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Posted: December 08, 2009

Eight steps to keep fear from ruining your job search

This enemy could derail you

John Heckers

Many executives who come to me for Executive Transition are absolutely terrified. For perhaps the first time in their lives, they are without a job.

Their very fear is what destroys their search efforts. It paralyzes them from doing the things that they need to do. It comes across in networking meetings and interviews. It keeps them up at night so that they cannot be rested and prepared for the job search.

Here are a few tips to help get a handle on the very real fear that plagues so many job searching executives:

1). Get real. After giving yourself a couple of days to grieve, and accept that you've been laid off or terminated, sit down with your significant other and take inventory. While this may seem very frightening, most people are more calm when they know what they're actually dealing with. This may also help you make realistic decisions about the necessity for borrowing from family or against the equity of your home, what you are able to purchase, and how long you have before you're in real trouble. Most executives find that, with prudence, they can last a year or more before digging into home equity or making the dreaded "in-law" visit. I've seen execs terrified when they were down to their last $5 million. Obviously, this is absurd.

2). Cancel vacation plans and other non-essential luxuries. Many of my clients have plans to go away on vacation within a few months of their termination. Not bright. First, you are going to spend money on vacation. This is an expense you don't need right now. Secondly, you are taking yourself out of the market for a couple of weeks which, in this economy, can be an eternity. Third, if you are not easily able to be contacted, and an employer wants to interview you or make you an offer, he or she will just go on to their next choice. It may make your spouse and children angry not to vacation, but they also need to get real.

3). Spend money on things for your job search and virtually nothing else. Many executives choose this time to remodel, buy a new car or whatever. This is not wise. Spend your money on interviewing suits, updating your glasses and hairstyle, buying dress shoes, getting career help, and other things that actually make sense. Put a complete "freeze" on anything that is not career related, but be very open to spending money on things that will help you look professional, sound professional and get employed.

4). Don't waste time. You don't have time in this economy to play with the kiddies, get a full time volunteer position, or any of the other dumb things I see people doing. You'll be a great deal less fearful if you're doing something real to get employed.

5). Get out there. Stop looking on the Internet and playing around at home. Get out there and network.

6). Find someone to be accountable to. Get a coach, professional or amateur, to whom you must report weekly on your progress. Being accountable will help you discipline yourself to do the enormous amount of work necessary to find a job.

7). Stop listening to fear-mongers. Turn off talk radio and the people who yell fear on TV. You might want to reconsider your choice of fear-based music, horror movies, tear-jerkers and other negative media. Keep your spirits up. Do not listen to media hosts that make you angry at the economy, the government, or even your sister-in-law. Fear feeds on itself. Don't generate any more of it than is already there.

8). Get guidance on moving forward. Utilize both free and paid resources that will guide you in how to conduct your job search. Don't be arrogant and think you know. You don't. In fact, as I've said in previous columns, the exact things that make you a good executive make you a lousy job hunter.

These are a few things that can help with your fear. If, after trying to deal with your fear on your own for a while, you are still feeling deep anxiety or depression, don't try to "tough it out." See your family doctor for a referral to a mental health professional or other treatment option.

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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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