Dealing With Job Search Depression

I’m in Austin today, heading to San Antonio for dinner tonight…

My Depression Clouds Everything post continues to get comments (342 comments when I wrote this)… it has taken on a life of its own, which is kind of depressing in itself (that it even gets any attention makes me sad).

I got an email a few weeks ago that said:

… BTW Depression is sinking in…

Sad. In my original depression post I don’t give solutions… so perhaps I can throw out some ideas here. I’m not qualified to give medical advice, but here are some Jason Alba ideas on combating depression in a job search:

  1. Move on from the job boards. Sure, get on job boards, but set up their agents and then just watch your inbox.  Don’t spend much time looking for openings where everyone else is.
  2. Set up a nice office. My office was in my bedroom. My bedroom was relatively dark.  How can this be healthy?  Now my JibberJobber office is in a nice dedicated room, with a nice big window.  First thing I do in the morning is to open the blinds and let as much sun in as I can.  I love looking at the sky – blue or gray or whatever… for me it’s so much healthier than my dark bedroom!
  3. Don’t watch TV. Especially the news. Most shows are, well, predictable.  My guilty pleasure is The Office… but I watch it on Friday morning on my computer… 21 minutes with hardly any commercials.  I’m not saying to not watch your favorite show, but don’t watch hours and hours and hours and… yeah, really.  Jobless people watch that much TV… especially while we’re depressed. Movies are okay, however!  Especially inspirational movies! Finally, the news?  NO.  OFF LIMITS.
  4. Get out of the house DAILY. You cannot maintain human sanity unless you are around other humans.  You don’t have to talk to them (heaven forbid), but I think it’s good to be around other humans.  Don’t like that?  Go outside and be one with nature, or sit on your patio and soak up the sun… just get a change of venue.
  5. Exercise DAILY. I barely moved for months, which was not good for my joints or back.  From bed to Lazy Boy (sp?) chair… my body went to pot, and I think I’m still paying the price for being so sedentary.  Want easy?  (a)  Figure out a one mile walking route and do it daily (it should take about 20 minutes).  (b) Do some pushups.  Even girl pushups count 😉 (c) Do some crunches.  (d) Calf raises and/or squats.  Do this regularly.
  6. Write. I found writing very therapeutic.  Start a blog, or start a journal, or buy a ream of paper.  Use writing as a place to reflect on your life, where you want to go, etc.  Do visualization exercises.  It’s powerful.
  7. Read inspirational stuff. I cherish reading the autobiography of Hellen Keller, or Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture.  These books helped ground me.  I love a good Grisham novel, and I LOVE to read Inc Magazine.  There are certain scriptures that really hit home.  Find something inspirational… and read it.  Read good, healthy stuff regularly.
  8. Volunteer. Volunteering is just plain good. I tried two places, got reject both times, and gave up.  I should have been more creative.  Find places where you can keep your skills sharp, or contribute to the good of humanity.
  9. HELP SOMEONE. Usually when they say “volunteer” in a job search I think about volunteering in a business setting.  Do that.  Beyond that, find someone who you can help in some way, big or small.  You can do it anonymously, or they can know, but when you HELP SOMEONE you feel so good!  So good!  Careful, you might become addicted to helping people!
  10. _________. What do you suggest?  The first nine are simply albaisms… share your -ism with us!

(since I’m not close to a computer the comments might not get through until I approve them (that is only true for people who have never commented before).

37 thoughts on “Dealing With Job Search Depression”

  1. A really good list of suggestions. The other thing that helps me is maintaining a weekly/daily schedule, or at the very least, a “to-do” list. Checking off these accomplishments, even if they are along the lines of “ping former colleague John Doe” and “clean the carpets,” is good for one’s mood.

  2. 10. Write a list of career changes (major or minor) that you would make if you had the opportunity. Then, realize that you have the opportunity.

    I’ve realized that job searches, like finding a date, spouse, house, or new car are best done when you are not desperate. On many levels, it’s important to either find ways to be satisfied with your situation or at least to realize that you are there for a reason.

  3. 10. Use positive self-talk, avoid beating yourself up!

    Someone will be very lucky to hire you to do the job you love! Remind yourself of that…often!

  4. Don’t get depressed!
    I just read a great book (step #7) called The Power of Small. They have excellent steps that I;ve found really helpful-\
    Break your to do list down into “minitasks” that can be accomplished in one day- it stops you from getting overwhelmed
    And keep a list of 5 daily positives or accomplishments that will leave you prepared to talk confidently about how you’ve been spending your time since your last job.

