How to practice self-care during your job hunt

Annie Gainsborough

Annie Gainsborough is a Project Consultant at Gradconsult. She supports students and graduates to flourish throughout recruitment processes with a personal interest in equality and inclusion.

During your final year of university, and after graduation, the pressure to find a graduate job can feel overwhelming. We’ve got some suggestions to help you maintain your wellbeing while you’re looking.

Pressure from parents, tutors and friends, and news of the jobs market being hit by a global pandemic combine to make this a particularly stressful time. Lots of these are external factors you can’t control. But what you can control is your approach to the job hunt. By adopting the right strategy, you can increase your chances of landing a graduate role while also taking care of your wellbeing.

You might think that the more job applications you submit, the more likely you are to be successful. But this approach to job hunting does not always yield better results. In fact, both success rates and wellbeing decline when this approach is taken.

Here are four tips to maintaining a focused approach to your job search while also prioritising self-care:

1. Quality not quantity

You might have heard stories, on the radio or through friends, of people sending their CV to 200 employers and not getting a single interview. This can easily make the job hunt feel like a hopeless task. But this generic, “copy-and-paste” approach to job applications is not conducive to success – either in terms of interviews and offers, or your own wellbeing.

In fact, Student Minds’ research shows that you need to submit about five strong applications in a couple of months to reliably receive one job offer. To receive more than two job offers, you would need to submit about 60 job offers!

This is because employers look for tailored, well-researched applications. We’d recommend:

  • making sure your application and CV covers the key points the employer has listed in the job advert
  • go beyond the organisation’s website in your research, checking out company blogs, social media accounts and sector news stories to help you stand out and demonstrate real interest.

This of course takes time, and isn’t something you can achieve for hundreds of applications. So by focusing on a smaller number of well-researched applications, you can stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of success.

Submitting more applications than is necessary certainly isn’t going to help you maintain self-care. In fact, the same report indicates that each additional application submitted results in a decrease in graduates’ mental wellbeing.

2. Set realistic targets

Whether it is an application a month during your final year or an application a week post-graduation, setting realistic targets that work for you and around your other responsibilities is one way to ensure the job hunt doesn’t get the better of you. Don’t worry if you have to move the goalposts slightly as you go, - particularly during a pandemic - but having goals helps you to maintain a focus on what you want to achieve.

3. Maintain a routine

Securing a graduate position is one goal, but your wellbeing is even more important and vital to your success. Don’t let the job hunt overshadow your hobbies, relationships, and the other things that make up who you are.

Sometimes it feels like the peaks and troughs of the job search define us, but this isn’t the case, and so it is important to make time for the activities that keep us going. That said, you can’t do everything at once, so be flexible – you might need to move other commitments around to focus on a deadline or an interview.

Keep a focus on self-care during this time! Build a routine that leaves time for healthy meals, exercise and fresh air as well as a good night’s sleep. Getting dressed might help you feel more professional, and taking time away from the screen to do something that matters to you could help you come back refreshed and ready to ace the recruitment process.

4. Coping with rejection

Even when following these tips, securing a graduate job isn’t going to be plain sailing. All of us will experience rejections at different points in the process. (And if you don’t, perhaps you aren’t being ambitious enough!) Please don’t be disheartened or put off by this eventuality. Just submitting an application is a really big step and if you make it to an assessment centre or interview that is a huge achievement in itself.

First of all, congratulate yourself for what you’ve done well! And then, while the experience is still fresh in your mind, seek feedback from the employer and reflect on any elements you think you could improve, either by yourself, with your careers service, a trusted friend or family member.

You may also want to take some time away from the job hunt to put things into perspective before you return, ready to apply the learning from one experience to other recruitment processes. Applying for jobs, like all things in life, takes practice and the more you do it, and learn from it, the better you will get.

It is ok to feel worried or anxious while applying for jobs but you are absolutely not alone. There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, and the job hunt is something else that may add to this feeling. But talking about your concerns to others and maintaining a healthy approach to the recruitment process can help you feel grounded and in control, while helping you work towards your goals.

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