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Expat Careers: Dealing with Job Search Stress: Getting to the Source of the Problem

Conducting a job search abroad is stressful, but we need to manage the stress inherent in the process of looking for a job to ensure success. Here are some suggestions on how to do just that.

Conducting a job search abroad is stressful. There is no way to avoid that. 

But if we want to stay in top form for interviews, put our best foot forward when networking, and generally avoid putting others off with a sour or cranky temperament that often comes with being stressed, then we need to manage the stress inherent in the process of looking for a job. 

There is a lot of wisdom that is commonly shared about dealing with stress - exercise, meditate, get sleep, eat healthy and well, keep focused on the positive, take breaks regularly.....and the list goes on. 

I would like to recommend getting a bit more specific and actually address the source of the problem.   

You see, stress is just a symptom - a reaction to something. So by pinpointing the exact activities part of conducting a job search that cause the reaction called "stress", you can more strategically and effectively manage or even eliminate it. 

The strategies listed above can be effective at managing stress, but they are simple putting bandaids on the problem.  By eliminating the source of the stress you are in a position to reduce it or even eliminate it entirely. 

I invite you to do this exercise to discover how you can identify and reduce or eliminate the source of your stress: 

  •  First, define what stress looks like so you can name it when it appears.   

Do you tighten up physically? Do you get irritated easily? Do you lose focus? Write a detailed description so its very easy to identify when it shows up.  

  •  Next, write down your top 6 values – those things most important to you. Values are things like family, learning, achievement, respect or accuracy.  
  • Then create a chart with three columns
    In the first column, make a list of everything you do during the day – from the moment you get up to when you go to bed. Pay particular attention to the activities related to your job search.  

    In the second column, note whether or not that activity creates stress for you. Refer to your written descriptions of how your stress shows up if you are not sure.  

    In the third column, indicate if the activity is aligned with, or violates, one of your values (and which value).
    Any activity that violates one of your values will cause stress. It is important to note what those things are and eliminate or manage them for improved stress relief at all times in our life.  If you are living a highly stressful lifestyle, then that is only going to exacerbate the stress caused by the job search.  

With jobs on average lasting 2 years, always doing something to position yourself for that next job means that you are at some point in your job search at all times. It is not common thinking but it is the reality.  People who consider themselves to be managing their careers know this. They always have the next target in mind. They don't wait until there is a need and then race to build a network etc.

  • Once you have completed the chart, ask yourself which items which created stress can you eliminate(or minimize)? Is there another way you can complete this task so that it is not so stressful? If it violates a value, is there a way you can achieve the result of this task in a way that is aligned with your values? 
  • Make a list of specific actions you can take to eliminate or minimize your stressors.  
  • Then go back and review the activities you feel you cannot do anything about.   Are you sure there is absolutely nothing you can do to eliminate or minimize them? Challenge yourself to find ways.  
  • With the list that is left, make a list of thoughts that arise when you do each stressful activity. Notice how you have chosen to react to each. Name at least one other way you could choose to react. Consider choosing a new reaction that creates less stress.  
  • Now take action on your list to eliminate your stressors! 
    Remember, without action, your stress remains.

YOUR EXPAT CAREER SUCCESS TIP:  Given the average job assignment for an executive is 2-3 years, I believe we are constantly at some point in our search for that next job. That is just one of many reasons why we should always be looking to eliminate any source of stress we can in our lives - so we perform and present at our best. So taking action to eliminate or reduce any source of stress on a regular basis will not only help make the journey more effective, but also a more enjoyable one.