How to cope with early career anxiety as a young job hunter
As a recent graduate, Jane* was feeling pretty anxious about the job interview process – and that anxiety came to a head when she actually faced a potential employer. During the job interview, Jane realized she wasn’t breathing and almost passed out from nervousness.
Needless to say, she didn’t land the gig. But, as her career coach Sarah Vermunt told us, she’s now happily employed.
Vermunt says the stress that comes from being a young job seeker is pretty common. Many of her young clients are feeling nervous about entering the workforce, and, in particular, landing the right gig. They’re feeling anxiety in a number of different ways – worrying about messing up an online job application, for example, or flubbing the in-person interview.
Much of it, Vermunt says, is worrying that “they won’t pick the right door.”
Studies also show perfectionism among younger generations is on the rise, which could be a big part of those high stress levels. One recent study looked at college students over a nearly 30-year period and found that perfectionism has been increasing over time.
“The findings indicate that recent generations of young people perceive that others are more demanding of them, are more demanding of others, and are more demanding of themselves,” explains to the study.
A lot of young people are also talking about their peers – essentially, the Instagram effect.
“If you’re seeing more happy, successful, shiny examples of people doing well in their career, and that’s what you’re comparing yourself to – even if those aren’t based in reality, it’s going to cause some anxiety,” Vermunt says.
Yikes. So how can young job hunters cope with high stress levels and land a great gig? Vermunt says there are a few key strategies to keep in mind.
Here are four ways to cope with early career anxiety.
Don’t compare yourself to others
Seeing your first-year college roommate post online about landing her dream PR gig fresh out of school might make you wince. And if peers are giving you career anxiety, it might be time to delete a few apps.
“Everything is very shiny on Instagram,” Vermunt says. “People live very curated lives online and you have to apply your own reality filter on that.”
Do a mock interview
If sitting down for a job interview is what stresses you out the most, Vermunt recommends having a friend help you conduct a mock interview.
“Fumble around and say the wrong thing to get a practice round in,” she says.
Most people wind up realizing it’s not as stressful as they expected – and their answers aren’t as bad as they’d expected, either. And once you have that practice round, you can figure out your weak spots and prep accordingly so that you head into the real deal feeling a bit more confident.
Have a few coffee chats
Job descriptions only give you a small slice of what certain careers are actually like. Vermunt says it’s important to talk to people in the fields you’re hoping to work in to get a sense of the day-to-day expectations, and the pros and cons of different jobs.
Not only will that help you figure out the best fit for you, but it’ll also give you a leg up on the competition during interviews – and hopefully quell your nerves to boot.
Consider the worst-case scenarios
Okay, this sounds pessimistic – but hear us out. Imaging the worst-case scenario about your career prospects can actually put your job hunt into perspective.
Here’s one exercise from Vermunt: picture yourself making a wrong decision that leads to a job that’s a bad fit. “It’s not the end of the world,” she says. “You’re not going to lose your home, your partner’s not going to break up with you – it just means you need to pick another door.”
Or another possible situation: you apply for a job and…you don’t get it.
“They’re not going to laugh at you,” Vermunt says. It just means you dust yourself off and apply for another job.
See? Not that scary after all.
*Name changed to protect privacy
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