bad job search habits

7 Bad Habits That Might Be Holding Back Your Job Search Efforts

Here on Serenity Amidst Frustration, you read a lot about developing good habits, throughout unemployment. There are articles with tips on: practicing gratitude, taking care of your whole self, getting wholesome laughs, targeting your job search, engaging in an interesting/skill-building activity, taking breaks, accepting your unemployment status, thriving on hope, maintaining a positive outlook, managing stress.

These habits—no doubt—are beneficial in coping with unemployment and moving forward. I say this from personal experience.

But, while these good habits move you forward, there are also bad habits fighting to hold you back. They drain your energy and negatively affect your job search efforts.

Below, I’ll identify 7 of these bad habits. If they’re crippling your best job search efforts, consider breaking and replacing them!

bad job search habits
7 Bad Habits That Might Be Holding Back Your Job Search Efforts. Original Unsplash Photo Courtesy of Oscar Keys. Edited by Priscilla.

Bad Habit #1: Embracing Destructive Criticism.

If there’s one irritating thing you get while you’re unemployed, whether you expect it or not, it’s destructive criticism.

Unemployment, for some reason, provides the perfect opportunity for people to say hurtful things.

“You need to do this. You need to do that.”

“You’re not doing enough of this. Or, you’re not doing enough of that.”

“Something’s wrong here. Have you done this?”

“You must roll up your sleeves and take what you can get. There are jobs out there.”

And, what do you do?

You embrace these harmful comments.

This isn’t good.

Research from the Journal of Applied Psychology shows: destructive criticism leads to increased levels of anger and tension. And, unhealthy anger, without control, is dangerous. It can negatively affect your job search efforts, too.

I encourage you to run from this kind of criticism, when it comes. Pay no attention to it.

Now, as I mentioned in a previous article on insensitive comments, I believe in evaluating every criticism received—for truth and application.

Still, we must beware the following: a difference exists between comments meant to help you better yourself in this process and those meant to put you down, because of your struggle to find a job.

And when criticism falls in the harsh category, the best thing you can do is: let it go, so it doesn’t affect you or your efforts.

Bad Habit #2: Holding Job Search Rejection Too Closely.

You might’ve heard the following advice in your job hunt: “don’t take rejection personally.”

But, if you’ve been reading Serenity Amidst Frustration for some time now, you know this isn’t my advice.

When you’ve put forth your best effort for the targeted position—researching the organization, preparing your customized resume and cover letter for submission, following up on your application, interviewing when called—then you hear nothing back from the potential employer, you take job search rejection personally.

How can you not, when you’ve put all this time into preparation and practice, for what feels like nothing? It hurts.

bad job search habits
7 Bad Habits That Might Be Holding Back Your Job Search Efforts. Original Unsplash Photo Courtesy of David Marcu. Edited by Priscilla.

With time, though, I learned there are many reasons for rejections in hiring processes. So, though you take them personally, my advice is: don’t let them get to you and stop you from taking action.

Instead, own those rejection feelings, control them, and move on. And, as you move on, remember something: it takes courage to keep it moving—especially when you keep getting rejected for jobs.

Yes, you’re courageous.

So, don’t hold job rejection too closely. You’ve done your part, when fear doesn’t stop you from applying. This matters.

Bad Habit #3: Overcommitting to Your Job Search.

If you overcommit to your job search, then there’s no way you’ll continue through this process, without experiencing burnout, frustration, and an effectiveness decrease.

Sure, you want a job to provide your needs, but you don’t want to overcommit yourself. Doing so will negatively affect your best efforts and also invade other areas of your life.

You must create limits, when it comes to looking for a job—what part of the day you’ll devote to job search activities, how long you’ll spend on your job search activities daily, how many hours per week you’ll invest in your job search, when you’ll end your activities for the day.

You’ll get caught up in job hunting, if you don’t set and maintain healthy boundaries. And, when you get caught up, you’ll forget you have a life outside of looking for employment. You’ll forget to take care of yourself.

I know because it happened to me.

I didn’t want to be a lazy job seeker. I told myself I must work hard at securing a job in the shortest time possible.

And, I operated at full throttle, sacrificing my health and well-being. Ignoring the inner promptings I received to slow down.

The result? A mistake in my job search.

bad job search habits
7 Bad Habits That Might Be Holding Back Your Job Search Efforts. Creative Commons’ Pixabay Original Photo Courtesy of StevePB. Edited by Priscilla.

Until this mistake, I had no idea I was functioning from a ‘hyper-responsible’ mentality. But, when it happened, I quickly stepped back and made changes to my job search approach.

I learned the hard way, but I don’t want you to.

You see: you must step away and take care of each part of youspirit and flesh—even while job searching.

Why? Your ability to keep moving ahead in this process, with serenity, energy, and effectiveness, depends on your overall well-being.

So, don’t overextend yourself. Instead, designate time to looking for a job daily and stick to it; take care of yourself in every way; take the breaks you need for refreshing, without guilt; engage in positive activities and projects you enjoy.

Bad Habit #4: Paying Too Much Attention to Others.

You know you shouldn’t compare the ‘successes’ of others to yours.

You know everybody’s life journey—including the journey of looking for jobs—is different.

But, sometimes, what still happens? You pay too much attention to other people’s career-related accomplishments.

Why? Because you prepared for a successful career. You’ve also been diligent in your job search efforts but can’t secure one employment offer. When you hear about someone else getting a good job or promotion, you can’t help but wonder about you.

When this happens, though, you fall into the comparison trap. A trap you don’t want to stay in.

