Job search depression is real: Here’s how to overcome it

August 16, 2021 - 20 min read


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Is “job search depression” real?

Why does job search depression happen?

6 tips for how to deal with job depression

The positive effects of not yielding to job hunting depression

Feeling job search depression? Act now

Finding a job is a breeze… said no one, ever.

From rejection letters to uncomfortable interviews, finding that perfect job is stressful, to say the least. It can be overwhelming, to the point where your job hunting process feels completely hopeless.

Are you feeling down in the dumps about your job search? Not sure which way to turn? Got that urge to just give up?

You’re not alone.

Job search depression is a real thing, and it’s not something you should take lightly. Stress from job-seeking has been linked to emotional and mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.

But it doesn’t have to.

Let’s take a look at how to deal with job depression and how to navigate the job-hunting process with a positive mindset.

Is “job search depression” real?

Depression is a common mental health condition. But job search depression is unique in that the feelings of depression are because of the job search process.

Unfortunately, job search depression is a vicious cycle. Depression and unemployment go hand-in-hand. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this even more, with many people losing their jobs and struggling mentally as a result.

The struggles of job hunting can leave you feeling rejected, stressed, anxious, and overall pessimistic about your future outlook. In a way, a job is part of our identity. The career path we choose to follow is a part of who we are as people.

These complex feelings and mood fluctuations can further inhibit your job search.

Being rejected from your job applications can create low self-esteem. It also prevents you from fully accepting yourself for the person you are. This lack of confidence in your abilities further prevents you from nailing that interview.

Poor interview performance confirms those negative thoughts about yourself. Feelings of inadequacy prevent you from putting your best foot forward and landing that job.

The longer you’re unemployed, the more disheartened you may become about your prospects for finding a job that you’re both excited about and know you will enjoy.

Unfortunately, feeling down about your job can affect other areas of your life. Feeling hopeless about your job search can go beyond your career planning. It can extend into your personal relationships and your self-growth.

If you have any doubt about whether job search depression is real or not, consider this.

A survey by the Pew Research Center found that about half of US adults who are looking for a job are pessimistic about their prospects for future employment.

53% say they’ve felt like they lost a piece of their identity during the job hunt process. 56% say they’ve experienced more emotional or mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, due to their unemployment. In short, their mental fitness is suffering.

Another 41% say they’ve had more conflicts or arguments than usual with family and friends.

Thankfully, there are many ways to deal with job search depression. The first step is recognizing why job search depression happens.


Why does job search depression happen?

Let’s take a look at why job searching is depressing and some common scenarios that can lead to job hunting depression:

Not applying for the correct jobs

You might be a brilliant project manager with all the right certifications and experience. But if you apply for a job you’re not qualified for, you’re probably not going to get it.

Feeling hopeless about your job search can stem from applying for jobs that aren't right for you. You might not have the right skills for the job you’re applying for. Or maybe you’re just not the right fit for the company.

Remember that the company you’re applying for has many factors to consider.

Just as you consider the position’s hours, workload, wages, employee benefits, location, and so on, they have certain qualities they’re looking for. An organization needs to make sure you have the right behavior and attitude for their company culture.

Try not to take it personally if you’re not the right fit.


Having low self-esteem and feeling pessimistic

For many people, jobs are tied to their feelings of self-worth. If you suffer from low self-worth, it can be difficult to get out of the rut of job search hopelessness.

Being too hard on yourself can hinder the job search process. A lack of self-compassion and being critical of your flaws prevents others from seeing your positive attributes.

If you’re searching for a job because you’ve been laid off, it can feel like a real blow to your self-esteem.

Experiencing job loss is like any other type of loss or grief. Except in this situation, the easiest person to blame for your unemployment is yourself.

The state of the job market

Picture this: you’ve got the qualifications. You’ve got the experience. And you’ve got the confidence. Yet, no one is hiring you.

In this instance, it’s hard not to feel hopeless about your job search.

Remember that even if you’re doing the right things, finding a job can be a struggle. Depending on what your experience level is and what your career and salary needs are, finding the right position can take time. The headlines about the job market usually reflect macro conditions that might not be relevant to your search. 

The job market is always competitive, but the global coronavirus pandemic has made finding jobs even more difficult for some people. We will feel the economic impact of COVID-19 for years to come.  

Keep in mind that it’s not all on you. External factors outside your control can contribute to job depression.

Pressure (from yourself and others)

One of the biggest reasons for job search depression is the financial pressures.

Worrying about providing for your loved ones can be a serious stressor. School fees, mortgages, and car loans still need to be paid regardless of the state of your employment.

This pressure from your family and friends can cause strained relationships and housing stress.

Besides pressure from those around you, the pressure you put on yourself can cause you to have unrealistic expectations. And when you don't meet them, you'll only harbor more mental and physical stress, as well as burnout and physical exhaustion.

