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Coping Skills to Manage Stress in Your Career Journey

Eleanor Fisher
Career Center Intern

Searching for a job or internship is stressful during normal times, and even more so during the current COVID-19 pandemic. If you are feeling stressed, depressed or overwhelmed in your career journey, consider these coping strategies to improve your search experience.

Not only can job and internship searches be stressful on their own, but they can be even more of a strain on top of schoolwork. These coping strategies can help.

Focus on control. Feeling like you lack control can greatly contribute to stress. To combat this feeling, center your efforts around aspects of your career journey that you can control such as your resume, cover letter, and personal abilities rather than external factors like the thoughts and actions of employers. Instead of worrying about when you will get an interview, focus on improving your application materials and tailoring them to each opportunity to which you apply. Instead of stressing over what your interviewer will think of you, prepare for the interview as best you can, and practice your interviewing skills. Take advantage of resources like the Career Center to learn how to interview well and how to create compelling resumes and cover letters. You cannot control what employers will do or think, but you can work on presenting yourself as professionally as possible.

Set SMART goals. One specific way you can gain a healthy feeling of control is through setting SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. An example of a SMART goal is: "I will apply to two jobs and attend one interviewing workshop this week." This goal is far more concrete and achievable than a broad goal like, "I want to get a job before next semester." While this broader goal is a good overarching aim, it can be overwhelming to approach your everyday process this way. Focus on SMART goals you can accomplish in the here and now, and give yourself credit when you accomplish those goals. Consider setting up a Career Center appointment for help planning SMART goals that are effective for you.

Practice self-care. Self-care is a vital part of decreasing your stress.

Assess your mindset. How do you approach success? Avoid comparing yourself to others, and remember that success is unique for every individual. Make sure you have support, both socially and professionally.

Lean on your family, friends, professors and the Career Center. Isolation is not good for anyone! Try to make the job or internship search less stressful by incorporating things you enjoy in the process. You could listen to your favorite music, treat yourself to a drink or a snack, or choose a pleasant place to sit while you work.

Take breaks. Set a specific amount of time to work, then give your brain a break by taking a walk, reading, talking to a friend – whatever is most calming for you. While your career is important, your health and mental well-being are equally important. If you are not physically and mentally well, you will not be able to accomplish your goals effectively.

Finding the balance between productivity in your search and wellness can seem tricky, but breaking things down into manageable chunks, focusing on your mental and physical well-being, and concentrating on the areas of career development that you can control can help you find that balance.

Eleanor Fisher
Career Center Intern