try to find one positive thing about NOT getting the job (like not having to take the train, or that the office seemed a bit boring) so that if I don´t get it I can react with a “Phew! That´s for the best” and then move on. Thought I was weird for doing that, glad to know I´m not alone.

  6. Bookworm*

    I can relate, OP. I’ve been on long job searches and still get mad about certain rejections or processes, etc. where I am baffled people actually go to work for these organizations, etc.

    I don’t know what area that you’re in, but I’ve also found it helpful to apply to jobs that I don’t know if I’d be a good fit for, jobs that I’m definitely under-qualified for, etc. It may not be possible for you if you’re in a specialized area, I know, but I found that useful so I wasn’t so invested in that ONE job I’d be a perfect fit for. Sometimes it has been worth it because someone passes along my materials and that gives me an “in” although this hasn’t led to actual jobs for me and may not work for you.

    Good luck!!

    1. Mazzy*

      This is good advice because it throws away the notion that you can tell you’d be a “perfect fit” just from an ad. I’m reminded of one job that I thought I’d be a “perfect fit” for. Phone screen went well. But the in-person showed there was a big detachment between the ad/phone screen and the actual job.

      The actual job was a $15K – $20K pay cut and working for a bit of a micromanager. He didn’t seem to want people to rise up, but to stay performing in a limited role. Then I found out there were a few family members of an exec floating around who interjected in stuff and were doing a bit of resume padding by trying out new things (of course it wasn’t worded that way, but I got the gist and then looked at glassdoor more closely, later). Also, I didn’t get the feeling that new ideas and innovation were welcomed.

      So you might find that something you think you’re a perfect fit for isn’t perfect.

    2. Wendy Darling*

      I’m currently 5(!) interviews deep into the interviewing process for a job I applied to on impulse even though the job title was something I was ABSOLUTELY not qualified for.

      Turns out the recruiter just posted it with a crappy, inaccurate title. Who knew!

  7. AndersonDarling*

    Once I saw what goes on with recruitment, I understood why I got form letter rejections. It’s one thing if you are applying at a company of 20 employees and the recruiter and hiring manager can have personalized communication, but a regular sized company’s recruiters are juggling dozens of open positions and each have 2-5 candidates interviewing. And they are handling all the applications, skill testing, references, scheduling interviews, phone screens, background checks, and documenting documenting documenting!
    We think that it would just take a minute to make a phone call, but that phone call involves talking to all the people the candidate interviewed with to get feedback, preparing that information into appropriate statements, documenting everything, pulling up the record and playing phone tag with the candidate…and then there is the risk that the candidate will dispute the reasons they didn’t get the job or they will keep the recruiter on the phone for 20 minutes. That can take hours of work that a busy recruiter doesn’t have.
    I used to get very emotionally invested in interviews. But as my career advanced, I had a better understanding that it is all a business transaction. I am looking for the best employer, and they are looking for the best employee, and sometimes we match and sometimes we don’t.

    1. Colette*

      I think this is really key. It feels like a personal rejection, but it’s really not. It’s a matching game without true matches; everyone is just trying to come up with the closest fit they can.

      And sometimes it’s not even that – it’s that some other department overspent or 3rd quarter results aren’t looking good so they cut the position, or that some other department had a position get cut so they wanted to find a new position for the affect position.

      I think sometimes getting invested feels productive – you’re putting a lot of energy into something you can’t control. But it’s not actually helpful, so you will be happier (and possibly do better) if you treat it as a two-way process and detach a little.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t skate right by this, OP, “I am looking for the best employer…”.

      All too often we think, “I hope they like me, I hope they like me…” and forget all about we should be checking to see if we like THEM.

      In order to take back your power, you may consider building a little report card, where you go home and use the report card to “grade” how they did as interviewers and as a company. The report card can be a list of things that are important to you in a workplace. If you can’t get enough info on a particular line item, give them an “incomplete”.

    3. ThePear8*

      This. I attended a virtual conference earlier this year for students in the industry I am hoping to get into, and in a panel of recruiters I asked a question about how to escape from the pattern of being met with a form rejection months later without even an interview. The panelists said you have to keep scale in mind – one of them worked for a small, independent business and received hundreds of applications! Another panelist who worked in house for a very large and well known company in the industry, one which is sort of a household name, said one summer he got over 32,000 applications for an internship! With a number like that, even with a team of recruiters there’s just no way they could possibly get back to everyone quickly, if at all.
      It kind of helped me take rejections and the whole job searching process a lot less personally too. Now rather than being frustrated when I don’t hear anything, I think about that panelist with 30k applications. I imagine a poor recruiter swamped with applications, working hard and doing their best to keep up. So it makes my mindset more of understanding that hiring is hard work, rather than just being annoyed that they couldn’t even take a minute for me personally to send me a nicer email.

    4. StardustStell*

      I’m going on 20 years in my career and don’t agree with this. I do think it gets easier once you’ve job searched a few times in your career to deal with the rejection, but I really don’t think it’s unfair to expect respect from recruiters. to be clear I don’t mean situations where you’re 1-2 rounds in. But beyond that, interviews that involve you spending all day with a team, or homework assignments, or multiple rounds meeting with C-levels that don’t result in an offer should be given the courtesy of a phone call and a thank you and a willingness to potentially answer why it wasn’t a match.

      At that point you’re often 1 of few people in the process and it shouldn’t be unreasonable to expect quick personal outreach. A year ago I was in a very intense and extensive process for a high level position where over a month I met with the hiring manager, the full team I would manage, 2 stakeholder teams, and the whole c-suite. Each time it involved so much of my time to research and prep properly. For reasons I’m still not completely sure of, I didn’t get the offer but I did get a personal phone call from HR and he did his best to get me feedback. It was highly appreciated and warmed me to them despite the outcome.

  8. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I asked myself if I wrote this in my sleep! I finished grad school in Feb, but have been looking for a job for 18 months, (and I’ve moved back to Germany where my husband is from to boot, where in the past I’ve had no trouble finding jobs). Corona has killed so many of my prospects – at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I don’t know what more I can do to make myself more marketable. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I’m getting invested in a lot of these positions and waking up to rejection emails each day is so crushing. I don’t want to have to live in a different town than him, but it’s looking more like I’m going to have to consider it, at least for a while in order to survive, maybe you will too? Thanks for sending in this question, I will be following the comments!

  9. notacompetition*

    It’s tough out there. I really feel for you, I graduated in 2008, straight into a recession, and it led me to be way less picky about the employment opportunities I could access.

