For those of us struggling with depression or any of its variants, the simple act of waking up every day can feel like a major accomplishment.
Whether unemployment is causing your depression, or depression is an obstacle in your job search, it’s hard to get the right momentum to successfully find a job.
And now, in a post-COVID world, you may be depressed, anxious, coping with unprecedented uncertainty, and recently unemployed with no idea how to support yourself.
It feels overwhelming, but you’re not powerless. In this article, we’ll break down steps you can take to find a job — from getting into the right routine, to interview prep, to continuing in the face of rejection.
How do I job search when I’m depressed and unemployed?
Unemployment and depression go hand in hand with each other. In a study published by the CDC, around 20% of the unemployed young adults sampled suffered from some form of depression.
And it’s easy to see why this occurs. Trying to find a job while depressed feels extra draining, and can magnify your current symptoms like sadness, apathy, feelings of worthlessness, and mental fatigue.
With all your free time, you may start to question your worth, your interests, or your purpose. Unemployment might even send you into an existential crisis. And in turn, being depressed can make it harder to find motivation to look for jobs.
Set yourself up for success: take care of yourself
Finding motivation can be one of the hardest parts of the job search. Yes, you need a job, but fear of failure, lack of self esteem, and depression itself all suck away your will to get out there. Luckily, you can take a few self-care measures to set yourself up for success.
Avoid anxiety: get prepared
Spend time preparing for each stage of the job process. If you’re prepared, you’ll feel less depressed and anxious about finding a job and more confident in your prospects! You’ll also free up some space in your brain, which always helps.
Prepare your documents: If you haven’t already, go over your resume and update it. Don’t be afraid to show it to a friend and ask them their thoughts on it as well. The same goes for a cover letter.
While not all jobs require one, it’s always good to have a basic cover letter template on hand that you can adjust for every job you apply for. Both documents provide a brief snapshot of your skill-set, as well as of how you present yourself, so it’s important to continually refine them as you try to find a job.
Interview questions: Even if you haven’t reached this stage of the job process yet, it’s important to make a list of some common questions that most interviewers ask. Make a list of these questions and write out your answers to them. Focus on authenticity and self-awareness in your responses.
Keep in mind, interview questions can still be hard to plan for. Every interviewer is different and may ask something you don’t expect, and that’s okay! Planning for the most common questions is still helpful, and it will help you feel more confident. Finding a job while depressed requires as many confidence-padding techniques as possible.
Questions for your interviewer: After most interviews, you’ll get an opportunity to ask your interviewer questions. Don’t squander this opportunity, as it’s a great way to get an idea of how things run at the workplace. This is a chance to learn if this job really is a fit for you.
Write down a list of basic questions you want to ask after every interview, and base some of them on what’s important to you.
While ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ still holds true in the job search, knowing your worth — and what you need to be happy and productive — shows confidence and forethought that employers appreciate. Interviews are a two way conversation, and asking questions shows your genuine interest in the position.
Start a do-able routine
Creating and maintaining a routine adds some stability to your life, which will show in the job search process. A solid routine also gives you something to focus your time and energy on during the boredom of unemployment, and makes you feel better about who you are. Win, win, win!
Plan out a basic idea of how you want each day to go. Think of when to wake up, where you’ll look for jobs, how you’ll approach applications, and what skills can use some improvement (like public speaking or organizational skills).
Don’t be afraid to start slowly, with something like one or two applications or a few tasks a week until you feel comfortable. If you push too hard, you’ll burn out before you’ve found a job, and you’ll get stuck even further in your unemployment depression.
The basic idea is to start a routine you can stick with, and over time it will take next to no effort at all. Then, you can expand the number and intensity of things you focus on.
You can and should tailor your routine to how you function best and what makes you feel comfortable. So this requires a little introspection.
Do you get cranky if you skip breakfast? Do you think better when you have downtime in the morning? What time of the day do you feel most motivated? Take your list of daily to-dos, and fit them to your ideal structure.
Potential steps to include on your daily to-do list:
- Save jobs from job sites while drinking morning coffee.
- Complete 2 applications, and individualize resume and cover letter for each one.
- Spend 1 hour tying up loose ends from yesterday’s applications.
- Stretch for 5 minutes between emails.
- Take a walk to get some snacks.
- Follow up on applications completed two weeks ago, either by email or by phone.
- Rehearse practice interview questions and responses. (This can also help you get a better idea of who you are, boosting your self confidence!)
- Research part time and volunteer options as backup plans.
- Talk to a friend or understanding peer about all you’ve accomplished today, so you don’t fall victim to imposter syndrome.
Stay motivated through rejection
Getting motivation to start job searching is hard, and it’s just as hard to stay motivated. Some days just feel hopeless.
Perhaps you’ve had a string of rejections or there’s a lack of open positions in your area. That’s completely normal, and there are a few things to keep in mind to keep your spirits up.
Focus on improvement
When you’re depressed and can’t find a job, something may fall through, and you think, “Was it something I did wrong?”
Nobody is perfect, but we’re blessed with the opportunity to grow from our mistakes — adopting a “growth mindset” will help you embrace and improve from errors.
Do you think you have trouble speaking during interviews? What about job-specific skills you could have more experience with? Make a note of where you think you might have weaknesses and do your best to remedy them.
Take classes at a local community college, online classes, or practice with friends and ask them what some of your weaknesses are. In time, you’ll shore up these weaknesses and become a stronger candidate overall.
Make productive backup plans
When you’re depressed and not finding success in your job search, you’ll want to make plans that maximize the value of your downtime. Perhaps you’re not finding the full time job you want — that doesn’t mean you have sit at home and wait for an employer’s call.
Use the downtime to get extra experience, build resume-boosting skills, or just to support yourself — so you don’t experience financial anxiety on top of everything else.
Part time vs. volunteer positions
Assess what your own needs are at the moment and what resources are available to you. Do you need money right now? Are you willing to volunteer? What about further education?
Finding a part time job or a volunteer position can be helpful in your job search. Part time jobs can help mainly with finances and may help you get experience; volunteer positions can be fantastic experience-builders and gateways to paid positions later down the road.
In addition, each of these options can help take your mind away from your negative feelings and give you something else to put time and energy into. We all have a need for ‘occupational wellness,’ or a feeling of “personal satisfaction and enrichment derived from one’s work.” Fulfilling this need will help you avoid an unemployment-related existential crisis.
Remember: it’s not your fault
Everyone goes through bouts of unemployment in life.
There are a million and one factors that go into finding and keeping a job. You can be the perfect candidate on paper, but maybe you don’t have that much chemistry with the team. Or maybe you wake up one day ready to find a job, but there’s a drought of openings in your area.
These things happen, and it’s not always your fault. The most you can do is not take it too hard, and remember to try your best for the next time. There is always going to be a next time, and if you give up, you miss out on that chance!
Job searching can be a game of chance and numbers, where you have to keep trying to find success. As Michael Caine’s character in Interstellar said, “it only has to work once.”
A healthy support network can help keep you motivated and help you sort out your priorities. We encourage you to take advantage of the support available right here, right now.
If you want to talk with other people struggling to find a job while depressed, visit Supportiv‘s instant, anonymous chat. Hit Chat Now, enter your main thoughts, and you’ll get connected with others who get it.