Changing jobs can be stressful. And most of us, if we are perfectly honest, would rather not have that stress.
- You have to find a new job.
- Go for interviews.
- Edit your CV.
- Learn how to do new things.
- Work with different people.
We would rather stick to what we know, even if we don’t like it very much.
How do you overcome the stress of changing jobs? Why should you even put yourself through that stress? You may be reading this article today wanting to know how to overcome that stress. Or what the stress involved is, so that you can figure out whether it’s something you even want to put yourself through.
Who are you to talk about this?
I’m not a 50 year old professor with a PHD who has studied the stress involved in changing jobs. But I’m someone with the lived experience of changing jobs, and as of Dec 2021, has been looking for a job for the past 8 months. I left my job in October 2021 to change my job.
Why write this?
I write this because I want readers to know that whilst changing jobs is stressful, there are ways around it. If you want to quit, but there are certain reasons that keep you stuck, I hope this article gives you useful anchors on how you can overcome those fears.
But more importantly, I want you to know that if you’re already thinking of a job change, there are certain aspects that are not working for you.
Trying to force yourself to like those aspects may not be the solution. It may be the same as knocking your head constantly against the wall. You won’t get a solution that way. In fact, Alcoholics Anonymous loves saying,
If nothing changes, nothing changes.
It’s testament to the fact that if you expect something to change without you doing something to change it, you may end up in a very bad place. You end up stuck, not moving, and always complaining.
Why stress happens
Stress happens when you don’t feel that what is within you can overcome what is in front of you.
There are three reasons why you feel stressed.
Firstly, you may remember the emotional rejections, during your past experience of seeking a job. You may remember what it feels to be constantly rejected, to not hear replies, and to have your hopes up… only for them to be dashed again. You are forgiven for wanting to avoid that.
No sane person would want to put themselves through that mental torture!
This cuts you at a very deep place because employers are not only saying,
I don’t want you.
But they are saying,
You’re not good enough.
One of these statements is enough to put us down. A combination? Daily? It’s enough to send someone into a deeply negative spiral.
Secondly, there’s no certainty. The job search can go on for an incredibly long time. You don’t know how long it will take to find a job. You can end up searching for a month, or a year. There’s simply no guarantee. Especially in an economy that seems devastated by COVID.
The risk is high… and the rewards of finding a great job don’t seem so great.
That leads us to the last point.
You’re just not sure if it’s worth all that trouble. There are many who say,
All jobs are the same. There are going to be problems everywhere you go.
There are always going to be toxic people.
I remember how my supervisor told me this in my first job. When I complained to her about how a colleague was shouting and shaming me publicly, she told me this was something that happened everywhere I went. I believed her.
I didn’t realise that different organisations would treat it differently. There were some who would not condone it, and would have a stern word for the person guilty of this.
What are the main stressors?
You may feel stressed whilst considering a job change because:
- You want to quit, but you have no money and wonder how you’re going to pay the bills or feed yourself
- You wonder how long it’s going to take to find a new job
- You wonder if you will even like the new job
If we classify these stressors, you find that it falls into three categories.
You need to feed yourself. Or even your family!
Changing your job seems to be irresponsible.
Solution: Path an exit and prepare for the exit.
Changing a job isn’t something you do in a day (though you can definitely do it!) Rather, think of it as paving a runway for your airplane to take off again. Thinking of it in that way allows you to feel safer as you find a better job. You don’t feel forced to take the next job that appears.
For me, what helped was applying for jobs for the 7 months before I left the company. Whilst I didn’t get a job offer, I need to say this again, I DID NOT get a job offer, I found it helped in terms of getting me into the frame of mind that getting a job was not a joke.
I used to think that getting a job was easy. After all, I looked at my CV. It looked fantastic! But it was not until I started failing my interviews that I realised this might take longer than I thought. It helped that I had failed many times in interviews and applications. It prepared me for more failure and rejections. It taught me not to take things personally.
When you start the cycle of job applications, you will learn to get used to rejection. You don’t have to like it. You have to learn to adapt to it.
Solution: Set a timeline and tell people about it
Stop keeping the desire to change to yourself. Tell people about it. When you do this, you build accountability. You’re no longer just answering to yourself, but you’re answering for the other people you’ve spoken to.
Naval Ravikant, the angel investor behind the likes of Uber,
“In Silicon Valley, all of these other people are start- ing companies. It looks like they can do it. I’m going to start a company. I’m just here temporarily. I’m an entrepreneur.”
