How to Help Jobseekers Tackle Job Seach Depression

Job search depression is real. Young man looking sad and discouraged.

Let’s face it. Job search is anything but linear these days. And when jobseekers face seemingly insurmountable obstacles, constant rejection, or setbacks, job search depression can begin to set in. It is real and impacts millions of jobseekers. Pew Research Center uncovered that about half of US adults who are unemployed and looking for a job are pessimistic about their prospects for future employment. As career practitioners, we know that job search is stressful, but we also have tools we can use to support our clients, hopefully helping to shorten the process. One thing we may not be prepared for, though, is helping our clients deal with job search depression. After weeks, months, sometimes up to a year of applying and maybe getting interviews, but either not receiving offers or having offers fall apart during negotiations, our clients can start to feel despair and hopelessness.

So many emotions arise while job searching, regardless of the circumstances, but sometimes the process can be made even more of a struggle. Job search depression can be caused by one (or a combination) of 6 factors: feeling a loss of control, experiencing uncertainty on an daily basis, feeling unwanted, facing numerous rejections, dealing with financial challenges, and feeling shame about being unemployed. An extra layer of complication occurs if depression is also playing a role in our client’s state of unemployment. This scenario is especially distressing as the client finds themself caught in a repetitive loop of needing to find work, while also finding it challenging to hold a job.

10 Strategies to Help Jobseekers Tackle Job Search Depression

Although the majority of career practitioners are not trained mental health professionals, we still have ways to support clients and help them emerge from job search depression. Here are 10 strategies:

  1. It all starts with awareness. Being aware that job search depression is a valid – sometimes debilitating – concern helps you to determine which tools and resources are most relevant to support your client.
  2. Demonstrating empathy with clients is an invaluable step toward understanding their feelings and how they can navigate their job search, given their situation. Encouraging them to share their feelings and stories concerning their job search is helpful. Listen actively and carefully. Help clients uncover and express their depressive emotions and then guide them toward replacing those thoughts with more optimistic and empowering emotions. Promote the benefits of practicing positive thinking.
  3. Have a list of resources prepared. Get to know some qualified and trusted counsellors and therapists you can refer clients to. Know what resources are available in your community (job search resource centres, etc.), or refer to websites that offer help.
  4. Help clients establish a job search routine. When a client is feeling desperate to find a job, while their bills are piling up and their family is stressed, the last thing we want is for them to spend every waking hour job searching. This isn’t good for their own or their loved ones’ well-being. So, recommend to your clients that they have set hours devoted to searching, connecting, applying, and networking. In their off time, help them to find ways to relax and take their mind off the situation; drawing, doing puzzles, meditating, reading, and walking. We have all heard of the stress responses – fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. It isn’t wise for anyone to stay in one of these responses for long periods of time. Helping our client to find ways to be more regulated can actually help them see other options they may not be able to identify while in a stressed state.
  5. Encourage your client to track their progress in a spreadsheet or journal. This exercise will enable them to identify certain patterns and determine where (or if)  they want/need to make changes related to their job search routine.
  6. Discuss all of the client’s options. As we know, here in Canada, the unemployment rate is low and the job vacancy rate is high. So, there is not really a shortage of jobs but moreover it may be the types of jobs available that aren’t necessarily appealing (or what would be considered enough to meet the cost of living). Therefore, the question is should your client take a “survival job”? The fact is that a $20 hour per job may not actually sustain a household in these economic circumstances.The answer is personal to every single person so it’s important to discuss this option. For some, it makes sense. They may need to pay bills, get food on the table, or a roof over their family’s head. And for others, a job may hinder their ability to find a more fulfilling role, but there is no right answer.
  7. Help your client to find a support system for themselves. Aside from you, who can they lean on as they navigate this process?
  8. Champion clients wins – small and big. Job search can be unpredictable and stressful, but through it all, there are often gains. Therefore, encouraging your client to celebrate their wins with a celebration or personal reward will empower them to maintain momentum and continue to strive for a successful result.
  9. Support your client to take time out for themself.  Emphasize the importance and benefits of wellness. Wellness requires a holistic approach, so encourage your client to take small steps toward increasing their fitness and wellness. The more fit they become, the more adept they will be at tackling job search challenges and navigating the unexpected.
  10. Stress the importance of networking and connecting. While depression usually keeps people from socializing and reaching out, we also know that networking is one of the fastest and most effective ways to land a new job.  Help your client come up with ways to network that are comfortable for them to manage.

For more information about how to help your job-seeking clients overcome challenges and reach their employment goals, enrol in CPC’s courses or earn certifications. Learn new strategies and tactics to empower your clients to conduct a strategic and productive job search.

Lori Jazvac is a passionate, award-winning Master Certified Résumé Strategist and Certified Employment Strategist through Career Professionals of Canada. As a multi-certified Master Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Coach, she specializes in helping clients navigate challenging career transitions. In 2013, an empowering vision inspired Lori to launch Creative Horizons Communications, a holistic career services firm where she virtually supports jobseekers around the globe to embrace their next career milestone. In her spare time, Lori enjoys dance, blogging, watching comedies and reality shows, yoga, and taking long walks in nature.

Conny Lee is a Certified Holistic Narrative Career Practitioner, Online Business Manager for coaches, Certified Career (CCS), Employment (CES), and Résumé Strategist (CRS), Trauma of Money Facilitator, and Sacred Money Archetypes® Coach. She focuses on supporting people to create the career, business, and life they truly desire and love. To learn more, visit Conny’s website at When she isn’t working, Conny enjoys reading, listening, learning anything related to personal development, spending time with her family, and working out.

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This is a good reminder. Job searching can definitely take a toll.

Thank you, Felisha, for your valuable feedback. Glad that you found the article helpful!

Excellent points, Lori! Many of the people we help as CDPs struggle. I like the way you have explained the struggle, and the ways to help.

Thank you, Shannon!