Mental Toughness in your Job Search

By David Shultis

If I were to sum up in one word how to describe going through the job-search process it would be “grueling.” I’m sure many of you can offer descriptive words that are equally appropriate (i.e., frustrating, disappointing, maddening, mind-numbing, to name a few).

For all of you, whether you’ve been searching for 12 days or 12 months you will most likely have experiences that will test you mentally. By mentally, I’m referring to your ability to handle rejection or downright apathy on the part of the hiring company.

What are the things that make us weary and test us mentally?

If we take a close look at the activities associated with a job search what we really see is that the system is built around the concept of “rejection.” I think we can dress it up differently, even call it something else, but the bottom line to all of us is that we are faced with challenges – both by the process of the search and how you handle inquiries by friends, family, associates, strangers, etc. Not that you need a reminder, but here are a few examples:

  • Your resume and cover letter are critiqued.
  • You are not selected for an interview.
  • You are not moving on to the next round.
  • The company is no longer accepting applications for the position you are interested in.
  • The manager you are interviewing with is going to be leaving the company.
  • The company puts the job that you’re interviewing for on hold.
  • The networking contact you have is not responsive.
  • The company notifies you that you are advancing in the interview process – only to retract it, apologizing for making the mistake (but only after you contact them – and, yes, this really did happen!).
  • Your friends/family do not understand why you’ve been unable to find a position after one, three, five, nine months (or longer).
  • Friends/colleagues aren’t quite sure what to say to you, so they avoid the topic (or avoid you altogether).
  • The interviewer wants to know why you’ve been out for such a long period of time.

That’s a lot of “stuff” to think about or deal with, and I’m not even sure I scratched the surface on all the issues we can face as job seekers. Through all of this you try and put on a brave face, but that only works for so long.

Mental Toughness – Step up to the plate

Mental Toughness is about being able to continue to send out resumes and respond to open positions even when you know the chances are low that you will be selected. It’s about continuing to do things that lie outside of your comfort zone, but you continue to do them because you know that they are ultimately helping you. It’s about hearing that people around you are getting positions and starting new jobs even though they’ve been out for a shorter time, but you can still be happy for them. It’s about talking with friends at the weekend barbecue and speaking confidently about who you are, what you are looking for, and letting them know how they can help.

It doesn’t mean you can’t get down or be saddened by what is going on. If you control what you can continue to control (people you contact, events you participate in, resumes you send out) then you are taking responsibility for your own search.

There is a link to an article that I wanted to share that was written by James Clear a few years back.


There are many key points here, but I’ll leave you with a few that are touched on in this article that resonated with me:

1.     Deliver on a more consistent basis.

2.     Work on a schedule.

3.     Do the most important things first and don’t shirk responsibilities.

From this grit and perseverance can become your defining traits.


1.     Define what mental toughness means for YOU.

2.     Build it through small physical wins.

3.     Mental toughness is about your habits, not your motivation.

Are You Prioritizing Your Mental Health?

There are plenty of professional resources at our disposal if we want to explore this topic in greater detail. As far as my own application of this goes…I do try to embody the characteristics of the information I listed above. I maintain a schedule each day and try to make sure I’m performing activities that will be helpful. Like anyone that is at a job I can have good days and bad days – those that are productive, and those where I didn’t seem to get much done.

5 Ways I Approach My Search – to keep me on point

1. Hours of Operation

It’s easy to become consumed with the job-search process, but I strive to work M-F, 9am-5pm – adjusting as needed based on evening networking calls/events. I prefer to take off Saturday and Sunday and get away from it for a while. People that are working full-time may not have the luxury of taking the weekend off and may have to devote time to their search.

2. Physical Fitness

I bike and walk. I find both activities offer me the solitude of my thoughts and have provided inspiration on everything from what my next article will be that I write on LinkedIn to how I am going to schedule my day (if I’m riding/walking in the early morning).

3. Connect with others

The actual job of job search is a part of a lonely profession. It is solitary. I try and reach out on a weekly basis to a handful of people that act as my support system. In addition, there are networking groups like the PSGCNJ that provide the opportunity to connect with others that may be going through similar challenges. While some of these are virtual, there are more get-togethers occurring that are in-person (PSG of Mercer County went back to 100% in-person in mid-July)

4. Reduce the outside “noise”

This is predominantly related to those that may be closest to you (think spouse). No one wants to see you succeed more than they do, but they may not really know what you are going through and may have their own thoughts on how you should be handling your search. Accept their input, thank them for it, evaluate it, and then proceed on the course that you see as the best way to move forward.

5. Don’t Beat Yourself Up Too Much

Easy to say, hard to do. You can only control what you can control. I think we would like to think that we are in a “sprint.” However, circumstances may dictate that it is more like a “marathon.” This means that we need to modulate our activities and plan for the appropriate race. There will be times when you need to work hard, times where you will need to coast. Take care of the personal activities and obligations so you can get back to the business of job search with a clear mind.

About The Author

David Shultis is a senior level B2B marketing and product management professional with experience in the life science/med device/manufacturing space. His focus is on a return to a leadership (formal or informal) role where coaching and mentoring a team or working with a cross-functional team is a component of the position. This could be in the form of a marketing director, a group product director or as an individual contributor in a senior product management capacity. Davis is especially interested in under-performing departments, startups or rebuilds where he can contribute by making a positive change through leadership and the implementation of procedures and metrics