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In many activities in life, including studying, working, or even job hunting, people need to take regular breaks in order to replenish their energy levels.
In addition to real-life experience, this biological necessity is well documented by a vast body of research. Numerous studies agree on the benefits to employees’ well-being of recuperation time) at work (e.g., taking breaks during the day), outside work hours (e.g., physical exercise), of disconnecting from work during your free time, and of course, social activities (e.g., time spent with loved ones).
Taking regular breaks can have a restorative effect not only in a professional context, but also for other important life tasks. One such activity is searching for a job, something that all of us have to face many times in the course of our lives.
The all-important sense of detachment
Job seeking can be strenuous, as it can involve significant amounts of rejection, stressful moments such as interviews, and thus plenty of effort and pushback to reach one’s goal. To put it another way: the search for a job is a process that takes time and consumes significant mental and physical energy.
Studies have been conducted across different fields to discover how people’s energy reserves are depleted in the course of particular activities, and how and if they might be recovered. The spending and recovery of energy in the course of a job search isn’t any different.
In a a 2022 study, my co-authors and I determined that when job seekers are able to psychologically detach themselves from their search on a day-to-day basis, they feel refreshed, reinvigorated, and end up making more effort and securing a larger number of interviews.
Another way to interpret our study’s results is that it’s important to have breaks, to distract oneself from the search and not to be constantly doing job-search tasks. As with many other activities in life, recovering one’s energy is a vital part of succeeding.
That’s why we’ve gathered additional data to see what type of breaks job seekers – in this case, students seeking their first full-time job – are taking. They vary in length, from very short ones several times a day, such as texting friends or family, to longer breaks of 20 to 30 minutes, such as watching a TV series episode.
Sport and video games
We’ve noted that the most popular breaks consist of watching TV series, films and online videos, playing video games and sleeping.
One participant said that during an important job search week, she “tried new coffee shops, saw movies with friends, and walked around town during the nicer days”. Another participant signalled that he had “spent time learning how to programme since he is planning on developing an app idea he has on the side”; he also said he had “played a ton of video games and going to the gym”.
Another job seeker, however, said that these breaks didn’t take place until after receiving a first job offer:
“I was so excited about finally getting my first offer that I spent a lot more time than usual this week relaxing with friends. I got more rest than usual and I felt more relieved than I ever have about this process. I am still interviewing with other companies, but I took time to relax by listening to music and catching up on some shows that I missed out on due to my job search and other obligations.”
Overall, taking breaks in different ways can help distance oneself mentally from the job search, giving the body and soul the time to recharge.
The role of humour
In a 2016 study, I explored the role of humour in being able to distract oneself from the stress of the job search. Laughter is a way to relieve tension, and could be a behaviour that helps reduce stress.
For instance, people anxious about their applications could share their bad experiences in a light-hearted way with other job seekers or with career advisors as a way of learning, all the while laughing at themselves – which is to say, a way of distraction. This theory echoes the studies on humour in the workplace by Dr Vanessa Marcié, notably her 2020 article on humour as a coping mechanism during a crisis.
In summary, taking time off or disconnecting yourself is vital for success, in this case to lead a successful job search. Whatever kind of break job seekers choose, it will help them to recover and find new energy. And that has a direct impact on the job search, both in terms of the effort invested and the positive outcomes.
It’s equally important to note that breaks can vary in length and type but they all help ultimately to momentarily take a person’s mind off the task at hand. For some people, that will be through having a laugh about the situation with friends or other job seekers. For others, it will involve watching TV or playing video games.
Translation from French into English by Joshua Neicho.
Serge da Motta Veiga ne travaille pas, ne conseille pas, ne possède pas de parts, ne reçoit pas de fonds d'une organisation qui pourrait tirer profit de cet article, et n'a déclaré aucune autre affiliation que son organisme de recherche.