    It’s a fast and really helpful read: The Power of Small by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

  5. 10. Use social media sites, like LinkedIn, to network.

    I don’t know about you, but some of my best job leads have been from friends or business associates. Get on LinkedIn and start answering questions in your field. Show your expertise. Connect with others in your field. Once or twice, I’ve even had associates post the job first on LinkedIn rather than go through traditional job boards. It might not produce anything at first, but at least you’ll feel like you’re doing something!

  6. You could add, “Think about things you’re thankful for.”
    It’s amazing how much better you feel when you realize you have health, the use of your limbs, a sunny day, etc. Being out of work seems a much smaller problem.
    Plus, it puts you in a more positive frame of mind = more energy = better chance of succeeding.

  7. Thanks, Jason, I’ve a grin on my face reading your list, I’m doing everything on your list already plus MORE, i’ve a cyber-coach who works with me on daily basis; & i’m motivating other job seekers by running a Success Job Team; cultivating my existing friendships & going out daily to meet peoples (no success guaranteed from the last one but i remain hopeful).

    Have a super nice day!

  8. Great points! Two more:

    10. Schedule your days as religiously as a regular work day. Can do job search work all morning, then work out and read and do positive “house” things in afternoon. Efficient and guilt free!

    11. Schedule at least two networking lunches per week. LinkedIn works, but face to face is unmatched.

  9. A little meditation each day (even 5-10 minutes) goes a long way. Close your eyes and listen to your breath – it can be THAT easy!

    Offer to help train someone on a skill you have – e.g., how to use LinkedIn, how to Blog… Find ways to remind yourself how FLIPPING AWESOME you are!

    Keep a Gratitude Journal – each day, jot down at least a few things you’re grateful for

    Don’t let yourself get isolated – go out there and interact with other people!!!

  10. Do something a little creative every day. Find some problem to solve or research the solution. Just achieving success in something small can make you feel a whole lot better. Like you’ve actually done something.

  11. When you feel down, find a free networking event and attend. While you are there make it a point to find someone that you can help with your connections or talent. Volunteer your time helping others less fortunate than yourself.

  12. Jason: I hate to recommend a book when someone’s going through difficulties. But there are few books as credible as Learned Optimism, by Marty Seligman. Seligman is Distinguished prof of Psych at Penn, former pres of the American Psych Association, and thought leader in the field of “happiness.” He’s almost singlehandedly moved psych out of the clinical/abnormal mode that has been so pervasive over the past century.

    It’s not only pragmatic, but also filled with useful exercises. He’s material is being used in city schools all across the nation. I know few works that are as practical, solid, successful, and useful.

    Best wishes

  13. Watch comedies like The Office, or listen to some good stand-up comedy… Bill Hicks, Louis CK.

    Laughing and keeping things light helps your frame of mind and your effectiveness during your search.

  14. I think you may have the order wrong:
    1. Be around other (positive) people – We are absolutely social animals: being away from the tribe is dangerous: loneliness, depression are clues to get more social in your life.
    2. Reminding yourself of what you are thankful for is a PROVEN trick to being happier, but doesn’t have a lasting effect if I recall correctly (for a well researched background read “the Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt) ie you may have to maintain the practice.
    3. Sufficient Exercise is a definite help. (not solo!)
    4. Meditation type practice – relaxing, and focusing attention can also adjust one’s happiness setpoint.

    Hm.. bet I have the order wrong too!!
    here is the that authors instructions on “how to get happy”
    eliminating negative self-talk is great, meditation better..
    getting social is step 4..
    — I definitely learned a LOT from this book..

  15. Guys, terrific comments, thank you! Once again I find more value in the comments (the discussion) than in the original post! There are some great resources here 🙂

    @Jonathan, thanks for the thoughts, I hadn’t thought about an order to this… and hadn’t heard of that book…

  16. Out of work just over six months now. Everything is getting to me. Watching entirely too much TV, but I am spending 3-6 hours a day in some job-search-related function.

    I may “bite the bullet” and spend the money on a health club. And I am seriously considering Volunteering for the “Bloomberg for Mayor” campaign. I know I can stuff envelopes, type, get coffee…..

  17. I found early on volunteering with health related organizations is a great boon to one’s job search and I happened on it back in the early 80’s.