    I think some holistic detachment in your life may help you overall. If you didn’t get the job, it wasn’t meant to be. If you were ghosted, you probably wouldn’t want to work there anyway. And some self tough love might help: though it’s rude to be ghosted or put you through your paces and then reject you, no one actually owes you anything. And you can take some satisfaction that if the roles were reversed, you would likely reach out to a rejected candidate in the way you’re envisioning (‘m assuming, since that is what it seems like your desired outcome would be).

    It helps me a lot to just share my feelings with one or two trusted friends, verbalize the feeling and experience instead of just having it live in my internal monologue, maybe journal about it, and then move on. I have regular issues fixating on negative experiences, and this stuff, along with therapy and recognizing I need to let it go/put it somewhere like in a notebook or with a friend/take a walk or physically remove myself from where I am sitting and thinking my way into a negative spiral/etc. have helped me a lot.

  10. Brightwanderer*

    This is going to sound like overkill, but if it’s possible for you I’d consider seeing a therapist periodically while you’re job-hunting. Not because there’s anything “wrong” with you or your reactions to this, but because there’s a lot of emotional investment in looking for a job – of course! – and you need somewhere to “put” those emotions without letting them mess up your search or overwhelm you.

    (And again, just to be clear, I am very much in the camp of “everyone should see a therapist periodically for a mental and emotional check in, and we as a society should normalise this and make it affordable” – so I’m not implying anything about your ability to cope.)

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Or parallel suggestion, perhaps see a message therapist, if and when possible. I went through a spot in life where my back tightened up so bad, that it felt like concrete if I tried to rub my shoulders or my neck. Even a half hour message once a month can be a time out from all that tension. I know first hand, it does not get better on its own.

      Physical and mental concerns leach over on to each other. I am a big fan of a two pronged attack. Do something for you physically and do something for yourself emotionally/mentally.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Amen to that. I couldn’t concentrate at work for a good chunk of last month due to headaches; my massage place finally opening back up meant some muscles in my neck opened back up so I could think again.

        Really, do whatever you can to take care of your body. Being physically healthy isn’t likely to solve all the mental issues, but at bare minimum it keeps physical issues from making the mental ones worse. Getting sufficient food, water, exercise, sleep, and hygiene are my top-five over-the-counter recommendations for any mental problem.

  11. DW*

    Sounds like some of this is application fatigue. Since employers automate their job hiring, I’ve automated my application process. I keep a nice formatted resume document for PDF submissions and a text-only version to copy-paste into the text boxes so I don’t spend a lot of time typing out. (Also lets me look at what I include in the resume and chose what the best wording is, instead of deciding what to include based off fitting it all in the format I use. The format should work around the content, not the other way around.) An application minus the cover page shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to fill out. Same with providing references, thinking of answers to standard screening interview questions, etc. – keep your standard answers written somewhere so you don’t spend any more mental energy than you need on them. The less you invest, the less you’re likely to get invested and the easier it’ll be to fill out yet more applications.

    (I also keep a spreadsheet with the info of each job I’ve applied to, and sometimes even save the application info for each job so I can reference back to it in future applications or interviews. But that’s just me, I love data.)

    Also, when you get traction with one of your applications, are you still applying to other jobs in the meantime? A lot of people fall into the trap of stopping their job search when they get some interest from a couple employers. No matter where you are in the interview process, keep searching and applying to new opportunities. That way, if/when the rejection comes, you can look at all the other ongoing prospects and say, well there’s a lot of opportunities I still have.

    Lastly, what are you doing with your time in the meantime? Job searching shouldn’t be a full-time job. If you’re working on projects, volunteering, etc., then your mind won’t constantly be occupied with the applications. During a typical day give yourself a time limit for how long you’ll spend on applications and job search-related activities.

    1. DW*

      Forgot to add a caveat – obviously having a one-size-fits all resume doesn’t work for everyone, and it didn’t work for me. I kept files of the formatted & text-only resume with absolutely everything included, even different wordings of the same job (when there were different ways to pitch it for different jobs). I deleted out what I didn’t need and saved copies of the edited resumes in the subfolder for that application. Applications should be personalized to fit the job, but the very simple things like job & academic history should be very simple copy-paste.

    2. Aggie*

      I’m also searching post-grad school and I came to say something similar — I’ve found that the more you treat the application process as a true logistical process, the easier it is to stay detached. Like DW, I have a standard resume saved and a word doc with simply formatted text to copy and paste into the “employment history” sections after the ATS totally mangles your resume text. I also try to take steps in bulk, eg, 1) Find/Save positions; 2) Make accounts/fill in online forms; 3) Write cover letters. If you’re hitting “submit” one right after another I think it’s easier to separate.

      Someone upthread mentioned keeping a spreadsheet, which I debated with a friend recently. I think it’s depressing, but he thinks it’s proof that he’s done something. There’s no one great tracking system.

  12. Mel_05*

    When I was job searching and jobless I found it helpful to work through my emotions in journaling and making little comics about how much it sucked.

    That might not be your thing, but maybe there’s some other outlet you could use.

    1. Titta*

      This is good advice! If OP is not into writing or drawing, maybe they can find humor and relief from other’s work. Im sure there is plenty to find.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      During my unemployed job hunting time, I put a lot of energy into various crafts. Learning to sew clothes took hours of focus for me on most days. I set aside time to practice the piano (something I hadn’t done in many years). I worked on a couple of children’s stories and illustrated them – they’re not publishing quality, but it was really good to have something so different from job-hunting to work on.

      Side note: it did not stop me from the occasional panic attack and sleepless night, but it was one way to take my brain off thinking about various applications during the day.

  13. Titta*

    I agree with others: keep yourself busy. Also try to concentrate on the process rather than obsess over the outcome. So put all your energy on one step at the time, just on what you need to do right now. You can only follow the concrete steps: write an application, prepare for the interview, sent the thank you note. And you work is done. I’ve been there for 8 months on the past. I wish you good luck!

  14. Goldenrod*

    I don’t think there’s any way to really avoid feeling emotionally attached while job-hunting – it’s part of the process. You have to feel invested to be able to convincingly sound invested in interviews – and you have to mentally project yourself into the job and the future it implies.

    Having said that, I think just accepting that you WILL feel this kind of pain helps. And repetition helps. It gets a little easier to detach each time. In my last job search, I was the second runner-up 3 or 4 times. After a while, though it still hurts, you start understanding on a deeper level that it’s all part of the process. And then – eventually – you are the first choice!

    You can accept the disappointed/hurt feelings, but try to take it for what it is – a passing feeling – without building up a lot of storylines about it.

    Good luck!

    1. A Person*

      This is a really really good point. Sometimes we end up spending extra energy trying to change our emotions when it’s simply not possible. You will likely be invested if a job sounds like a good fit and you get to the end! This strengthens you as a candidate! But with the “spirals” I do wonder if some of this is from trying to escape the emotion rather than letting yourself feel the pain and disappointment. (This is pretty much lifted straight from the ACT therapy I’ve done in the past, Google if you’re interested. It was a game changer for me personally.)

