Mental Wellness in the Time of Job Hunting


Let’s face it: Job hunting can be tough on our mental health at the very best of times. Let alone having to deal with the disappointment of rejection and the anxiety of job interviews; applying for jobs, working on your CV, and networking “like a boss” can be tedious, emotionally draining and, to be honest, quite an overwhelming experience — especially if you’re in need of a paycheck, and paying this month’s rent. Add Covid-19 to the mix and South Africa’s record-high unemployment rate and an unprecedented layer of anxiety, hyper-stress and mental tough-stuff are added to any and every active job seeker. As a result, knowing how to manage your stress and your mental wellness by setting healthy boundaries throughout the process becomes critical, especially if you’ve reached a point of job hunt fatigue or burnout.

To help keep your stamina, your mental energy, your attitude and confidence where it needs to be — on the ‘up’ —, we’ve compiled some tips to help you adopt the best mental attitude while searching for your next position.


Securing a job is your overall goal, but it is important to set yourself smaller, controllable aims in the interim that’ll have the knock-on effect of knowing you’re actively trying your best and, step by step, getting closer to getting that resounding “yes” and landing your dream job. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic targets such as applying for 10 jobs in a day. Keep it manageable as small, daily wins are what will help you to keep your confidence and momentum going. For example, you may decide to apply for only one job today and attend an online networking event this evening and once you’ve done that, you can cross those to-do’s off your list, give yourself a pat on the back, and celebrate another small victory. Step by step, one travels far.


If job hunting is currently your full-time job, it’s important to establish a work/life balance just as you would in any work environment. Have set hours in which you apply for jobs and choose the hours that work best for you and when you’re able to work at your peak. Ensure your day is varied to avoid burnout. Have coffee breaks. Take a lunch break. Stop at 5 pm and plan something enjoyable in the evening to give yourself something to look forward to. Incorporating exercise and meditation in your day is also important to help give you extra energy as well as a mental game.


Speaking of scheduling, it’s essential to make time for self-care, and for looking after yourself and your overall wellness. Remember to drink lots of water, eat well, get a good night’s sleep and go outside for at least 20 minutes a day. Stretch! Keep a journal to document your feelings and to help you work your way, mentally, through to the other side. So many people underestimate the importance of self-care, but the fact is that feeling good about yourself can be a game-changer in your hunt for a job, and most certainly helps to keep any burnout, anxiety or even depression at bay.


Linked to this is remembering to be intentionally kind to yourself and to celebrate your hard work and your efforts. In what can be an incredibly “unkind time”, you need to become your own best friend. If you find yourself focusing on your failures, shift the narrative. Speak to yourself positively and acknowledge that you’re doing your best: that you’re worth it and you’ve got everything that it takes — and more. It may help to write positive affirmations on Post-Its and keep it near your desk, or to create mood-boards where you can keep your dream vision insight and know, with every confidence (and a healthy dose of patience) that you will get there, soon.


On days when it’s especially hard to “hunt”, step back and look at why you’re doing it and what you really want to achieve. Often, the perspective of why you’re hunting for a job — to better support your family, to level up in your career, to finally do what you’ve been trained to do — can help to give you that extra motivation. It will require honesty and, who knows, you may find it sparks other ideas of how you can get to where you want to be — via different avenues, new networks, or even starting your own business. There are a million ways to get things done and, as the famous adage goes: “When there is a will, there is a way.”