…I didn’t actually mean to trick myself into it. It wasn’t a deliberate, calculated thing.
I was just venting, talking out loud, being overly honest. But I didn’t actually start a company.
This was in 1996, it was a much scarier, more difficult proposition to start a company then.
Sure enough, everyone started saying “What are you still doing here? I thought you were leaving to start a company?” and “Wow, you’re still here…” I was literally embarrassed into starting my own company.
Putting it on the record will push you out of the exit and stop you from clinging to what’s safe.
Solution: Build a safety cushion through saving and self-employment
Over the next few months, build up a nest egg. I found that building up a 6 month cushion helped me to feel safer when I eventually left. I wasn’t desperate.
The other thing that helped was freelancing. Before I left, I started attaining clients as a freelance writer. Whilst it didn’t give me thousands, it gave me hundreds that enabled me to leave with greater peace of mind. It reminded me that I still could survive.
Similarly look at the skills that you have now. Are there ways that you can use those for self employment, to give yourself a cushion as you look for a job? This will reduce the stress of changing jobs, especially when you know that you can still financially support yourself.
Fear of the challenge
You may be fearful of how hard it’s going to take. I’m not going to discount the process, lie to you and say it’s easy.
But I’m going to tell you what may work.
Solution: Reframe it as a fight
You’re fighting. You’re hustling. You’re struggling. And that’s a valuable lesson. When I first came back from the U.K., I had this sense of entitlement that because I was an ‘overseas scholar’, I should have a job. I felt that someone owed me a job.
How arrogant and proud that was!
But this time, it’s helped me to see that no one owes me anything. If I want something I have to fight for it. Similarly, see your job-hunt as a fight. Tell yourself
I’m not jobless.
I’m fighting for my livelihood.
There’s beauty in the fight. There’s value in having your backs to the wall, at having no other way other than to keep fighting, keep showing up, and keep doing your best. It’s painful, but your grit will be valuable.
Solution: Celebrate what you have.
It’s easy to get into a funk. That’s why the most helpful thing has been a daily ritual of gratitude, followed by a celebration of myself. I write down what I’m thankful for every morning, following by writing down the qualities I see in myself, and how I’ve shown that in the past.
When I do this, I remind myself that I’ve gotten through similar times in the past, and this is just another time I will get through. Yes, employers may reject you, but you cannot reject yourself. You have to celebrate yourself.
Fear of the unknown
Fear keeps you stuck. You may not know what your next job will be like. Or what you will be doing there. Or you may fear that you will sink into a routine of depressing days, where you
- Open your email
- Wait by the phone
- See another rejection
- Send out another cover letter/resume
Yes, it is depressing. But here’s what can help.
Solution: Be present, one day at a time.
Sit with your emotions. However scared you feel, sit with it. Breathe. Keep breathing.
Our fears come because we race ahead of ourselves. Instead of looking at what’s in the here and now, we worry about things that we cannot do anything about. Like getting someone to employ us. You can’t force someone to employ you by putting a gun to their heads!
Who knows, you may not even be here tomorrow. That’s why just staying in the here and now, and coping with the troubles of the present day is more than enough for now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you should be irresponsible and stop planning.
But I’m saying that you and I just need to sit down and realise that all we have is now. That all our fears, worries and anxieties won’t do us any good. Letting go of them will be much easier.
Why hold onto something that’s causing you pain? Just breathe, and let go.
Solution: Have rituals, not routines
Do you know what makes you feel good?
Having a ritual each day, such a set idea of the tasks that you will perform will help you to better organise your day. Rather than just setting a routine with set timings that will make you feel more anxious at not meeting them, having a ritual will help you better manage the lulls in your day.
For example, everyday, I do:
When you do your rituals consistently, you have a better handle of your mental and physical health. You will make sure that you’re doing the basic things that move you towards your goal of eventually getting another job.
In the words of business guru Jim Collins, it’s the 10 mile march, done consistently, rather than the 10 yard sprint, that will get you there.
6 December 2021 will be the second month without a job.
For these two months, I’ve never been so happy. I thought I would do badly, especially when I looked back at the past. I saw how I had suffered with depression and binge eating, needing to turn to a psychiatrist in my last job search. But this time, with the above actions, I’ve started to take it one day at a time. I don’t know what’s next.
But it’s okay.
I know that whatever happens, I’m going to take care of myself. And that’s all that matters.