  15. Jlh*

    It’s the worst, I’m so sorry. I think having a hinterland helped me in the dry spells. You are more than your job search, but sometimes it feels like every application is a referendum on your value as a person and it’s super important to get beyond that. ALSO so that you can get beyond the awful depressing sympathy people give you!

  16. insert pun here*

    I used to give myself 24 hours to really wallow (ice cream, pajamas, wine, bad tv) after getting rejected for a job. 48 hours for jobs I really, really wanted. Obviously I still felt sad or disappointed after the 24 hours was up, but it was way less acute.

    1. Quinalla*

      Yup, I agree with this approach, give yourself permission to grieve, have a pity party, whatever you want to call it. Have a little ritual if you want for it even to bring yourself closure and then after that pick yourself up and move on. And yeah, it isn’t like feelings will vanish, but I think really allowing yourself to feel and process that will help you to move on faster.

      And I think part of that ritual might be reminding yourself that there will be lots more opportunities – that this is not your last shot because it sounds like you’ve really internalized that and it is at least one of the things making this feel even worse.

    2. Jennifleurs*

      Yes, I did this. It felt better than trying not to react at all.

      I also used to throw myself IMMEDIATELY back into the jobsearch, just for an hour or so. I often found I was more confident/careless in applying to jobs I didn’t meet the criteria for while I was doing that kind of spite-applying lol.

  17. drpuma*

    Regular volunteering helped get me through a long job search. Since I had so much time on my hands, I was able to volunteer more frequently for a cause that’s important to me. It really helped to get that dopamine hit a couple of times a week of “I’m giving tangible help to people and my skills are valuable.” I know that volunteer opportunities seem less obvious when we’re mostly staying at home, but they are still out there. Good luck!

    1. Laura H.*

      I still do this and honest to God, I think the fact that I’ve still got something to do and that I’m filling a need for someone else while I kick my “I’m useless/ not worth hiring” inner jerk has helped me not be so darn mopey about not getting interviews or hired from the applications that seem like they’re going into the void.

      As a side note, I put it under my other experiences section in my resume cause while my job history could be read as spotty and confusing (consistent seasonal retail stints that sandwich a 3 year long position in the same company- moved locations, hence the current seasonality), the volunteer experience has been going since 2013- I feel it augments the longevity my jobs seem to lack.

    2. Greige*

      Agreed! BTDT. Searching for a job is and should be your full-time job while you’re unemployed, but full-time jobs do not take up all of your waking hours, and neithet should this. Volunteering helps you remind yourself that you are more than what someone pays you to do. It also helps you keep up your social skills and work ethic, which you’ll need both for the application process and your future job. Hang in there!

  18. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    Honestly, it’s really tough. You want to come into job searches feeling confident, rather than desperate. It’s why people usually interview better when they are already at a good job, or when they are going after a job they don’t really care about getting. The confidence and relaxation help a lot.

    But that sucks, because you are looking for a job and frustrated and of course you don’t feel good…

    A few ideas:

    1) There is some truth to “fake it until you make it.” But I don’t think you can start faking it when you arrive at reception for your interview. Maybe think about how you act in the times in your life when things are going well, and you are doing your best work. What are your routines? What are your habits? How do you talk? – Can you picture that? Good. Now do that. If you always make your bed first thing when your life is good, pretend things are great, and make your bed every morning. Tell yourself that you are doing well and feel good about yourself. That kind of thing.

    2) Another tip is exercise. Pick a routine you like and that works for you, and start doing it. If you have one already, push it a bit – set a race goal, switch your usual pyramids for a card deck workout, shake things up and challenge yourself a bit. Physical effort can wear out your feelings of fear and frustration. It can change how you carry yourself. It helps with mental health.

    3) Talk to someone. Get on the phone with a friend. Go to therapy. Have dinner with the partner every night with phones off. This coronavirus thing is isolating and lonely. Be with people.

    4) Getting a job out of grad school can be tough. You don’t say whether you are working right now, but if you are not working, pick up something – internship, tangentially-related-to-your-field work, entry-level jorb in your industry… It might not be a resume builder, but it gets you out of grad school mindset and into ‘world-of-work’ mindset. The cultures of academia and industry are different, and it will help to be immersed in the one you want to go to.

    5) Remember that you are awesome! You got a grad degree. In a STEM field! My work struggles mightily to find people with advanced STEM degrees. It’s impressive and valuable.

    Good luck :)

    1. Not a Girl Boss*

      I definitely agree that the number on thing is to keep your confidence up, as hard as that is. Literally stand in front of a mirror before each interview and compliment yourself on all the way’s you’re awesome and the company would be lucky to have you. It sounds silly but once I have tried a few times I finally manage to squeek out the compliments in a strong voice. Then I try to bottle up the essence, examine my confident self as if I’m an actor studying to play a role, and then try to put on that acting face when I get into the interview.
      Another piece of advice I’ve heard that works well for me, is to talk about myself as if I’m talking about my best friend. Heck, I don’t care if you really are picturing your best friend and pretending its her you’re complimenting. Or call up a friend and ask them to compliment you for 5 minutes, and then say “people tell me I’m ___” in an interview. All of these things help combat that natural female tendency to avoid talking about ourselves.

      Every single job offer I’ve ever gotten, I’ve had the hiring manager remark on my enthusiasm and confidence. And there have definitely been times where the string of rejections really gets to me, and my confidence is down going into the interview, and because of that I bomb it. I’ve never ever gotten an offer out of an interview where my general mood going in was desperate or uncertain.

      The other big thing for me has been to remind myself that this isn’t a personal judgement about me as a human being. Its a business investment in ‘human capital’ and I wasn’t their chosen investment. Good fits work both ways, and you ultimately don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t want you because it means you wouldn’t be that good fit.
      Even on jobs I really desperately wanted, I force myself to say out loud after the rejection “Good riddance, if they can’t see how awesome I am I don’t want to work for them anyway.”

      And finally my last piece of advice is to rehearse telling a handful of stories that can be used for the common STAR questions (tell me about a time when you made a mistake, when you had to work with a difficult person, when you had to persevere through a tough challenge, etc). Being well rehearsed in your story telling, rather than stumbling through it for the first time, automatically adds confidence points.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        It’s true! I started filming myself answering interview questions as practice. You just need a phone leaned against some heavy books. Nothing fancy. You feel like you are going to die of cringe the first (for me) fifty times you do it.

        But then you start to gradually realize that the only thing that works to make your video of yourself not humiliatingly awful is to slow down, breathe from your stomach, let your voice migrate back downward from the squeaky nervous place at the top of your your throat… And then, all of the sudden, the person on video is becomes someone you could see getting hired to do the job.

