Is Your Job Search Stressing You Out? How to Set Realistic Goals

Have you been in the job market longer than you expected? Are you frustrated because you just don’t see as much progress as you would like and because you feel like success-the perfect new job-is eluding you?

There is no doubt that job searching can be stressful. Not only do you have to cope with what often feels like rejection, if you are currently unemployed, financial concerns may be an added stressor. It may not be much better if you are looking for a new job while currently employed, as you are probably trying to juggle too much to do in too little free time, and may also be worrying that your current employer may learn about your job search prematurely.

No matter how you look at it, job searching is stressful!

But, could your beliefs be making your job search even more stressful than it would be otherwise? Let’s look at a couple of the most common beliefs that many job seekers hold, and that can cause undue stress.

1. Comparing yourself to others.

Did your neighbor Mary land the job of her dreams after searching for just a week? Does cousin Bob brag that he sent out his resume to 20 companies and got calls for 20 interviews in return?

Every single person is unique. The qualifications and credentials they offer, the experiences they bring to the table, the achievements and results they have produced in the past-every job seeker is different. Also, each situation is different. One industry may be expanding while another is contracting. The economy in one geographic area may be booming while another is declining. Certain professions are more in demand than others.

It is simply a mistake to compare your job search to any other…not even to a colleague with very similar qualifications and goals as yours. You can’t compare apples to oranges…you can’t even accurately compare a yellow delicious apple to a red delicious apple.

Instead, be willing to let go of the comparisons and see if instead there is a lesson in the other person’s job search. While the situation is different, perhaps they used a particular technique that you could adapt to your own search. Comparisons almost inevitably cause unnecessary worry and stress and oftentimes blind you to a lesson that might help you along your path.

2. Holding unrealistic expectations

Sure, it is possible that you could send out your resume Friday and have a job offer Monday afternoon. Anything is possible. But it is unlikely.

It is important to recognize that even the AVERAGE job search often takes months. The traditional rule of thumb is to plan for one month of job searching for every $10,000 of salary you are seeking. Whether or not this is accurate, is debatable. But, what is clear is that job searching often takes time. Just taking a moment to think about the hiring cycle will show you this is true: a company may solicit and collect resumes for an opening over a period of weeks, they then spend another couple of weeks interviewing and re-interviewing candidates, then another couple of weeks conducting reference checks and making a decision. It is the rare job search that will conclude successfully in a time that is shorter than even the typical hiring cycle.

Of course, you have no control over these external hiring processes. All you can control are your own actions. So, if you expect your phone to be ringing off the hook for interviews and you just sent your resume out for the first time last week, or if you expect a solid job offer just two weeks into your search, or if you have other goals or hold other expectation that are not realistic, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment and stress.

So, what is the solution to these faulty ways of thinking?

Goal-setting-realistic goal-setting–is absolutely essential. You need to be thinking all the time about your job search and the goals you’ve set for yourself. In this way, you maintain awareness and open yourself to recognize and act on opportunities that arise.

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While the ultimate goal, obviously, is to achieve your target job, setting this as the goal that you strive for each day and each week can lead to frustration. The actual timing of when you are offered and accept a job is often based on factors that are outside your control. Thus, setting a goal that you will achieve an offer for your target job in 6 weeks, for example, can just lead to frustration and a loss of motivation when six weeks comes and goes without an offer in sight.

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