Fear Will Cripple Your Job Search Print E-mail

A self-defense instructor talked to his class about the vital need to keep panic at bay. “Panic,” he explained, “Makes you freeze mentally. If you stop thinking, you’re dead”. The same can be true when you suddenly find yourself unemployed in a world of high unemployment. Panic can set in. Panic at unemployment has the same effect as panic in response to a personal attack. It can make you stop thinking and if you stop thinking, you significantly limit your job search options.

Andy is a 50-something industrial engineer. He’s never, ever had to look for a job. Jobs always found him through word-of-mouth or due to his great reputation in his industry. That changed last month when Andy’s latest project was cut due to lack of funding and he suddenly found himself without a job and no fresh prospects. With a mortgage and a daughter in college, Andy panicked. He was in uncharted territory and he didn’t know what to do.

Job search had changed dramatically since the last time Andy had put together a resume. Resumes aren’t mailed or faxed anymore and now he had to consider something called applicant tracking systems. He wasn’t just competing against other engineers in his state or region but with engineers from India, Japan, and China. His professional identity was on the line and he suddenly felt all his hard work over the years was worthless.

Sound familiar? Welcome to the new “normal”. It’s scary and it’s not pretty, but your response shouldn’t be panic. The correct reaction should be a concentrated effort on education, connection, and marketing. Just like the self-defense instructor noted, “If you stop thinking, you’re dead.” In job search, if you panic and stop thinking, you will find yourself making no progress toward reemployment.

The first thing Andy needed to do was get educated. He had no familiarity with modern job search techniques or the conditions of the market. He knew “things were rough” but the reality of the fight he faced was a surprise. Understanding what you are facing goes a long way toward killing the fear of the unknown. Andy needed to get with a career support professional to discuss his situation, find out the dynamics of the market, and learn about the different tactics available to him for finding his next job. He was far behind the learning curve because he had not had to job search in years and years.

Next, Andy needed to connect with his network. His long tenure in his industry gave him a huge advantage over more inexperienced competitors because he had connections and tentacles that reached deep and wide. Andy knew a lot of people, and many were in key positions to make things happen for him. He had kept this network fairly warm over the years, too, since he had been constantly working within the industry. To get things moving in his job search, Andy had to get busy reaching out to people to start searching out opportunities.

Employers are always looking for the most efficient way to hire. The entire Internet job search phenomenon was built on finding more efficient ways to find, screen, and hire candidates for jobs. In a market flooded with well-qualified, available candidates, electronic applicant tracking systems are blowing fuses trying to keep up with the influx of new resumes. With all the candidates rushing to the front door, Andy needed to come through the service entrance in order to get in front of decision-makers. That meant networking and talking to his connections. People hire people. Applicant tracking systems don’t hire people. They just sift through the masses. Andy needed face time and he had a network that could afford that to him.
Andy had never had to conduct a formal job search so the concept of marketing his career was especially foreign to him. Andy needed guidance on what to do. The career support professional he worked with helped him see that his career is an entity – a little mini-business – that has to be marketed to prospective buyers (employers). To accomplish that, Andy needed a marketing plan and the collateral materials to help him establish a profile. Andy worked with his career support professional to build a resume, cover letter, and all the other marketing materials he needed to conduct a top-shelf self-marketing campaign.

Once armed with knowledge, a support system, and the right marketing materials, Andy was no longer terrified. He was a man of action – one who had a plan of attack. He was putting that “fight or flight” impulse for survival to positive use and fighting to get his next job. It would have been very easy for Andy to become a deer in the headlights. Panic will cause you to freeze. Fear will cause you to strike out blindly in defense. Knowledge will give you direction, and support will give you the tools you need to overcome your challenges and win out in the end. Understanding the situation and having a plan will banish fear and help you make progress toward getting out of the pit of unemployment.