Looking for a Job When You’re Depressed: Circumstantial, not Existential

No Help WantedLooking for a job when you’re in the midst of a depression is really fucking hard. I think that’s step number one – acknowledge that what you’re doing is really really hard. It’d be hard for someone who’s healthy. And it’s especially hard for those of us who are not.

I’m currently in this position, having been told by my current employer that my contract won’t be renewed past January. Luckily for me, I’m not suffering from a major depressive episode, just trying to recover from one.

The thing is that I don’t have a lot of hope. Despite my fancy education and respectable resume, I don’t believe that any job could be fulfilling or rewarding or anything but awful, so the tasks of applying become almost impossible. I am FILLED with dread.

Then of course there’s the feeling of being overwhelmed. I am directionless because I find myself believing that every option is bad, so I’m unable to narrow things down. I also find it difficult, like many people looking for work, to convince myself that the next job won’t be forever. That it’s not one of the biggest decisions of my life. So it’s overwhelming both in breadth and in depth.

In a word: it sucks.

This is too complex a problem for a “Five Step Guide.” One has to do some soul searching and take each day as it comes. One has to build a schedule and stick to it. A schedule that includes off time, when you’re not thinking about the job search. A schedule that includes exercise and whatever other therapies work for you. I believe that one has to try to think ambitiously about what one is qualified for, and then do the hard work of reaching out to people. One must try not to think too far in the future or let themselves believe that they know what it holds.

The fish is deadI am trying to be honest with my support network, which is difficult because they see more potential in me than I see in myself. I often feel like their advice is ludicrous: they tell me all the cool things I can do with my fish, not understanding that the fish are dead. So I am trying to fake it until I make it.

I’m trying not to “catastrophize” things. I am trying to remember that my job does not define me, that it is not the source of my happiness. I am trying to be patient and flexible. I am trying to think of this problem as circumstantial, not existential.

Anyone out there got a job they wanna give me? 🙂

First photo by BillsoPHOTO on Flickr.

Second photo by Bhope34 on Flickr.


  1. Just remember that all of our pain and suffering comes from our mind telling us we should be somewhere that we are not. The fact of the matter is, you’re going to have to find another job unless you can find another source of income. But that’s not a bad thing! It doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. But I guarantee that it will be an absolutely miserable experience if you think that it will be. I had a very similar outlook to you on my job right now. It was miserable, administrative work and I was dealing with a lot of disappointment and failure and began feeling sorry for myself and avoiding dealing with my failures to the point of frequent panic attacks and minor bouts of depression.

    I’m not sure if you remember the pool experience I shared in class, but it was at the moment that I accepted the sensation of the water without judgement or discomfort that I realized the extent to which I was letting my thoughts run my life and put me through pain and suffering. It’s hard to put the power of this experience into words. But you should focus on the fact that this job is going to allow you to earn and save money, which will eventually allow you freedom in the form of retirement. In the meantime, look at the process of job-searching as a challenge to yourself. See how good you can get at interviewing and impressing people through extensive preparation. See how confident you can be in each interview and then top it the next time around. Make it a goal to have employers fighting over you. Look at this as an opportunity for personal growth and get way the fuck out of your comfort zone – because why not? That is what life is all about.

    And if all of this was really no help, then just do one thing. For one day, just ONE day, let go of all your thoughts/judgments and worries about how fulfilling your next job will be. Just intentionally let yourself apply to a few positions and whenever those thoughts come up, just forgive yourself and let the thoughts go. Let yourself apply knowing you’re giving your critical thinking the day off. Toss all those future-based thoughts aside for one day just for the sake of some shitty experiment that Mike recommended, and you can get back to the normal thoughts the next day.

  2. Great post! I can so relate. I would rather have major surgery than look for a new job. I think that’s why it’s taking me so long to get out of an unhappy job situation. I will let you know if I hear of any jobs in your field. Good luck in your search!

We'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s