  19. deesse877*

    OP, I don’t know whether you’re looking at academic or non-ac jobs, but either way, if you just finished a degree you have been intensely socialized for years and years to do exactly this–over-invest in the application process. It’s a major way that grad school, as such, is abusive.

    Therefore, my advice is:

    1. Like others have said, cultivate other parts of life

    2. If you can, try learning some about hiring processes, like AndersonDarling suggests. Knowing how the sausage is made **really** depersonalizes it, in my experience. If you are going for research and teaching positions, reading in the sociological literature on academic labor can be enlightening and clarifying, but there is also the vast, decentralized, socially-mediated “how-to-apply” discourse. Anything from the POV of a hiring committee can illuminate (and I suppose that’s true of non-ac employment too).

    3. Make sure that your partner gets how geographical limitations affect you.

    1. voluptuousfire*

      There’s a recruiter, Amy Miller, who runs a blog called Recruiting in Yoga Pants. She’s really great–very funny and smart and straight shooting. Very similar to Alison. :)

      She breaks down the entire process from soup to nuts in her vidoes and blog posts. Knowing how the sausage is made really does help a lot. Having an idea of the “why” behind things (even in a high level way) at least gives you perspective and despersonalized things a bit.

    2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Oh my goodness yes. Leaving grad school is like getting deprogrammed from a cult.

  20. Allie*

    This is more relevant for applications rather than on-site interviews, but I started applying for jobs on an email account I’d made specifically for job hunting rather than the go-to Gmail address that I use for everything. I found that I took rejections less personally if it was on this separate account – this is my job search account, and rejection is part of the process, right? It was a small and insignificant change that’s saved me frustration over the years.

  21. Summersun*

    I couldn’t find a job in my field after the disaster that was 2008…for SIX YEARS. It destroys your health, your spirit, and your bank account.

    At a certain point I had to find anything to earn money, no matter what it was. Serving and retail are precarious right now, but that’s what I turned to during my pre-Covid unemployment. I’d suggest taking on anything you can do safely to earn a bit–not necessarily because it will make a huge dent in your bills, but because it will head off the aimlessness and listlessness.

    1. Lost Oregonian*

      I was coming to say something similar. I too graduated from grad school into the great recession and it SUCKED. I once applied for an entry level counseling job that paid $14/hour and found out that there had been over 700 applicants including dozens of PhD’s and PSYDs. That was…very demoralizing.

      I had worked at Starbucks through much of grad school, and I ended up going back there for awhile (in addition to some other things like tutoring). I worked 20 hours a week at Starbucks (which got me benefits, which I desperately needed). I REALLY didn’t want to go back, because I was so demoralized about having this fancy new degree and not using it. BUT, it turned out that working part time at Starbucks really allowed me turn my brain off for awhile. I would schedule my job search around my shifts, and being able to go do something that a) I was really good at b) used a totally different part of my brain really allowed me respite in the midst of my search and it took away some of the financial stress (Starbucks pays better than you might think).

      I ended up getting a great job, actually that’s not quite true. I got a job in my field that was…hard, but great experience and ended up being a launchpad to what has become an amazing career. FWIW, that career has also gone in a surprising direction and I’m doing work I NEVER would have thought of when I was in grad school.

      Finally, I just want to say OP — I’m so sorry. Looking for a job is the worst job I’ve ever had. It totally sucks.

  22. Nesprin*

    I think that not getting invested is not gonna work, esp if you’re looking at the academic job market, where you’re presenting your work (which is deeply personal- there’s a reason we academics have curricula vitae, which directly translates to description of your life) and essentially interviewing your future colleagues (which is also, deeply personal- to be discussing potential work you could do together making plans and then receiving an automated rejection email).

    Speaking from personal experience- I’d built a castle in the air about what each position would be like, spent hundreds of hours preparing and not-caring wasn’t an option for me when I was on the job market. I’d actually try giving yourself time, to sit and think about how disappointing each rejection is and be sad and angry and disappointed. Worth also communicating to spouses/family that sad is the correct response and not a response that needs fixing (my spouse was baffled and utterly unhelpful- think “you’ll get the next one” when the next cycle when I could even apply was 6mos away). It takes time to get over that sort of thing (why didn’t you want me? isn’t my work, which i’ve dedicated my life to, enough?) and in my experience, the only way is through.

    One last thought- Dear Sugar’s ghost ships piece might be useful (though about infertility/trigger warning) she writes beautifully about the paths we do not walk.

  23. hmbalison*

    I got laid off last year and when I interviewed for jobs, I invested in thinking about working at the company with the people I spoke to, too. It felt terrible when I didn’t get an offer after sometimes having 6-8-10 interviews for a job and the company didn’t even bother to call when they said they would with a decision one way or another. The companies that were rude and didn’t even bother to call when they said they would to let me know their decision–I’m glad I ended up not working for them. What helped me the most was reading Ask a Manager and joining a job-hunting organization where the message was the same: act like you won’t hear about the job/won’t get the job and keep applying for other jobs. I basically got a thicker skin to survive. I’d come back from a terrific interview and immediately look at job listings and apply for something new to keep on moving. Good luck!

  24. AnonPi*

    I think part of this is going to have to be a bit of learning that this is pretty much the norm, and to change your expectations. Even high level positions often get standard rejection emails sent out nowadays. Think jobs where you’re flown out for interviews and interview all day, perhaps even go into two days – would’ve been unthinkable in the past, but now not so much. And there is a lot of reasons for this (people are busier, tech is so much easier, how we communicate has changed) but generally none of it is personal, it’s just how it is.

    I’ve been applying heavily for the last year after finishing my master’s (well till Covid, now there’s just so many fewer postings and I feel the need to be more cautious what I’d leave my current job for). I can’t tell you how many I thought I (and many others) thought I was a shoe-in for. And I get frustrated too (especially since I’m in not so great position, both job wise and work culture wise). And it can wear on you – both the rejections and just the job hunting. Hell job hunting can practically be a full time job itself. When you get to this point consider backing away for a bit, even just taking a weekend to not job hunt and do something else for yourself can help. Or set only so much time for job hunting and outside those hours, be sure you get to do other things you enjoy. I got myself into a terrible thought pattern of feeling guilty if I wasn’t doing anything but job hunting outside work, and that’s just not healty.

