“This job looks like a fit for you! Apply here today!”
As I read the email subject line, the hollow pit in my stomach sank even further. How many of these emails had my dad sent me in the past six months? How many jobs had I pulled up in tabs on my computer only to abandon them later because I didn’t have five years of experience, I was too overwhelmed and anxious to finish the application or I knew deep down that I would not get hired?
The words well-meaning adults had been pushing my way since my last semester of college began to haunt me. You can do anything you want! Follow your passions! Anyone would be lucky to have you! Yet, I didn’t feel like I could do anything, and I was passionate about a lot of things that did not necessarily translate to job opportunities. I didn’t feel lucky at all.
I was passionate about a lot of things that did not necessarily translate to job opportunities.
Instead, I felt overwhelmed by the world in front of me. There were so many things I could do, and I had no clue where I wanted to start. I felt like the things I was passionate about could only be a side-job, something I did to stay sane after long work weeks and days spent doing menial work I hated.
While I was still in school, I spent my weekends and evenings huddled over my computer and getting more and more discouraged as I clicked through job openings and waited for someone—anyone—to follow up with my applications. When summer came, my days were wasted doing the same thing, only now I was more anxious and frantic and less confident than I’d ever been in my abilities and myself.
I had never been more burned out or anxious in my life. The things I loved doing no longer seemed fun or I felt guilty if I did anything other than spend the entire day applying for jobs. It took until September, a whole four months after I had graduated college, but I finally got a full-time job.
When I moved home with my parents the day after graduation, I told myself I was staying until June, then until July, and then until the summer was over. Soon enough, fall was approaching and I was still in my childhood bedroom feeling like a failure. I had been applying for jobs for six months, and out of all those hundreds of applications, I heard back from maybe three potential employers only to find that I was too inexperienced.
I was still in my childhood bedroom feeling like a failure.
I turned down a job in a place I would have loved to live because it didn’t start until December, and I needed to be employed before then. Even the idea of opening my computer began to make me feel worthless and exhausted. My screen was jumbled with tabs of unfinished job applications as the “Chronicles of Narnia” soundtrack played in the background and Google result pages for local therapists sat in front of my eyes.
While I was waiting for someone to hire me, I found ways to stay afloat and lessen the fatigue of job searching:
Set a time limit.
I couldn’t spend my whole day going cross-eyed in front of a computer any longer. I took breaks to read, watch a funny movie, bake a treat or visit my grandparents’ pool. I set aside mornings to job search and spent my afternoons taking care of myself.
When nothing else could make me feel like myself, putting on my workout playlist and doing cardio or weight training for even half an hour made me less anxious. It became my favorite way to take a break.
I had a core group of friends who knew exactly how I was feeling, and I knew I could tell them when I was stressed, tired and depressed. They reminded me of my worth outside of what I was doing (which is difficult for me as I am a 3 on the Enneagram, aka The Achiever.) They also helped me embrace an unknown and uncertain season.
Embrace a quiet season.
I had worked throughout college, and post-grad was the first time I was unemployed in years. I learned to embrace a short season of not working by reminding myself that I had the rest of my life to work, but I could never get back the time I wasn’t employed.
I chose to invest in my family, who I had lived far away from for the last four years, and the friends I had known my whole life. I knew that we all had lives to live and, eventually, jobs to do. Yet, one last quiet summer was exactly what I needed. Knowing that unemployment was just a season forced me to be kinder to and more patient with myself.
Knowing that unemployment was just a season forced me to be kinder to and more patient with myself.
The job search can be long and grueling, but searches come to an end. I wouldn’t trade those months for my dream job now, but I do wish I had embraced my freedom a bit more. Experiencing job search burnout taught me to listen to and take care of myself. These are lessons that I have carried with me into the workforce and ones that will stick with me forever.