Now, nothing’s wrong with observing the strategies of “successful” job seekers and others for application where necessary. But don’t let your mind wander in the wrong direction.

Never let others’ successes make you feel like you’re not good enough. If you do, it’ll hold you back—and might even depress you.

Instead, consider how you can improve the search for your next position. Consider what you can do differently, based on your observations. Stay focused on yourself, your progresses, and your successes, no matter how small.

Bad Habit #5: Worrying About What Will Happen.

You might be wondering how worry can hold back your job search efforts. And, I won’t hold out on telling you.

Worry does nothing to help you maintain your productivity while looking for a job. What it does is: increases your level of fear, frustration, and exhaustion. Please believe: worry can be a dominating thing, resulting in a never-ending cycle, if you don’t be careful.

Here’s how it can play out in your job search.

First, it starts with a “what if” question. “What if I never get a job?”

From there, what happens? The uncertainty of this thought becomes so overwhelming you become anxious.

Then, you begin the process of logical thinking. You analyze this question, over and over, with one goal: identifying a solution.

bad job search habits
7 Bad Habits That Might Be Holding Back Your Job Search Efforts. Original Pexels Photo Courtesy of TookAPic. Edited by Priscilla.

Who wants to journey through this job search cloud of uncertainty, especially while dealing with the toll of unemployment?

But, here’s the thing: you, a human being, have no way of knowing the future. And, this analyzing (and/or overanalyzing) does nothing positive to help you get through this challenging process.

As opposed to pondering questions like this, believe you’ll get a job (or another legitimate source of income), even if it comes to you in a nontraditional form. Do what you can to move forward in your search. And while believing and doing, don’t forget to manage your stress response to worry, if you have one.

Bad Habit #6: Yielding to Self-Doubt.

“I doubt I’ll have a successful job interview, which will result in a job offer this time. None of the others have.”

“I shouldn’t apply for this job. The company probably won’t call me in for an interview anyway.”

“Will an employer ever see the value I’ll bring to the company and hire me? I doubt it.”

You probably recognize these thoughts, right? They stem from the voice of self-doubt.

When you’re consistently applying—and possibly interviewing—for jobs but receive no job offers, you can question yourself. You can lose your confidence. You can doubt your skills and abilities.

But don’t let this feeling get the best of you. If you do, then you won’t take the action you need to explore all work-related opportunities.

Instead of doubting yourself while looking for a job, consider the following:

  • Watch Your Thought Patterns. The way you think about the challenges of (unemployment and) job searching contributes to self-doubt. It’s important to beware your destructive thoughts, so you can fight back with truth. For instance, rather than believing you’ll never get a job, believe: when you reach the door of the right opportunity, it’ll open and you’ll be prepared.


  • Remember Your Accomplishments. One of the easiest things you can do is dwell on what hasn’t been going right. But, one of the best things you can do is remember past (and present) accomplishments. You completed your educational endeavors. You used your talents to help others, before you became unemployed. You might still be using them now to accomplish things. Remember and be grateful.


  • Keep Taking Action. Though self-doubt will come, don’t let it stop you from taking the right course of action. Continue building your knowledge and skills. Take the steps you can to move forward every day, believing things will change for the better.

Bad Habit #7: Attaching Yourself to Outcomes.

Let me first say: detaching from outcomes is a difficult thing to do.

It’s easier to stay attached, basing your well-being on the results of a submitted job application or job interview. Truth is, this only leads to more stress, anxiety, frustration, and discouragement.

Now, detaching from results doesn’t mean you should slack in your job search efforts. It doesn’t mean you should fail to take action on your planned job search activities for the day.

Bad Job Search Habits
7 Bad Habits That Might Be Holding Back Your Job Search Efforts.
Original Photo Courtesy of Kaboom Pics. Edited by Priscilla.

What you don’t want to do, though, is: take your efforts to the extreme—as if you control the results. You don’t control the timing of the hiring process. You don’t control whether an employer calls you back. You don’t control interviewer biases.

Don’t go overboard but give your best effort to your tasks:


  • Learning, evaluating, and improving your marketing materials (resumes, cover letters) often;



  • Identifying companies of interests, researching them, and tailoring your job applications before submission;


  • Preparing for employment interviews, when called;


  • Strengthening and developing skills;


  • Exploring every available alternative.

When you’ve given your best, though your efforts might result in silence or job rejections, you have nothing else to focus on.

Are Any of These Bad Habits Holding Back Your Job Search Efforts Right Now?

The first step to breaking bad habits is recognizing them. And, I’ve identified 7 harmful habits with the ability to hold back your job search efforts: embracing destructive criticism, holding job rejection too closely, overcommitting to your job search, paying too much attention to others, worrying about what will happen, yielding to self-doubt, and attaching yourself to outcomes.

I’ve taken it a step further, too. I’ve also discussed things you can do to break them. So, when it comes to attaching yourself to outcomes, for instance, you’ll stay away from this distraction—the outcome—and focus on your area of control:  giving your best efforts to everything you do.

Now, I’ll admit: these approaches might not work for everyone. If they don’t, find the good habits helpful to you as you push onward!

Additionally, bad habits are hard to break, especially when you do them repeatedly. In fact, in her Duke Today article entitled, Why Are Habits So Hard To Break?, Kelli Rae Chi writes, based on the results of scientific research:

“. . . A habit leaves a lasting mark on specific circuits in the brain, priming us to feed our cravings.”

So, I must warn you: it’ll take time and effort to make changes, but you can. And guess what? Replacing your bad habits with good habits becomes easier over time. Just take it one day and one habit at a time.

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