    The other thing to consider being a fellow STEM person, if you aren’t aware already, is that STEM jobs are hard to get in the first place – at least ones you would want. There’s all this hullabaloo about STEM jobs and how you can just walk out with your bachelors and land a 50K job in two weeks, and it’s a bunch of crap. There’s very niche STEM jobs that this kind of thing happens, but for many that’s just not the case. And with the economy the last well, decade, things have shifted as what you can expect. Jobs that a BS would get you now requires a MS. PhDs are doing jobs that previously would’ve only required a Masters. There’s reasons many people do multiple post-doc positions, and top of them is they can’t find a permanent job, so they end up doing post-docs for years (one of my friends did this – after being a postdoc for 8 years she finally got a regular job offer). And don’t get me started on academics, there are so few jobs out there for everyone wanting to be a prof. and the working conditions at many universities are horrid (sexism, burnout, being overworked – toxic environments are all aplenty).

    When I was told at my last job to start looking (I had been a subcontract for years, told I was going to be hired but never happened, then warned at some point they would let me go), I spent two years searching and only had one solid job offer (and then not really since it came with a 5K cut in pay and was only guaranteed for 2 years). At the time I only had two undergrad degrees and half a masters, so most jobs open to me were just straight lab rats or field grunts (used to do jobs that a robot could just about do, or mostly manual labor in the middle of nowhere). I was getting old enough I didn’t want to slog in creeks for 10 hour days, and I’m not one to do lab production work. And many only paid like 12/hour, which hell I could be paid more than that doing admin work. Which is what I ended up doing. And that may be something you’ll have to consider, especially if you don’t want to relocate (relocation would really up your chances of finding something, and is common enough in STEM that most places won’t think twice about you moving to take a STEM job). Am I a 100 percent satisficed/fulfilled? No. It’s at least at a R&D lab, so that helps as I feel I’ve kept my toe in the water so to speak, but admittedly it’s not the same. At the same time I’m paid way better than I would’ve ended up with if I’d took one of the STEM jobs I could find, and that matters a lot to me (also pretty good benefits). If you don’t find something soon, maybe consider looking at other jobs that could utilize your skill set. You don’t have to do it forever, but at least you’d be working, and would alleviate some stress. It’s a lot less stressful to job hunt when you already have a job (or not worried about losing your current job at short notice). Then you can take your time to network, if you need other skills to make yourself more appealing you can work on those, and focus on applying to jobs you really want. Sorry, long reply is looonngg, lol. Good luck with your search, try to be patient, and take time for a mental break from job hunting regularly.

  25. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Apply the mindset the statistics (and possibly economic decision making) you studied in your STEM degree.

    Instead of looking at each potential job sequentially (*this* is the one I’m going to get!), look at them in the aggregate. And don’t look back, only look forward – starting today (ie, ignore sunk costs).

    “Over the next three months, I’m going to apply to 80 jobs; the statistics say that I should then get 20 screening calls, which means 5 in-person all-day interview, which ought to result in 1 offer”.

  26. Amy Sly*

    I’d like to second the comments about spending time doing other things, but at least some of those other activities should be focused on one of two things: accomplishing something tangible and/or doing something that adds to your sense of identity. Whether it’s an organized bookshelf or a craft project (I’ve gotten into diamond painting lately for this), you want to have something you can point to as “this is what I’ve done this week.”

    Additionally, a probable part of why you’re getting emotionally invested in job applications is your desire to answer the question “Who am I?” with “a person working in X field.” That’s a perfectly reasonable desire! No doubt it’s big part of what motivated you through grad school, if not undergrad and high school. I get how that desire to be what you trained to be is a big part of what you based your self-image on; I’m a lawyer ten years out of graduation who’s never actually practiced law.

    But what else are you? A cat’s staff-member? A musician? A gamer? A runner? Find ways to improve your feelings of self-worth by acknowledging yourself as more than just “person may do X if this job comes through.” And the good news is that developing additional facets of you can bring you in contact with new people, who even if they can’t network you into a job, can at least help support you.

  27. 9to4ever*

    I went through this last year, and all I can say now that I have hindsight, is that I lost a lot of sleep over jobs I ended up not getting, only to secure the role I have now, which is fantastic…I never would have known about it if I had started a new role in August vs. December, which is when they reached out. I know it hurts to get rejected, but doesn’t mean that the reality you end up in once your job search is complete won’t be fabulous…it kind of reminds me of trying to get pregnant, in fact….all of the heartbreak when it took a while, then realizing you wouldn’t have the kid you have if you’d been successful earlier. I totally understand how you feel, though!

  28. Goldenrod*

    Oh, I thought of another thing that really helped me! Always have another iron in the fire. That way, if you get rejected, you always have something else to think about/look forward to.

    You still have to project yourself emotionally into each job prospect – but when there is more than one, it really lessens the blow when one doesn’t work out. It reminds you that there are other options, not just one chance.

    1. MayLou*

      This is basically my advice too – try to think of a reason why it might be good if you DON’T get the job, as well, so that you can be pleased for the sake of that thing if you’re rejected. It could be any tiny thing: won’t miss X event because I’m working, will be able to sleep in on my birthday, can babysit niblings on a school training day, whatever it is.

  29. Eastcoaster*

    When job-hunting I tend to make the job/company/manager seem like the PERFECT fit in my head and I ignore any red flags in the process, and then when I didn’t get the job I was devastated. Obviously later it was easier to look back and see that it wasn’t the right fit, and that it was a good thing I didn’t end up there. BUT in the moment especially if you don’t get to proceed all you can think of is how great of a job it was.
    But all that to say- this may sound super negative but maybe trying to picture the reasons why it was NOT a good fit or things that maybe weren’t perfect so then you can move onto the “that wasn’t the right fit” a little quicker and move onto the next opportunity.

  30. Jenny Says*

    A few years back I was being interviewed for a well-known non-profit in my area. I went through 4 interviews (I’m pretty sure they forgot about my scheduled second interview as I re-met with the hiring manager rather than the boss who I was supposed to meet). I also met with the Executive Director who aggressively questioned why I wanted to leave the job I had. After a pretty draining process that seemed disorganized, I received a form letter in the mail that started: Dear SAYS. No Ms/Mrs./Miss. No first name. Just my last name and how I wasn’t the right fit. In the end, it just confirmed I was lucky not to work for them, if they couldn’t even bother to personalize my name.

    More recently, I interviewed for a position at my current company. It is a completely different career, so I recognized I might not get it. I was ok with that. They gave me an interview, entertained my thoughts. I was grateful for that. I wasn’t entirely on board with the fact that they too sent me a form letter, despite the fact that I work for the company. The form letter offered advice about where to look for other jobs at the company and the resources they have available for people. All of which I know, BECAUSE I WORK FOR THEM.

