If you can recognize the potential causes and signs of job search depression, you may be able to limit the consequences or even prevent job search depression from happening to you altogether.

Job Search Depression Broken Glass

Quick story

In the summer of 2001, I resigned from a good hitech job in France and moved back to Israel. At one point later, I thought it may have been one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

The next few months were supposed to be for relaxation. However, while I was lounging in the sun, the Internet Bubble burst and with it disappeared the demand for my Web and managerial skills. My only consolation, if you can call it that, was that if I hadn’t quit I would have been laid off anyway. A very annoying consolation when you realize that by staying on a few more months, I would have received a compensation package instead of leaving empty-handed. Grrr.

10 months, 2 empty job offers, a handful of interviews and countless resume emails later, I moved on to my next job.

Did I expect it to take so long?


Was it a frustrating uphill climb day in and day out that felt like it might never end?

After month 3, yes.

The moment you realize that your job search is taking longer than you expected is the moment job search depression begins.

Where does job search depression come from?

A 2002 study at the University of Michigan found “that secondary stressors of job loss such as financial strain and loss of personal control are the true culprits that lead to depression. The study also found that elevated levels of depression ‘may reduce the likelihood of reemployment.'”

In other words, it’s the consequences of losing your job that lead to job search depression, not the job loss itself.

15 Causes

As part of a seminal article about his past job search depression, Jason Alba of JibberJobber discussed some of the causes, the first 6 listed here. The additional causes appear together in one easy-to-print list for the prevention metrics below.

  1. Loss of control – sudden, traumatic change of having a great job one day and no job the next.
  2. Constant uncertainty of not knowing when the job search will end.
  3. The ever-continuing quest for acceptance that is a job search.
  4. Backlash of commiseration with other job seekers.
  5. Feeling of insignificance stemming from a lack of replies to your many cover letters and resumes sent out.
  6. Overwhelming ratio of rejection letters to positive replies.
  7. The new experience of your first time being unemployed.
  8. Being forced into a tough situation with no choice in the matter.
  9. The unease of having to do something that you were never taught in school or simply aren’t prepared for, i.e. a job search.
  10. The strain of managing personal finances after your main source of revenue is gone.
  11. Having to support a family or other dependents during a rough moment in your life.
  12. The realization that you might be depressed and not knowing how to the depression.
  13. The difficult need to deal with these feelings while still seeming upbeat in interviews and while networking.
  14. Envying friends and family head out on vacation and enjoying life while you’re required to continue the unending search.
  15. Unemployment embarrassment – struggling to answer one of the most asked questions: “What do you do?”

What can you do for prevention?

Management guru Peter Drucker once said “what gets measured gets managed.” Keeping track of your worries will help you keep them under control. Here’s how.

  1. Print out the list above, download the Excel or OpenOffice version. In terms of how much a cause is likely to affect you or is affecting you already, rate it on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is “very little” and 5 is “a lot”. Feel free to add other causes that would apply in your case.
  2. Create priorities by sorting the list in decreasing order so that the 5s – the most worrisome causes – appear at the top.
  3. From the top of the list, try to imagine actions you can take to block each cause.
  4. Follow through with your recommended actions, especially for the top causes on your list.
  5. After each month of your job search, take a few minutes to look over the previous month’s estimations and understand what’s working and what isn’t. Then fill in new ratings for the current date, sort, and choose new blocking actions.


A required job search doesn’t require a job search depression. If you’re aware of the problem, you can avoid its consequences with some anticipation and preventative actions.

JobMob’s Job Search Depression Series

This article is the first in a 4-part series on job search depression.

  1. Causes of Job Search Depression and How To Prevent It
  2. Signs of Job Search Depression
  3. 9 Ways To Deal With Job Search Depression
  4. ERAN Gives You Emotional First Aid in Israel

Looking for work is hard work. Subscribe to JobMob via RSS or email and follow me on Twitter to get help lightening your job search burden.

-- Jacob Share