Am I Depressed? No Motivation To Job Search

Depressed. Unemployed. No energy to look for a job. Does this sound familiar?

Dear Sarah,

I lost my job back in June. I knew it was coming— our company had been on the decline for the last year & Covid was the nail in the coffin. Even though I had time to mentally prepare for a job search, I currently feel so overwhelmed by my circumstances. I feel like I live in a black hole. I read your posts & know what I need to do in my job search, but I have trouble staying focused & can’t motivate myself to reach out to my network. Not only that, but I am lonely. I am following social distance guidelines & am not leaving my house much. I haven’t laughed— actually laughed— since March.

The sad reality is that I need a job… like tomorrow…what do I do?

— Kate from Columbus

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

“Not in his goals but in his transitions man is great.”  

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dear Kate,

Even in the most normal of circumstances, involuntary job loss is one of the top stressful events on the scale of stressful life events. Losing a job in the midst of a pandemic after months of social isolation— that’s a recipe for emotional toll!

First, let me stress that I am not a trained psychologist. However, what you are describing sounds like you may be depressed.

You aren’t alone.

A new nationally represented study shows that depression symptom prevalence is more than 3-fold higher during the COVID-19 pandemic than before. Right now, 27.8% of US adults report feelings of depression.

Marie Zimeoff, the CEO of Career Thought Leaders, shared the importance of closure for employees who are processing a job loss. “Especially during COVID, people may not have had the chance to say goodbye to coworkers or process the loss. Journaling can be a good way to do that, and it can be very fulfilling to reach out to those coworkers and have a virtual coffee or phone chat to get that sense of community and closure.”

My best advice for you, Kate, is to take action. Just like any other medical condition, you need to take action in order to get better.

Find a medical provider that you trust. So many people wait to get help and end up making decisions that they deeply regret later. Depression doesn’t discriminate– it happens to good people all of the time. It’s so important to remember that you need to address it as an illness, not as a sign of weakness or defect.

Find a way to connect with people–even during Covid-19– in a way that feels safe to you. Research shows that a support network is critical for depression recovery. Make plans with friends and family (even virtually!) and show up even when you don’t feel like it. Outdoor walks are a good in-person option. Social support can be an enormous ally when you’re in dealing with depression

Free support for depression

If you are feeling depressed and hopeless and need someone to talk to now, this is the national hotline:

Consider joining an online or in-person mental health support group. Your local medical center will likely have resources. MHA also has a list of support groups and resources.

Join a local community of job seekers. You need a support group:

If you are in the U.K. and need someone to talk to (or text with) because you feel desperate or hopeless, the Samaritans can help for no charge.

Research on Job Search Depression

If you want to dive into the research of the emotional impact of losing a job, this is a great study by the Univ of Michigan

One of the best articles I read on depression during Covid:

Book recommendations about job loss

Keeping Your Head After Losing a Job by Robert Leahy

Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges

The Wisdom of Transition: Navigating Change at Work by Cheryl Benedict

Final Thoughts on Beating Job Hunting Depression

Bogdan Zlatkov, owner of Growth Hack Your Career, recommends coming up with a personal mantra to write down to constantly remind yourself of your value and worth. When he was unemployed, his mantra was “Progress isn’t linear. Remember: you are valued, you are appreciated, and you do have a purpose.”

Diane Loring, responded to my LinkedIn post with some great final thoughts. “While looking for a job is stressful, don’t lose your optimism. Envision your new job and be excited a whole new adventure awaits. That enthusiasm will translate during your interviews and onto your cover letters.

You’ll get through this.”


  • Sarah Johnston

    I’m a former corporate recruiter and industry “insider” who got tired of seeing talented high-achievers get passed over for opportunities because they did not have the right marketing documents or know how to position themselves in interviews. I have relocated multiple times across the country as a “trailing spouse” and have had to execute job searches in completely cold markets (where I literally knew no one!) I have been named a LinkedIn Top Voice in the career space in 2019, HR Weekly’s Top 100 Most Influential People in HR, named the owner of the “best resume writing firm for experienced executives” by Balance Careers and a “top follow” by JobScan in 2019 and 2020.

Sarah Johnston

Sarah Johnston is a former corporate recruiter and industry "insider" with a passion for empowering high-achievers in their career journeys. Frustrated by talented individuals being overlooked due to ineffective marketing documents and interview strategies, Sarah made it her mission to equip professionals with the tools and knowledge to succeed. As a seasoned "trailing spouse" who relocated multiple times, she understands the challenges of executing job searches in unfamiliar markets. Sarah's expertise and impact have earned her recognition as a LinkedIn Top Voice in 2019 and a spot on HR Weekly's Top 100 Most Influential People in HR. Her resume writing firm has been acclaimed as the best for experienced executives by Balance Careers, while JobScan listed her as a top follow in 2019 and 2020.

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