    I say this, because it can be super demoralizing to get these rejections. For me it wasn’t because I was rejected, but because the smallest effort to acknowledge my personal existence – using my full name or realizing that I work for the organization – wasn’t made. It feels personal. I can acknowledge that it isn’t. That it’s a mistake or someone was pressed for time or a bunch of other things that have nothing to do with you or your worth. But, it still stings a bit. I think it stings more when you’re not feeling like your best self and that’s frequently the case when looking for jobs. So, it might be a good idea to find other outlets that help you see your own best qualities and offer the perspective that those who don’t take the time to get to know you aren’t worth the energy of being upset. (To be fair, I’m still not sure what my best qualities are, so this is a PROCESS)

  31. Solitary Daughter*

    I’m really sorry — the long and the short of it is that it just kind of sucks, and is draining and hard. I have been there myself. One thing that helped me a lot during a low point with job searching when I would get so invested in the idea of the place was to say: “If it doesn’t open, it’s not my door.” It helped remind me that no place is perfect, and my idea of what the place would be wasn’t necessarily what it was in reality. One day I’d turn a door knob, and my door would open. Good luck, I know this is frustrating and demoralizing. Your door will open, keep trying the knobs.

  32. Artemesia*

    I have high blood pressure which is very much driven by anxiety and I have been on meds which control it for decades. Now we are living in a genuinely horrifying time and I am in the most vulnerable group by age. And I don’t need blood pressure meds because I have mastered anxiety in the most anxiety producing time in my life since the Cuban Missile Crisis. I think you can apply this to job anxiety. What I have done is accept the horror and am doing what I can to be safe and to be political. I am doing self care on exercise, diet, COVID safety steps and meditation. And I am working to build social outlets that are safe like zoom groups and social distance get togethers with a limited group and family. I accept the losses — no travel, missing out on my grandchildren’s golden young years when they love being with the Grandparents, loss of theater, museums, travel, dining with friends. With your job search accept that you will aways not get the job — until one day you do. EXPECT to not hear or be rejected coldly. Distance yourself. Find some mindfulness exercises — there are tons on line. Exercise. Practice mindfulness. Take good care of your other health needs for social life, diet, safety. Assume the worst. There are lots of videos of mountain streams, the aurora borealis etc on line with soothing music — I spend a half hour with those meditating before bedtime. Job searching is ALWAYS stressful and thee is ALWAYS more rejection than success — and now we are in this national nightmare as well. Work on dropping the rope and accepting and caring for yourself. Hope one of those jobs comes through for you.

  33. Firecat*

    Im in much the same boat as you. What helped me was:
    1. Allow myself to be disappointed after a rejection but let it go after an hour or so.
    2. Take job search breaks. For me every two months i need a break to just not think about it any more. Otherwise it starts to consume my thoughts.
    3. Don’t talk about the places i have applied until after the first interview. Otherwise I have to deal with family asking – any word from X company yet?Which makes it hard to let it go.
    4. Automated my searching as much as possible so I didnt have to spend hours scoring the same ads over and over again.
    5. Set up timelines and plans. If I dont get a job in X industry after Y months then I will expand my search.
    6. Self care and barriers. I make sure to virtually hang out woth friends and I have even joyfully put a moratorim on work talk.

    Good luck!

  34. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    I don’t know if this helps without a lot of practice, but something I’ve learned over the years (and not just for work-related things, in ALL areas of life!) is this: Feelings are REAL, but they are rarely the truth, so it’s important to separate actions/reactions from feelings. Just keep reminding yourself of what you KNOW, and that will eventually help you do that. Not that you’ll never have feelings about things, of course, but you’ll be able to recognize the feelings for what they are – feelings you’re allowed to have but that don’t control you.

  35. luna-c*

    There no denying that looking for a job, regardless of your field, is demoralizing, to say the least. And it requires a stomach of steel to make it through. That said, as a high-level employee in a STEM field (and a woman AND someone who just went through a job search to get out of academia), please don’t give up hope. It’s true that you may think that you’re perfect for a specific job, as described, but often the employer knows more about the position than is in the listing, so you may not actually be that perfect. Point is – don’t take it personally when you don’t have all the information (and can’t have!). I’ve found that COVID actually helped my search, as I got offers in locations that I wasn’t willing to move to – but the employers are now willing to make them remote. So maybe look farther out than you have been.

  36. HMM*

    Good for just about any sort of panic: narrow your definition of success. For you, right in this very moment, success is just finishing an application. It’s not Get A Job, or Find Dream Job, or even, Stay in City With Partner At All Costs. It’s just finishing an application a day until you get an interview. Then your next big success is preparing for the interview. Then it’s completing the interview. So on and so forth. That helps minimize the overwhelm of trying to make sense of your life while simultaneously living it. You won’t know what works until later, so just keep moving in any direction that seems like it might help move you towards your goals (or at least not actively hurts).

  37. PenicilliumIHardlyKnowEm*

    When I get emotionally wrapped up in job applications, it is usually a progression from “I’d be awesome at this” to “They interviewed me by accident…I’ll never get this job and be unemployed forever!” I try to head it off with physical activity. Seriously stretching, jumping jacks, whatever gets your body moving seems to break that cycle.

  38. 867-5309*

    I recently started volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters and they provided a document for tips on what to do in the moment when someone is essentially spiraling. I have found it helpful personally when I start to feel myself getting crazy angry about something or unable to let go of something that happened awhile ago.

    These don’t address your long-term needs on the subject but could be just the grounding techniques you need in the moment, and I’ve discovered over time they help me get less upset.

    • Turn up the radio or blast your favorite song.
    • Talk out loud about what you see, hear, or what you’re thinking or doing.
    • Call a loved one.
    • Put on some nature sounds such as birds chirping or waves crashing.
    • Read out loud

    • Hold an ice cube and let it melt in your hand.
    • Put your hands under running water.
    • Take a hot or cool shower.
    • Grab an article of clothing, a blanket, or a towel and knead it in your hands or hold it to your cheek.
    • Rub your hand lightly over the carpet or a piece of furniture, noting the texture.
    • Pop some bubble wrap.
    • Massage your temples.
    • If you have a dog or cat, cuddle and pet him or her.
    • Drink a hot or cold beverage.

    • Sniff strong peppermint, which also has the benefit of having a soothing effect.
    • Light a scented candle or melt scented wax.
    • Get some essential oils that remind you of good times and smell one.

    • Bite into a lemon or lime.
    • Suck on a mint or chew peppermint or cinnamon gum.
    • Take a bite of a pepper or some hot salsa.
    • Let a piece of chocolate melt in your mouth.

    • Take a mental inventory of everything around you, such as all the colors and patterns you see, the sounds you hear, and the scents you smell. Saying this out loud is helpful too.
    • Count all the pieces of furniture around you.
    • Put on your favorite movie or TV show.
    • Play a distracting game on your tablet, computer, or smartphone.
    • Complete a crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search, or other puzzles.
    • Read a book or magazine.

