Fear Factor: Job Search Edition

by | February 3, 2010

Here’s what I’ve decided: job searching freaks most people out. Rare is the person who hears terms like “job search,” “resume writing,” or “networking,” and thinks, “Great! What fun!” Most people conceal this fear and anxiety pretty well, but the it’s there, regardless of how good they are at masking it, ignoring it, or joking about it.

Why the fear?
Job search anxiety has a lot of sources. For some people, the discomfort is due to a feeling of incompetence – they don’t feel like they know how to effectively search for open positions or write a resume or interview well. Other people are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work involved in executing a job search. They’re afraid they’ll put forth a lot of effort that won’t yield results. Others feel like they don’t have any marketable skills, and worry that a job search will confirm these suspicions. Many people are afraid of failure or rejection, both of which are part of most job searches. Finally, some job seekers feel hopeless in the face of a poor economy, which leads to fears about not being able to provide for themselves or their family.

The ostrich syndrome
Regardless of the source of fear about job searching, the end result is usually the same: we ignore the problem until we absolutely have to deal with it. If you are relatively satisfied in your current position, or busy with other commitments (or busy with work itself), it’s easy to tell yourself that there’s not anything to do right now because you’re not actually looking for a job. For students enrolled in an degree program, this often manifests itself in statements like, “I’ll think about job searching when I’m done with my degree/dissertation. Right now I’m focused on school.”

Take your head out of the sand!
Here’s the thing, though: failing to pay attention to your career until you want to change jobs is not a smart strategy. In fact, it’s a sure way to make at least one of the fears listed above come to fruition – it almost guarantees that your next job search will be a long, drawn-out, and frustrating process.

A job search is much easier to execute if it occurs as part of an ongoing process of career management. You may not be ready to change jobs, so you may not be at a point where you need to read job postings or polish up your formal interviewing skills. But there are lots of career management activities you could be doing to lay the groundwork for when you are ready to launch a formal job search. Activities could include:

Intentionally and continually taking concrete, specific actions to manage your career not only lays the foundation for a successful job search, but it can also help curb your anxiety about job searching. Instead of anticipating having to take action at some point in the future, you can take action now, which will help you feel more in control and less stressed by the idea of a job search looming at some point in your future.

For more advice about effective job search and career management strategies, please visit the Capella Career Center.

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