Job Search Uncertainty

Post written by guest blogger, Janette Norrington, PhD, NIH Trainee

Job searches are filled with uncertainty at every stage of the process, from the time we submit our applications to waiting for the results of a final interview. There is uncertainty about whether our hard work will pay off in the application process, if we will find a job, and how long a job search will last. As human beings, we crave security and a sense of control over our lives, so waiting to hear back about a job decision can be difficult and even painful.

Job search uncertainty can cause us to feel anxious, stressed, and emotionally drained. To cope with uncertainty, many people use worrying as a tool for trying to predict the future and avoid unpleasant surprises. Worrying can sometimes feel like a form of preparation and provide a false sense of control over uncertain situations. However, regardless of how much time and energy we spend worrying we still cannot predict the future or control what happens. Fortunately, there more effective ways to cope with uncertainty that can help alleviate stress and anxiety. As you continue in your job search, here are a few strategies that can help you move through uncertainty with more confidence:

  • Focus on what you can control

There are a lot of things in a job search that are out of your control but it is essential to focus on the things that are within your control. Taking control of the things that you can helps empower you even if it is something as simple as sending a follow up email to a hiring manager. Establishing routines and creating structure into a daily job search can also add a sense of control in your life and alleviate worry from uncertainty. Think about the things that you have control over and focus your attention on those tasks.

  • Practice Acceptance

While it is important to focus on what we can control, it is also important to accept that there will always be uncertainty in job searches and life. Practicing acceptance of uncertainty can be difficult and frustrating, but studies show that our ability to accept uncertainty reduces stress and positively effects health. Once we accept that we sometimes have limited control over aspects of a job search, then we can move forward while managing what we can and letting the rest go.  

  • Reflect on past experiences

Think about experiences from your past when you had to handle uncertainty or overcome stressful events. Reflect on the skills you used during those stressful experiences that were helpful, what you learned about yourself, and things you might do differently this time. Thinking about those situations can help you learn something new about yourself and provide valuable insight about your abilities and skills. You can use those abilities and skills to support yourself in current and future uncertain situations.

  • Take care of yourself

We can’t let stress from uncertainty derail our self-care practices, and it is important that we proactively monitor our physical, emotional, and mental health. While in an unsure waiting period, define what caring for yourself means to you and prioritize what brings you relief or joy—whether it’s talking to a friend, reading a good novel, walking outside, meditation, etc. Self-compassion is another form of self-care and it is essential that you offer yourself kindness, empathy, and patience during uncertain situations and job searches. 

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