    • Write in a journal about how you’re feeling or keep a list of prompts handy that you can use to decide what to write about.
    • Write a letter or card to someone you care about.
    • Dance.
    • Stretch your arms, neck, and legs.
    • Go for a walk or run.
    • Take 10 slow, deep breaths.
    • Go to another room or area for a change of scenery.

  39. KateB*

    You’re going to get a ton of really great practical advice from other commenters. I just want to add one little quote that I’ve held onto and made a mantra in different times of my life:

    “What is meant for me will not pass me by.”

    If it passes you by, it’s not meant for you. It has really helped me surrender what seem like “lost opportunties.”

    Also this meditation is my #1 played one of all time on the Insight Timer app and also on Youtube:

  40. AnotherSarah*

    No advice, just solidarity. As I finished my degree, I had a few extensive interviews for a great-seeming job–and it really seemed that the job was mine. I was asked to submit one more thing, which I did. I didn’t get an acknowledgement that I submitted it, and then there was radio silence. I didn’t even get a rejection. I emailed and called HR (one time each method) and was given a “we don’t discuss hiring over the phone,” from the very person who interviewed me first! It was infuriating. I don’t know how it’s not possible to take that kind of thing personally–in the end, the person they hired was truly a better fit than I was, but thinking about the way in which I was rejected still makes me angry. I’ve decided that’s okay–it’s not great to think that a job was “taken from you” or something like that, but it’s absolutely okay to be upset about an org that really treats candidates badly!

    There’s so much advice out there about going with the flow, etc. etc., and really–I don’t buy it. Let yourself feel what you feel, call a friend, punch a pillow, do something physical. But don’t worry about tamping down your feelings.

  41. voluptuousfire*

    One thing I found that helped was keeping in mind that there was always another job interview around the corner. It may not be the next day, but something else would definitely come along. It’s helpful not to look at jobs with a scarsity mindset.

    Also great quote, KateB. I’ve said the same thing in the past.

  42. Beth*

    You’ve probably run into the advice “when you’re job-hunting, job-hunting IS your job”. The idea can have problems — job-hunting doesn’t usually take up a full 40-hour week, for starters — but it helped me a lot the last time I had to do it.

    One of the key elements: when I was done with “the job” for the day, or the week, I was now “off the job”. If it had stressed me out, I treated it as job stress, which I was used to experiencing. If there were problems and worries, I knew that I would be tackling them –next day, when I was “back at work”, and it was all right for me to let them go until then.

    It didn’t always work perfectly, but it did help.

  43. Junior Dev*

    Do you have anything else in your life that makes you feel effective or competent? Ideally something that has nothing to do with your job search. Start learning a language on DuoLinguo, learn to knit, write articles on Wikipedia, tutor a younger relative over video calls. It doesn’t have to be huge or take up too many hours in the week but it should give you a regular sense that you achieved something meaningful.

    I say this because in my opinion one of the hardest things about job searching is that you often feel powerless, like, you put in all this work and the most likely outcome is that nothing will come of it. So I suggest spending a few hours a week on something where your work does have a concrete outcome that you care about.

  44. Wendy City*

    I *just* got done with a multi-month job search that was probably the most stressful of my life, so I FEEL YOU.
    Some things that helped me:
    – set aside a full day to wallow. Screaming into the pillow, bursting into tears while walking the dog, eating nothing but oreos and ice cream for dinner, venting to every friend about it — wallow. No applying to more jobs, no doing anything on that front. Just being mad and sad and frustrated. No shaming myself about having these feelings! No shaming myself about not being productive. Just a full-on feelings fest.
    – And then, once that day is up, I mentally take that situation and put it in a box that goes outside. I’ve given myself space and time to feel what I needed to, so now I can move on.
    – Distracting, engrossing hobbies, preferably not on the internet, are great for when you can’t get the feelings in the box. For me, it’s Switch/PS4, embroidery, and kettlebell exercises. My partner got really into mechanical keyboards this summer. I’ve seen people suggest knot-tying, ukulele-playing, and knitting as good quarantine hobbies. Just something you can sink your whole mind into that’s task-oriented.

    Job-hunting is a little like dating in that it requires a lot of luck and good timing. It feels like nothing will come along until it finally does.

  45. Jennifer*

    I was just going through this and finally got an offer, so there is hope. I would say plan fun things for yourself right after interviews, like have a comedy or some other kind of tv show or movie you enjoy ready to go, some goodies in the refrigerator, some good books on the nightstand. My problem was that I had nothing else to distract myself with. No job, can’t visit anyone or go out anywhere, so I could just sit home and feel sorry for myself. Keeping myself involved in other activities helped a lot.

  46. AnotherLibrarian*

    The two best things I learned to do during a 18 month job hunt were these:
    1. Always have applications out. Apply for things even it was just to take my mind off the day long in-person I’d just done. One of these “No Way I want this job” turned out to be amazing and I am super happy I applied and got it. So, you just never know.
    2. Find something not work related you can focus on and excel at. Do you love to sing? Do you like to paint? How about take an online class in something? Just find ways you can feel accomplishment that are not related to your profession/job hunt.

  47. nnn*

    In situations where economic desperation isn’t at play*, I find a useful narrative is “I’m almost certainly not going to get this job because I’m terrible at getting hired. But I’m going to go through this process as practice, so I can get better at getting hired.”

    That way, if I get the job it’s a pleasant surprise, and if I don’t get the job I’m able to detachedly analyze it to figure out how to improve next time.

    *(I have no idea how not to be emotionally invested when economic desperation is at play.)

  48. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Coming up to 14 months unemployed here (not all spent job hunting. Mental issues forced me to put that on hold) and I heavily rely on things like computer games to totally distract me from the stress and fear of the whole situation.

    Diablo 3 and Fallout 4 are proving to be highly beneficial as worlds I can lose myself in. Basically I do everything I can to NOT think.

  49. NinaBee*

    I used to be like that before freelancing – having to ‘change jobs’ so much it became less intense about ‘the one’. It’s probably because you’ve built it up so much internally that it feels so high stakes. Is there a way you can dissociate a little bit? Think of yourself as a character *doing* these interviews (rather than you yourself needing the job), or seeing them as an exciting game of ‘ooh will I get this one’? Or somehow find a way to be more mechanical about the job search (apart from the necessary preparation and tailoring of course, not just resume bombing).

    It also feels like you’re going too far into the future investing in the possible path before waiting to see if it will actually happen. Maybe mindfulness techniques or something similar might help to stop the ruminating and create some space in your mind to be present in the moment more. Maybe give yourself a time limit to be excited about it? Like 10 minutes after applying, or 2 hours after the interview, where you can imagine all the great future possibilities, but then you stop and carry on in the practical here and now.

