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Protecting your mental health when job hunting

Looking for work is boring, exhausting and often very lonely. It is a draining experience that can have a negative effect on your mental health. You must make sure you look after yourself during this process and put in place a system to cope.

Whether you are beginning your career or looking to change job later in life, here are some basic tips that can help to protect your mental health. If you are struggling, speak to someone and be honest about how you are feeling.

CV changes

Some people advise changing your CV for every application. This is not realistic. Instead, make sure at the top of your CV that you have a title for you and your work. For example "Qualified Journalist (NCTJ)" or "Assistant Producer (qualified journalist)". You can change this for different roles you apply for, so that people working in HR can easily see you match the job they are filling. Obviously, if you are a journalist and applying for a communications role, you cannot call yourself a "Press Officer", but in that case you should make sure that you focus on the cover letter and let the journalism experience on your CV show how you know that side of the industry.

Manage your time

If you are already in work, then applying for jobs can dominate your spare time. If this is the case, give yourself certain times of the week when you apply for jobs. Use small blocks of time to find the roles and sketch out applications. Then come back to them and check them again before sending off. Rushed applications will have mistakes and will cost you the chance of an interview.

If all you are doing is applying for jobs, the same rules apply but you should also treat the process a bit like a job. Make sure you break up each day into sections. Start at a certain time and end at a certain time. A change of location can help for different parts of the process or tasks, so find somewhere where you can be away from 'home' and be productive but not distracted.

Don't over reach

Be realistic about the jobs you are applying for. Read the specification carefully and work out if you have the right experience. Applying for too many roles means you will lose focus on the ones that really matter. Being disciplined about what jobs you invest your time in will help ease the workload.

Set priorities

It can help to break jobs into categories of interest and importance. For those jobs that are a top priority, invest more time and focus on getting the cover letter or statement right. For other categories, reduce the amount of time you spend on the application. Try and avoid automatic apply buttons on places like Indeed and LinkedIn, but if the application is more speculative, this is a quick way to do it.

Be kind to yourself

Rejections are an inevitability of applying for jobs, so try and stop the lows from being too low and the highs from being too high. If you have success and an interview invitation, do not invest all your time imagining doing that job. Manage expectations. If you don't hear from an application, don't think straight away you were unsuitable or not good enough, it somestimes really is down to luck and the quality of the recruitment process.

Also make sure you give yourself breaks and allow free time to be exactly that, free time. Do not feel guilty if you take a longer break or have a day off from applications.

Do not benchmark against peers

A common trait, especially when you are starting out, is to look at what others are 'achieving' and judge yourself against them. We all know the 'personal news klaxon' from social media, when the braggers tell us about an exciting new job. Sometimes it is good to turn off these notifications, but it is hard. Instead, put the announcements in context. Some people 'progress' quickly and sometimes it takes a bit longer to achieve your goal. Judging yourself against others just adds extra pressure. There is no rush to get that 'dream' job. It can happen at 23 or it can happen at 53. Concentrate on yourself and ensure you are doing all you can to move forward. These can be small steps, so be realistic about what progress means and do not benchmark yourself against others.

Ask for help

It is vital you talk to people and get their support. This can help with anything from checking your CV for spelling and grammar mistakes to moral support about the job hunt. If you do find that your mental health is really affected by your job search, there are many charities out there that can help for free.

Some useful links:

Finally, a general note about your workplace environment. If you are suffering because of your manager, colleagues or the pressures of your job, make moves to remove yourself from that toxic environment. Life is too short to suffer because of your job.

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