    Unemployed, I decided to get the focus off of me and spend some time helping others so I volunteered at the American Cancer Society helping them one day a week doing whatever they had me do. After the third week I noticed that some of the people who volunteered were “Uppercrust Society” types and our shared commonality was that all of us had lost a loved one to cancer. During my 5th week I was approached by a lady in her late 60’s who asked me about myself and why I was there. I shared my story that I was unemployed and it gave me joy to help out as my mother died of cancer and I just want to do what I could to the help the Cancer Society for what they did for me and my family during my mother’s long illness.

    She asked for my résumé and two days later I was at an interview with an Executive Director of a non-profit organization looking for an Operations/Marketing Director. I was hired two days after the interview and a year later was appointed the Deputy Executive Director. I saw my benefactor many times after that and my family was invited to many parties that she had at her beautiful home and she helped me raise money for the non-profit I was working for at the time. My “Giving Angel.”

    She told me that she had never had a job but always wanted to work but, because her husband owned a very large design and construction firm that it wouldn’t be “right” so she thought by helping a young guy with a family with employment that it would give her great satisfaction. We were friends up until her death and I still feel her presence when I take time to think about how lucky we are in life to meet those individuals whom I call “Angels in My Path.” (it is the title of my book that I’ll leave behind when I leave this world.) (My young life requires hundreds of angels)

    She was very economically different but we shared a common philosophy – “help others and do what you can”. She felt she never went out of her way for me but I am still grateful to this day.

  18. Steve: A marvelous story, thanks much. Surprisingly, it’s not nearly as unique as most would think. I have a number of friends who have experienced some similar relationships.

  19. 1) Hugging your children or animals works wonders.
    2) I have even started counseling because of being so down about not finding work.
    3) I volunteer at a homeless shelter. There are no words to tell you how blessed you feel when you work with people who are so greatful for anything you do for them and have lost everything.
    4) Get some advice from free agencies on how to “boost” your resume. I was amazed at how good I look on paper now! They found things that I knew how to do just by talking to me that I never thought of putting on my resume.
    5) Really be conscious of ANY negative talk… if feeds and spreads like wildfire.
    6) Positive self-talk is harder than it sounds, but look up online how to do it. It really helps.
    7) Work on one thing about you that you want to change about yourself every day. Just pick one, whether its keeping your nails done, skin moisturized, 40 sit-ups daily…. whatever. If you pick to many things, then you are destined to have a bad day and feel like you failed because you didn’t finish everything that you wanted to do.
    8) This sounds goofy, but smile at people. Look them square in the eye and smile, like you share a secret. I had someone stop me one day and say, “That was the nicest thing that has happened to me all day… your smile.” It floored me.
    9) Get into the sun… if its a rainy day, get into the rain and laugh about how retarded you feel. Just get out of the house. It’s hard to go for a long walk or jog when you are down (at least for me), but I always feel better when I go outside.

  20. I agree that keeping up physical activity is key. A one hour walk daily will release endorphins, oxygenate your blood, and make you stronger. The time away from verbiage will help you to pay attention to your own ideas, which is what you need to stay centered and effective.

    — Learn something new. I learned Twitter while I was going through cancer treatment, and I have emerged with a new skill set.

    — Connect with people. Twitter is my favorite; it helps to see life moving on even when we have the job seeker blues.

    — Question your depressive thoughts. Ask “Is that true?” Often those thoughts can be authentically turned around into depth and empowerment.

    — Remember that depression can become a medical illness. At a lecture I went to recently on depression and anxiety for cancer patients and their families, the psychiatrist/neurologist said that there are three causes of depression: genetics, medical treatment, and overuse (too much stress on brain chemistry). When that happens, a drug can help restore the depleted neurotransmitters which are the hallmark of depression. So don’t hesitate to seek medical help if you can’t get yourself out of depression after trying for a week or two.

  21. I have been unemployed for 11 months now and after 26 years with the same industry this has all been quite an experience. I have hit every emotional aspect one could reach, but ultimately I am still here and I do consider myself a survivor of this economic nightmare. Here are some of things I have done.
    1) I gave myself a make over, new clothes (not too many and not expensive) hair cut, makeup, the works.
    2) Set up agents with every job board I could find.
    3) Tried some work from home suggestions, (they are a waste of money and usually a rip-off).
    4) Got really bored and started watching too much TV (BIG mistake) gained a few pounds.
    5) Read a few books (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – excellent book, Eat, Pray, Love another good one)
    5) Springtime – planted a garden and keep working and weeding (lost a few of those pounds).
    6) Depression never too far from the service, but trying to add in more exercise to curb this.
    7) Re-wrote resumes and cover letters again, signed up with Twitter, Facebook and of course LinkedIn.
    8) Started volunteering at a local hospice doing office work and a local Park and Recreation (blessing in disguise).
    9) Found this site through LinkedIn and now hoping number 10 will be the final “Found A Job” posing.

