Originally Published: Wednesday, 4 April 2001 Author: Mark Miller
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_skills/Linux Job Skills Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, and Stress

Mark Miller lays down some sound advice on what to do with a difficult job hunt.

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Unless your latest job opportunity arrived out of the blue, you have experienced it: That sinking feeling as your job search takes a little longer than you expected, or the offers aren't as juicy as you'd like. We can't help it. What we can do is prepare.

Almost without exception, changing jobs is a stressful time. Concerns over finances and skills and whether this is a good job to accept can wear you down. The constant uncertainty of what will happen a week or month from now can undermine your morale. Rejection can cause a downward spiral of self-doubt that impairs your ability to market your skills, and results in more rejections and doubts. Recognizing that this is a normal occurrence is the first step in conquering the challenge.

A good first step is simply to have your resume up to date, even if you are not actively seeking a job. Whether you come across an opportunity you can't refuse or suddenly find yourself laid off, you will be able to hit the street running. The process of evaluating your skills can even be useful to you in your present position. For instance, knowing what valuable skills you possess can be useful in salary negotiations and at promotion time. A realistic look at your skills and knowledge will also help you to assess any weaknesses and improve your ability to communicate exactly what you can and can't offer an employer. Once identified, your weaknesses can be improved upon or at least you can prepare to deal with the tough questions.

Even if you feel secure in your present job, imagine your future. Ask yourself "What would I do to enhance my career if I had to seek another job?" Playing out the possibilities in a calm, unhurried manner before you need the answer will help you to make your move at the right time. Having such a contingency plan will improve your confidence level going into a search. In addition, it will help you to know exactly what you are seeking. A recent poll at Linux.com noted that knowing what job to seek is one of the hardest parts of the job search. Even if you do not have a specific job in mind, having a list of the characteristics that you desire will help you to "know the perfect job when you see it".

If you are deliberately changing your career, having a financial cushion set aside is helpful. The added staying power could mean the difference between getting the job you really want and having to settle for what you can find before the money runs out. Financial planning is sometimes not considered at the start of a job search, but often is later as the money becomes a worry. It is a worry you don't need. First and most obvious is to pay down as much debt as possible and create a cushion of savings to help bridge any employment gaps. An added advantage is if you know what your true financial needs are you won't forget to negotiate a crucial benefit or accept a job that won't meet your minimum financial needs. That said, good financial planning can also let you know when you will need to settle for a lesser job to make ends meet. During one period in my life I needed to bridge a longer than anticipated gap in employment with a part-time job. This job kept my skills sharp and brought in some money to get me through the time until I landing a far higher paying job. The downside for me was the part-time job was more rewarding emotionally and mentally than the better paying job. Sometimes I wish I was independently wealthy just so I could afford to work in a soul-satisfying but low paying job.

Another thing to set up before you need it is a network of family, friends and peers that can be a sounding board for your doubts and concerns. You need to listen to the rejections you are going to get in order to improve yourself, your skills, and your self-marketing. Unfortunately, it is sometimes very hard to step back from our egos and denials and to see a needed lesson or correct an incorrect impression. Having an honest friend may be the best thing in a job search. Your network will also provide a helpful positive voice when you are slipping into the fear and doubt. It can also help maintain the persistent full court press you need to find the ideal job. You cannot slide into self-doubt because if you don't believe in yourself, an employer won't either. There is even a new online support group hosted by Yahoo called jobhuntersupport (send blank email to jobhuntersupport-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jobhuntersupport to subscribe). The group appears to be just starting, but with some effort it could be a viable option for network support.

Having a solid underpinning is a key factor for a truly successful job search. Keeping your resume and skills assessment up to date, practicing sound financial planning, and creating your support infrastructure of friends and family, knowing your key strengths and weaknesses, shows employers, and yourself, that you are taking the search seriously and that you are well organized and proactive. That alone can get you through many setbacks.

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