  50. Focus on growth*

    I just got a job after searching on and off for 2 years so I feel your pain on becoming consumed with the job search and having the rejections get to you.

    You cannot control whether or not you get a job, but you can still control your growth in your career field. I started to focus less on applying for every job in sight and stressing over rejections and focused more on my developing my skills and interests. Try creating a list with skills you have on one side and skills you’d like to develop further on the other. Start tackling the list of skills you’d like to develop.

    The more you focus on your own growth, the more attractive you’ll become as a candidate. Plus, you’ll feel good about yourself instead of wallowing in rejection or getting frustrated with a process you have very little control over.

  51. tinyhipsterboy*

    I haven’t had an experience with super-long interviews like OP, but I find it particularly helpful to treat all of this like schoolwork. Do your due diligence, don’t half-ass things, make sure you know what’s going on and what the company is about, all of that… but set boundaries. If you have to research a workplace, set an hour or so aside to research (use a timer!), then once that’s over, you’re done.

    Same with the interviews. Go to the interview, be honest with your answers, and then once you’re done, immediately switch to something else, even if it means leaving their parking lot, parking in the nearest business’s lot, and playing a game of Tetris or something on your phone. Literally anything to reboot yourself a bit. Do what you can to focus on anything other than the interview, whether it’s looking for another job, watching a movie, playing a video game, sinking into a good book, baking, anything. The more you can occupy your mind with something else immediately after and make it change subjects, the better you can separate it in your head, at least for me. That way, instead of stewing and hoping and imagining what will happen next, you’re concentrating on something else entirely.

    For me, the key is to do whatever you can to get to the point where you say “well, I worked hard on it, I did what I could, and now I have to forget it happened until I get a response.” It’s what I do for job applications, it’s what I do for job interviews, it’s what I do when I send out a short story and know that it might take months to find out if I’m published: force your brain to put it away.

    Good luck! I hope you find something that works well for you!

  52. JSPA*

    I think it’s possible that, faced with Covid, there was a race to secure and protect and where needed, parcel out materials before people were sent home, and contacting you became nobody’s job.

    Or that the money dried up, and ditto.

    Or that all the computers, equipment and know-how were redirected to a new task, and ditto.

    “There could have been a comprehensible reason, in an increasingly incomprehensible world” is something I’d find useful. Be aware, though, that “the mission comes first” isn’t only a Covid-specific mindset at many places.

    For research in STEM, if that’s what these jobs are, the day-to-day process can be numbing or basic or tedious enough that you may actually want to be deeply invested in the project. Stuff that you’d just about do for free (if you could swing it) even if they didn’t pay you.

    This leads to a lot of bad behavior, because it selects for a “mission over people” mindset, and then it basically…deifies that mindset.

    But in a practical sense, if you get 24 hours notice that for the foreseeable future, only one person will be allowed in the building to check that the -80 freezers and the coldrooms are functional, and that every PCR machine, all reagents and gloves are about to be turned over to the health department and hospital, taking 5 minutes to spam everyone who’s interviewed recently with a rejection letter is a really significant chunk of that time.

  53. Lucy 2*

    Time. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it helps. The bruises and scars will eventually fade. I had two bouts of two-year long unemployment in my thirties, after grad school. Both were awful. Both still make me angry. I’ve been steadily employed now for 7 years and I am still scared of unemployment/not having enough money when I am old because all my savings went to rent and food (and interview clothes!). I couldn’t get minimum wage jobs, let alone professional jobs that use the skills I went to school for: money and self-esteem were scarce, and it was really scary. I have found that dealing with unemployment was a lot like dealing with death grief: people say thoughtless things and give you terrible advice, and it takes much longer than you can imagine to feel “normal-ish” again. I don’t have any advice that others haven’t already given (video games – I still have day dreams about this one video game I played in 2011/12 until our house was broken into and it was stolen – reading, writing it down, other hobbies, exercise – until your bike gets stolen along with your video games — then you’re walking everywhere, etc). I just have a lot of empathy to share. It’s frustrating and a lot of people just don’t understand until it’s happened to them.

  54. Anon for this for sure*

    This is a really stupid suggestion but it worked for me. I had already retired early and had a wide range of someone out of date experience and I was able to justify applying for almost every job opening I saw that didn’t require an advanced degree. But with more than 30 years experience I couldn’t even get an interview. So I’d spend all day in a coffee shop using free wifi to job hunt and at the end of each day (at home) I’d pull up my list of apps and give each ome my own rant of what useless human beings they were who couldn’t recognize the skills they were passing over for no good reason and if they were smart they’d call. I’d rant, rave, scream, really get it out. It was cathartic and really helped. Found a great, strange job that out me on an even crazier new career path and I couldn’t be happier. It was the only interview I got after applying for over 250 jobs and I only got the job because I was the only one who (1) passed background and drug screens and (2) wasn’t afraid of the inmates. I’d survived an earthquake in a third world country. Incarcerated drug dealers don’t really scare me.

  55. Sara, A Lurker*

    It took me about a year and a half to find my first steady job after grad school. I think it is partly because it’s simply hard to find a job in your area that’s a good fit that *just happens* to be open when you’re looking for it. So much of it is just timing and luck! But I also think that I just didn’t know much about job searching, applications, and what kind of jobs I’d like or be good at when I first started looking. That comes in time, so as painful as it is, *this entire year* has actually been quite valuable for you.

    If adjusting your emotional mindset were as easy as simply telling yourself that it’s not personal and you’re doing your best, you wouldn’t be writing in. So I have two bits of advice. Once is to cast a wide net in your job search: apply for some jobs that are higher and lower than the kind of job you’re looking for, and some jobs that aren’t in your field but draw on some similar skillsets. That advice was crucial for me personally. (I share it on my blog for folks like me who are looking for nonacademic jobs after being in academia for a long time:

    This other advice is a positive psychology thing. Every time you spiral, give yourself the leeway to imagine the worst thing that could possibly happen in regard to that job or your career or whatever the center of your spiral is. Then imagine the best thing that could possibly happen. Then imagine something that is sort of in the middle. For each scenario, ask yourself what you would/could do if it happens. Now you’re prepared for anything.

  56. 1qtkat*

    As someone who just this year, finally ended a 2 year plus job search, I can empathize. I too was looking for a job in my chosen field in a certain geographic area. I got through the frustration of a rejection by reminding myself that I know there is job out there for me that fits with what I’m looking for and talking about all the ups and downs with friends. After a couple days, I was able to think about the process more objectively and realize that maybe they made the right decision and the job would not be a good fit. I know as a job seeker it seems the employer has all the cards, but so do you and you want to make sure that job is right for you beyond just the credentials. It might also help to broaden your search to see what else is out there where your skills might be needed.

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