    This is just one of my many lists.

  22. I found out that talking with other unemployed people really helped me. It’s somehow comforting to know other people are in the same situation. I can get a lot of good ideas and advice from people who really understand what I am going through.

    It fact, it helped me so much I thought it might help others. So I started a website to get unemployed people together. It allows people to tell their layoff story, get advice, get resume feedback from the community, etc. It certainly is a painless way to write as Jason suggests.

    Please stop by and join the community:

  23. I started a 30-minute weekly conference call with other Christians who are unemployed or concerned about their job security. Callers enjoy listening to me read a couple of selected devotional messages on how to live out our faith in the workplace or in the job search. Then we share prayer requests. It is a vital part of our week and strengthens our faith. The sources I use are TGIF – Today God is First , or Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest , or Faith in the Workplace newsletter

  24. Jason
    I am running a free conference call on this subject 6/11 If anybody is interested.
    Visit our web site or email me If you would like more information -Scott
    What: FREE PM Job Shop Conference Call
    Topic: “Emotional Stages of a Job Loss”… Read More
    PMJobShop host: Scott Percival
    Presenter: Cynthia Clark, Career Coach, Career Quest Coaching, Inc
    When: Thursday June 11, 2009 at 9pm Eastern time
    Where: Conference Dial-in: (269) 320-8300 Access Code: 767 616#
    “Emotional Stages of a Job Loss”
    On this call you will learn tips for constructively dealing with a job loss so that you can focus on your future and successfully re-launch your career. By recognizing the different stages, you are able to move through them quickly, rather than languish in them for weeks. .” Cynthia will help us understand the stages of loss as they relate to the job search.

  25. Mary Renner. We are in the same boat almost. I’ve been out for 8 months.

    Here’s YOUR list with MY comments:

    1) I gave myself a make over, new clothes (not too many and not expensive) hair cut, makeup, the works. (NOT SO MUCH. JUST ENOUGH CLOTHES FOR JOB SEARCHING)

    2) Set up agents with every job board I could find. (LIST OF JOB BOARD/AGENCIES NOW at 75)

    3) Tried some work from home suggestions, (they are a waste of money and usually a rip-off).

    4) Got really bored and started watching too much TV (BIG mistake) gained a few pounds.

    5) Read a few books (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – excellent book, Eat, Pray, Love another good one)

    5) Springtime – planted a garden and keep working and weeding (lost a few of those pounds).

    6) Depression never too far from the service, but trying to add in more exercise to curb this.

    7) Re-wrote resumes and cover letters again, signed up with Twitter, Facebook and of course LinkedIn.

    I am so frustrated and sad…..and so tired of agencies rejecting me for what I KNOW is my age…. Now I’m having a fight with Social Security. Signed up for Medicare at 66.5 yrs….until oct 08 I HAD HEALTH INSURANCE SO WHY SHD I SIGN UP FOR M’CARE. But turns out I am penalized by 10% for NOT SIGNING UP…BUT I HAD HEALTH INSURANCE…>ROUND AND ROUND WE GO. ANd just TRY and get a real person on the phone at SS or M’Care…..(OK…RANT OVER!!! THanks for listening).

  26. Karen

    What the heck is wrong with this picture. I’m gripping because I’m too young to retire and too old to get hired and here you are with your own insurance getting penalized for not signing up for Medicare.
    I have so much to look forward to don’t I?!

  27. Folks…. It’s not time for a ‘pity party’!

    In all likelihood, you won’t get any ‘pity’ from many people – if any. There are millions of people who are floating on the same cruise ship. So… as so many others have said, “Pull on your pants. Get dressed. Move on. It’s your life. Deal with it.”

    Make the most of the time that you would otherwise not have to yourself. Put a list of ‘honey do’s’ or ‘action items’ together. Get that will or living trust written. Go see your 9investment broker. Join AARP and take a “Driver improvement course” for $12 – you might save money on your car insurance. Get your finances in order. Volunteer. Paint the kitchen. Vacuum the car. Yes! Set some direction for yourself. Read that book you’ve been putting off forever. Or, as I’m doing: I go to the community pool and swim 3x per week. Best exercise there is… just $3.60 for 1-2 hours.

    I’ve been visiting my broker – repeatedly. Going to job fairs. Visiting disabled friends. Helping others with their new computers. Investigating some courses at my local community college. Assessing my station in life and going to career networking meetings (lots of them).