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6 tips for how to deal with job depression

Job search depression is manageable with the right mindset and actions. Here’s some advice on how to deal with job depression:

1. Create a plan for rejection

Sometimes you get the job, and sometimes you don’t. Either way, it’s ok, but try to make a plan that includes learning from the experience and practicing self-compassion.

If you don’t get that dream job you applied for, have a plan ready to pick yourself up. Focus on what you can learn from the experience rather than feeling rejected.

If the situation allows, follow up and ask for feedback from the organization that turned you down. Rather than wallow in self-pity, think about what happened and how you can learn from it.

Review and reflect on the situation and build a personal development plan.

Look toward the future and get excited about those other jobs you had your eye on.

2. Get organized

Staying organized will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed with the job search process. It’ll also help you keep all of your priorities and responsibilities in balance.

Make a list of job postings you’re applying for, with information like interview dates, contact details, and interview questions you’d like to ask.

Breaking down the job search into smaller, more manageable tasks will make the process less daunting and put you in control.

3. Keep perspective

A key tip for how to deal with job depression is to maintain perspective. Keep in mind that while your job search may take some time, it won’t last forever.

Finding a new job doesn’t happen overnight. You might feel discouraged when things don’t progress in the job search. But taking a step and reassessing the situation can help de-personalize the situation.

Focus on what you can control. Trying to change what isn't within your control will only drain your energy and leave you more anxious.

Instead of getting wrapped up in “what if” thoughts, harness the power of positive self-talk. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings in the present.

4. Ask for help

Having someone to talk to during your job search gives you much-needed emotional support. Reach out to a friend or family member about how you’re feeling and why you’re struggling.


Beyond your personal relationships, reach out to a career coach or therapist. An experienced career coach can also help normalize what you are experiencing.

They’ll be your sounding board to help guide you when you’re unsure of yourself or what to do next.

5. Take time for yourself (take a break from the job hunt)

Endless job hunting can lead to feelings of exhaustion and burnout. Fear and anxiety aren’t going to help your job hunting prospects. And they’re certainly not going to help your psychological well-being.

Remember to take time for yourself. Practice good self-care. Eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep, and practicing good sleep hygiene are key to managing your stress.

6. Revisit your career goals

If it’s been months or even years and you’re still feeling pessimistic about your job search, it could be time to reassess your career goals.

Ask yourself if you’re on the right career path.

Being in the wrong field could leave you feeling despondent and detached from the job-search process. A BetterUp coach can help you navigate if you're on the right path.

People who are passionate about what they do are more likely to succeed in finding a job and perform well when they have a job that’s right for them.


The positive effects of not yielding to job hunting depression

Reframing your thinking during a job search yields better results both professionally and personally. Here are some fact-checked effects of keeping a positive attitude:

1. You’ll become a better candidate

Optimistic thinking empowers us during uncertain times. It prompts us to take positive steps in the right direction.

What’s more, maintaining a positive attitude throughout your job hunt can better your chances of landing your dream gig.


To prospective employers, job seekers with a positive attitude appear more capable. Even if you don't have the right skill set or experience, walking into an interview with optimistic, confident energy will make you stand out.

Beyond the interview process, maintaining a positive mindset makes you a better candidate for recruiters. Research has found that optimistic employees are 103% more inspired to give their best effort at work.

Organizations are looking for energetic and resourceful employees with a can-do attitude.

2. You’ll keep yourself healthy

Yielding to job hunting depression has several adverse mental and physical effects. By seeking solutions to this common phenomenon, you’re actively working on your personal well-being.

Maintaining a positive outlook will keep your emotional well-being in as healthy a state as possible.

Beyond this, optimism is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and even longevity. The Journal of the American Medical Association linked optimism to a 35% lower risk of heart problems and a 14% lower risk of early mortality.

3. You’ll have greater happiness and personal satisfaction

Keeping a positive attitude despite feeling hopeless about your job search puts you in a state of active participation.

By not yielding to job search anxiety, you’re facing your challenges head-on and actively working on your personal well-being.

A positive mindset helps you embrace your imperfections despite your job hunting depression. Embracing your flaws can lead to feelings of personal satisfaction and success, rather than feelings of failure if you don’t achieve something perfectly.

Try to prevent negative thoughts from dominating your mind. Instead, practice gratitude and think of the good things in your life. Stop the negative feedback loop by focusing on what makes you truly happy.

Feeling job search depression? Act now

Remember that no matter the outcome of your job searching and the number of rejections you’ve received, your current situation doesn’t define you.

You are more than your career. Don’t let your feelings of hopelessness about your job search cause burnout and emotional exhaustion.

Unfortunately, the nature of job search depression can often feel like a vicious cycle that you can never break. But don’t let your job hunt consume you.

There is always hope for those suffering from job search depression. The first step is to reach out and ask for help.

Contact us today to learn how BetterUp’s career coaching service can help you accelerate positive change professionally and personally.

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Published August 16, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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