Don’t Stress: Zen and the Art of the Job Search

Yeah, I know. It’s hard to have a “Zen” attitude about finding a job when you’re worried about paying next month’s bills. Zen is the antithesis of Anxiety. But this is precisely why you should try to achieve it.

Anxiety gets in the way of performing optimally in any task. It’s only through staying focused that you’ll reach your maximum potential.

It’s worth remembering that although you can’t control external factors influencing the success of your job search (i.e.. the economy and job market), you can control your attitude about it. After all, stressing about not finding work doesn’t make it easier to find work; in reality, it probably makes it harder. With that in mind, here are some things you can do to stay sane during a tough job search.

Let Go of What You Can’t Control
Finding a job is a complex process that involves all sorts of factors, many of them outside of your control. This can range from overarching issues such as a sluggish economy and shortage of suitable jobs to more specific issues such as employers and contacts not calling you back.

Fixating on these things is only counterproductive and takes precious energy away from what you should be doing: focusing on what you can control.

Embrace What You Can Control
Think of it like fishing. Sometimes the fish are biting; sometimes they’re not. But the better prepared you are (i.e. using the correct lures, knowing the best fishing spots, learning the correct techniques), the more likely you’ll catch a fish.

The same can be said for looking for a job. You could blindly cast your line and see what bites, or you could empower yourself with information and strategies. You can’t control whether or not the employers are biting, but you can improve your chances significantly.

Establish a Routine
It’s easier to stay focused and feel empowered when you have a routine. At the beginning of each week, sit down and make a plan, which should include to-do lists, schedules and agendas. Break up the day into specific tasks. For instance, the morning can be dedicated to researching jobs and scouring listings, the afternoon can be devoted to networking and emailing. At the end of each week, try to assess how things are going—do you notice any patterns or job search strategies that need to be changed?

Put aside a chunk of time every week for professional development. Learn a new skill, take a class in your field of interest or do your own research or project independently. This can help you feel as if you’re moving ahead, even when the job search starts to stall a bit.

Remember Your Accomplishments
Research has shown that humans are more than twice as likely to remember an insult than a compliment. This is why looking for a job can be particularly disheartening. The constant negative feedback of not getting a job easily drowns out memories of prior successes.

In order to counteract that negative feedback, it’s important to periodically remember your past accomplishments—both large and small—and remind yourself of the ways in which you excel, both on the job and in life. Make a list and revisit it every time you start to get discouraged.

Connect With Others
In all things, balance is key. Make sure you don’t get trapped in job search isolation! It’s easier to stay positive and maintain perspective when you have the support of friends and family. Nothing helps maintain perspective than decompressing with people you enjoy.

During tough times, it’s easy to start defining yourself based on transient, worldly things such as your present circumstances. Friends and family can help fortify us during a tough job search by reminding us of who we really are and what makes us special.

Take Care of Yourself
Most importantly, remember to take care of yourself. Try to set aside time every day to exercise or pursue physical activities you enjoy such as biking, yoga or even walking the dog. Pursue activities that you excel at, whether they’re creative, athletic or social. Or make a difference in the lives of others through volunteering.
The point is to keep your mind from wandering into useless territory. And to have faith that if you’re giving it your all, things will ultimately work out.


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