    Love yourself. Love your family. Love your life. Make it happen.

    This is not a dress rehearsal folks – so get on the stage and as Star Trek’s Piccard says, “Make it so.”

  28. Jason, my heart broke when I read the term “recession depression” a few weeks ago. It is a sad term that points to the rise of this very serious issue. Each and every one of us should make an effort to reach out, often people do not even realize they are depressed and can sink deeper without intervention. There are so many great solutions here and I would add:

    *Watch what you eat. High fat and sugar may feel like comfort food but will actually make you feel worse.
    *Get out of the house! You may not feel like being around other people which is exactly why you should.
    *Spend some time around children. They are instant mood boosters and remind us of the simple things in life.
    *Take an in between job, treat it as an adventure or stepping stone but having some income will relieve your pressure and help you to see things clearly.
    *If depression lingers, see your doctor. Blue days are normal but clinical depression requires treatment, don’t ignore it.
    *Have a timed pity party, 15 minutes, let it all out, cry, scream, feel sorry for yourself and then get on with it.
    *Hold your family and friends close, share your struggles and know that you can recover from job loss and financial hardship.

  29. Try being 43, worked in IT for 25 years, then layed-off. Now nobody will touch me. I go to interviews, network, do everything right, but nothing seems to be working. Going on 8 months now, have wife and kids to worry about.

    I’ve tried everything on the list, but it works for a “while”. After a while, it turns into another (this is getting nowhere).

    I think the best tip is helping others to help pass the time. Just staying busy.

    Those with small kids like myself. I feel for you. It is impossible to just get out of the house and do something for yourself. You have a greater responsibility.

    Yes, I’m pissed, depressed, but not giving up. my mornings are job hunting, every day. Till I feel like I want to throw my PC and DSL out the window.

    That’s life and gotta keep moving.

  30. David, I saw your comment come through and could not simply nod my head in sympathy and go away. I am not sure what area you live in or what area of IT you’re in but please feel free to contact me. I know plenty of IT people and can at least make inquiries on your behalf. I know it totally stinks and after awhile the “rah rah” stuff does not encourage it just irritates. I don’t know if I can help, but I would like to try.

    Karen (contact info on website, would put it here but don’t want to bait the spammers!)

  31. Karen,

    I’ve tried moving around this site and other links to your name, but cannot locate an email. If you click on my name, it takes you directly to my website and email. My resume etc is also on my website.

    I do appreciate your sincere concern. It seems there are very few people around me who understand this amount of frustration and concern about the well being of my family.

  32. I just got laid off this morning. My boss called and said business was slowing down. and due to the economy my job was going to be eliminated. I have inside sales background and felt bad all day. A great New Year present…to be unemployed. I called the Unemployment Office to apply for benefits and was on hold most of the day. Tomorrow I will go back to a networking group at a local church. I just feel it is important to get out with people. I worry about paying my rent, etc. I went through this before about a year ago and settled for a lower paying job. I just feel so depressed about this. I know a lot of people are out of work. It is all so depressing.

  33. I type 100 wpm and take shorthand, have project management and administrative skills, am fluent in office software, and am 55+ years old. I’ve gotten a single interview in the last two months, and floated over 1000 applications. I was outsourced and took a job at $20K less than what I had been making just to get work a few years back. What hope is there when you can no longer take care of yourself and you’re coming to the end of your rope? There is no ‘pad’ and no one else to rely on. I’m it, and I’m already on antidepressants. Homelessness looms and then there’s no ability to even apply for work. Who decided that I am redundant and no longer valuable, that skills I’ve worked my entire life to hone are now meaningless? I’ve given everything to every position I’ve ever held. The reality is, I can’t afford to do anything but apply for work 14-16 hours per day, maximizing every potential opportunity. Am I burnt out? You bet I am. I’ve never feel so degraded as when I have to “whore” myself to the business world. But I’ll keep doing it until I land something or die trying.

  34. Lynn, I am subscribed to comments and saw yours come through and had to come back to comment. With your skill set there’s no reason you can’t create your own job as a Virtual Assistant. If you have access tp a computer and phone you can sign up with an existing firm such as Contemporary VA or A Clayton’s Secretary or start your own. There are lots of small to medium sized businesses requiring project management and admin support on a contract basis. You should also give Elance a try although it does take a little time to establish yourself with higher paying clients. For other great tips on the new work strategy, visit Tory Johnson’s site, Job Club. I am praying for you!

    Karen Swim

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