These techniques can help make your job search less stressful

In our latest podcast, Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Srini Pillay shares research-based strategies to re-train your brain for job search success. Here are some highlights.

These techniques can help make your job search less stressful

You’ve made the decision to look for a new job. Or maybe the decision was made for you. Either way, you’ve got a lot to do: resume, cover letter, job search, network, research companies, online applications.

It can be stressful. And overwhelming. So much so, that sometimes, job seekers feel paralyzed by the sheer enormity of it all. But you can change that. Really, you can.

In our latest podcast, Dr. Srini Pillay, author of Tinker Doodle Dabble Try, shared some of his most effective techniques to get focused, stop stressing, and become better at your job search. Listen to the podcast to hear them all, but we’ll share a few here:

Monster: In your book, you talk about something called “unfocus” as a way to become more productive. How does that work?

SP: Studies have shown that when you over-focus on something, you not only deplete your brain of energy, but you even stop caring about what you’re doing. So if you‘re looking for a job and spending the whole day just staring at everything online, you may think you’re doing the best thing for yourself without taking a break, but the truth is that you need to take a break in strategic ways and try to practice something called constructive daydreaming.

Monster: What’s constructive daydreaming?

SP: We spend 46.9% of our days daydreaming. Why not learn how to daydream in a more productive way? You may be stuck wondering, “What job should I apply for? I see three jobs but I‘m not sure what to choose. How do I think creatively about my career? How do I come up with the perfect intro for my cover letter?”

Positive constructive daydreaming actually helps you kick-start that creative part of your brain.

Here’s how to do it: First, plan your daydreaming time. I recommend choosing a time when you’re going to be in a natural slump anyway: late morning, after lunch, or middle of the afternoon.

Number two, you need to be doing something low-key while doing this, like knitting or gardening or walking because studies have shown that if you’re daydreaming while you’re completely stationary, that doesn’t really help. If you decide to take a walk, it’s far more effective for your creative brain to be walking outside and to walk on a meandering path rather than just around the block.

The third thing is to start with a thought that is very positive and wishful like you’re lying on a beach or running through the woods with your dogs. Start there and let your mind wander. Studies have shown that wandering in that state is not as random as it seems—that there’s a part of your brain that actually takes your wandering mind toward ideas that might be of relevance to you. So while you’re writing that cover letter, and you’re looking for that punchy line, it might come more easily through positive constructive daydreaming.

Monster: Share some of the ways to reduce anxiety before an interview.

SP: If you’re going to a job interview and want to psych yourself up so you feel less stressed and more focused, studies have shown that the best way to do that is to call yourself by name and speak in the second person. Rather than saying “I’m going to crush this” the much more effective way to do this is to say “[first name], you’re going to crush this.” These techniques actually change your brain blood flow just by using self-talk.

Monster: What’s another de-stressing technique?

SP: Research has shown that if you use the word “not” before formulating your goals, your brain does exactly the opposite of what you want it to do. Like if before an interview you say “I must not stress out,” you will feel stressed out.

So when you are using self-talk, do not say, “Do not stress out at the interview,” Say, “Relax at the interview.”

To hear more techniques you can use during your job search, listen to the entire podcast here.